UFC 196 was a night of upsets, with Holly Holm dropping her bantamweight belt to Miesha Tate and Conor McGregor tapping out to a rear naked choke from Nate Diaz. Both Holm and McGregor were favorites to win by wide margins, but as it goes in mixed martial arts, all it took was a single moment in each fight to turn the tide.
Early on, it seemed like Diaz would be the latest fighter to fall to McGregor as the Irishman leaped inside Nate’s range from the opening bell to crack him repeatedly with overhand lefts and uppercuts. Diaz returned fire with jabs and slaps but McGregor seemed to shrug them off with ease, while the first round saw a bad cut open over Diaz’s right eye that left his face a bloody mess.
The second round was more of the same as McGregor upped the intensity and started landing combinations while Diaz seemed to struggle with visibility. But halfway through the round a jab caught Conor and stunned him just long enough for Nate’s follow up hook to hit him flush on the jaw, sending McGregor stumbling backwards. Diaz went on the attack and McGregor’s night quickly began to unravel.
Conor managed to regain his wits momentarily and fire back but it was Nate’s turn to push through his opponent’s punches as if they were nothing. Diaz’s next combination staggered McGregor and in desperation the Irishman shot in for a takedown. But that only made things worse.
Diaz sprawled out and then locked onto McGregor’s neck, forcing a scramble that ended with Nate raining down punches on Conor in full mount. Conor could do little more than give up his back, and Nate slapped a rear naked choke on to secure a quick tap.
It was a shocking reversal of fortune. One moment Conor McGregor was in full control, and the next he was on the canvas wondering what went wrong. Afterwards in the post-event press conference he admitted the move up in weight might have been too much.
“Usually I fight a man in the division I am champion in, and they crumble under those shots,” he said. “But Nate took them very well. The weight, I think, allowed him to take those shots well. So I think a little bit of adjustment and a recognition that with the bigger man, you must be a bit more efficient with your striking.”
“He kept his composure. He went into almost auto-pilot mode with the shots. His face was busted up and I went into panic mode. There was just a shift in energy and he capitalized on it.”
Meanwhile, Nate Diaz says he wasn’t too worried with how round one went, or how two was going before he managed to hurt McGregor.
“I felt like obviously I was gonna have a slow start,” he said after the fight. “I didn’t have a camp so I knew I’d start slow and warm up, pick up as I go. And I didn’t have no sparring so I think I could have dodged the punches a little better.”
“Nothing surprised me, except that I got hit at all. I think with a full camp I would have been flawless, but it’s whatever.”
For Conor, the loss doesn’t make him regret taking the last minute fight against Nate.
“I enjoyed the whole experience,” he said. “When dos Anjos pulled and I got Nate, I was actually relishing the opportunity to step in there against him.”
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” he admitted. “But we can either run from adversity or we can face our adversity head on and conquer it. And that’s what I plan to do. It wasn’t ideal, I got caught. It is what it is. I’ll face it. I’ll take it on the chin, and I’ll carry on.”