Making the case for McGregor
Within the excitement of the first fight i noticed an improvement in Conor McGregor’s game that may have been overlooked due to the fast paced manner of the fight. During Mcgregors run in the featherweight division his primary form of strike defence has been to slide backwards out of range when under attack and that was successful for two reasons. Firstly because he has such a greater understanding of his range than the average fighter and that means he rarely misjudges the distance opponents must breach to be able to hit him and secondly because his reach is superior at featherweight compared to most of the roster at 145lbs so when he slides out of his opponents striking range he is still close enough to deliver his own shots. To summarize once Mcgregor slides back he can both defend and attack from that position against opponents with inferior reach.
Now in the fight with Nate Diaz Conor McGregor was conceding both the reach and height advantage so it would of been extremely difficult to catch Diaz with power shots sliding backwards because if Conor slides back and Diaz is falling short with strikes that means Conor is also too far away to counter. McGregor instead does something i have seldom see him do up to now.
Instead of sliding backwards and choosing to counter he holds his feet bobs and weaves with his head slipping punches giving him the ability to get inside of Diaz’s reach and land hard clean counters, in round one Mcgregor missed with a few lead left hands due to the fact he was shooting the punch from too far away. Conor had much more success with counters off of slipped punches, here you see an example of a leading left hand missing the target.
Once Diaz spots the set up and leans back he is too far out of range to get caught, the majority of the success McGregor enjoyed was when he baited Diaz to attack and then countered when Diaz was a static target. Below you see McGregor set up a counter landing an identical punch to the one he missed above by drawing Diaz to answer a low kick to the knee.
Here are a few examples of McGregor using that head movement to get inside of Diaz’s reach and cash in with counters, starting with the back hand countering the jab, a move Floyd Mayweather and Roy Jones Jr often used.
He also countered effectively with his looping bolo style uppercut giving Diaz a variety of angles to defend
For McGregor in terms of approach when these two men square off again he essentially needs to be a more efficient version of how he performed in round one of the first contest for either five rounds or until he finds a finish. Diaz will still be the taller and longer man so McGregor will again need to press and get inside to land significant strikes but he must stick to the higher percentage strikes to avoid draining energy. Conor would like to keep this fight standing not just because of the way McGregor vs Diaz one ended but the difference in experience when it comes to jiu-jitsu between these two, the longer it stays on the ground the more chance Diaz has to make something happen. Even if Conor is in Diaz’s guard there is the possibility of Diaz submitting him, its a high risk low reward position for Conor to be in.
Making the case for Diaz
The mistake Diaz made in the first round of the first fight was circling to his left hand side too often making it easier for Mcgregor to get in position to land his left hand.
Diaz made a few adjustments and was much less predictable with his movement as the fight went on causing McGregor to think about how to shepherd him towards the left hand rather than it just being available.
Instead of drifting to his right when throwing his jab like we see here
Diaz started anticipating McGregors left hand and chose to counter with his own open palmed right hook using his superior length anytime he was forced or decided to exit towards his right hand side
For me its crucial Diaz finds a way to either take away McGregor’s left hand because it is such a potent weapon or at very least make him apprehensive about throwing it. Diaz may also want to consider trying to catch any body kicks or leg kicks McGregor throws as he used this to take McGregor down in round one previously,
although Conor reversed this position pretty quickly catching kicks could discourage McGregor from throwing them which will in turn make the stand up a boxing exchange on the feet eliminating some of the techniques at Mcgregors disposal. If Diaz manages to keep McGregor down from he has the fight in a position where the skill deficit between these two men is the largest.
The fight drastically changed when Diaz started challenging the centre of the octagon and fatigue starting setting in for Conor. When Diaz was backing up he had pockets of success but he wasn’t able to hurt Conor and in his past fights Diaz has done most of his Damage going forward. Here Diaz begins to push McGregor to the outside by imposing his own pressure not just throwing punches but stepping into them to land power.
Conor isn’t able to able to throw counters with nearly as much snap because he is becoming increasingly tired and he cant set his feet properly due to the pressure of being backed up.
Diaz sensed the change in momentum around the halfway stage of round two and starts increasing his strike output volume
McGregor did not have the energy at this point to display that head movement that served him so well early and could not evade the storm of Nate Diaz’s attack, the pressure finally took a toll and lead to McGregor shooting for a takedown which would ultimately lead to his demise.
Nate cant afford to let Conor push him back straight out the gate he must try to claim the middle of the octagon, Nate must also be prepared for a Mcgregor with better endurance. Instead of McGregor tiring himself out which may take longer this time around or may not even occur Diaz should force the issue with a high pace from round one. McGregor will be better prepared for five rounds but you would expect Diaz to be the fresher fighter going late into this fight so if he can get Conor down great if not his best bet at getting to McGregor would be to test his cardio again, for a featherweight this would be dangerous as McGregor has finished anyone who’s tried to apply pressure on him pretty easily but Diaz showed it wont be so easy to knock him out and thus is able to take more chances than a featherweight
The one thing these two gentlemen have in common is the fact that they throw a lot of strikes, Conor lands 5.74 significant strikes per minute and Diaz lands 4.45 significant strikes per minute. Just to put that into perspective Demetrious Johnson lands 3.5 significant strikes per minute & Dominick Cruz also lands 3.5 significant strikes per minute, both are lighter men but still less active than McGregor and Diaz (all stats via Fightmetric). From my experience when two high volume strikers meet the majority of the time the fighter with the better distance control wins. The first contest had many factors deciding the course of the outcome, Diaz will have a full camp to prepare but in the end i see Conor coming in better prepared for five rounds than last time and therefore able to sustain the attack he started in round one. Diaz will be sharper from the first bell so i don’t see it starting as one sided as last time but i envision McGregor using his finer boxing acumen to find holes in Diaz’s defence and pick away eventually breaking the wall he couldn’t find a way through the first time.
Conor McGregor wins by referee stoppage round 3