Conor McGregor bloodied Nate Diaz. Then Nate Diaz beat Conor McGregor.
King Conor looked very much in charge in the opening frame of UFC 196’s main event. He connected with numerous lefts that ultimately inflicted a cut near the Stockton, California-native’s right eye.
A bloodied Diaz staggered McGregor in the second before softening him with jabs and left crosses. The Irishman uncharacteristically went for a takedown. He gave up his back on the ground. This allowed the Brazilian jiu-jitsu teacher to demonstrate his technique to the pay-per-view audience through a rear-naked choke. McGregor, in contrast to Holly Holm losing consciousness to the maneuver in the co-main event, tapped almost at once.
The shocking upset throws water on McGregor’s grand plan to fight welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and likely sends him back to picking on guys his own size (and smaller) at featherweight, should he feel he can cut back down to 145. The win by Diaz, a ranked but not elite fighter at 155, even dampens McGregor’s planned future forays in the lightweight division.
McGregor, who still holds his featherweight title as this bout took place two divisions up at welterweight, said as much in defeat.
“I thought I took him the first round,” the featherweight champion maintained. “I’m humble in victory or defeat. I took a chance to move up in weight and it didn’t work.”
Diaz, who called out McGregor in a profane rant live on Fox in December, ultimately received an opportunity to fight his dream opponent. But he got the call less than two weeks before the bout after lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, the original opponent and a man who destroyed Diaz in late 2014, succumbed to injury. Diaz brushed off the idea that the short notice hampered him.
“I’m always in good shape,” he explained after the fight. “I peak as I go. I thought I landed with some good punches that got him off. I started off slow but I’m faster than anyone later on. My jiu-jitsu is always there for me.”
Diaz improves to 19-10 and notches his career’s signature win. McGregor drops to 19-3.