Many fans and analysts have been critical of UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor for his UFC 196 submission loss to lightweight contender Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 196 this past weekend.
That bout (Diaz vs. McGregor) took place in the UFC’s welterweight division (170-pounds), this after the scheduled lightweight title fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Conor McGregor fell apart due to a foot injury suffered by “RDA”.
McGregor could have easily decided to wait and not take on a short-notice replacement at UFC 196. However, in typical “Mystic Mac” fashion, the brash featherweight champion decided to move up two weight classes (to welterweight) and take on perennial lightweight contender Nate Diaz.
Such a move up in weight is unheard of in the UFC. But Conor stepped up and accepted the challenge with a smile on his face.
The Diaz vs. McGregor fight delivered in a big way, earning “Fight of the night” honors while entertaining a record-setting audience on pay-per-view. McGregor had an excellent opening round of the fight, as he was able to land some solid strikes that busted up Nate Diaz.
However, round two did not go McGregor’s way. Diaz was able to find his range and pepper the young superstar with slaps, jabs and hooks. Ultimately, Conor absorbed enough damage on his feet that he felt forced to shoot in for a takedown which Nate used to score the fight-ending submission.
Now that Conor has suffered his first-career octagon defeat, many people are saying that Nate Diaz gave the blueprint on how to defeat “Mystic Mac”. And yes, there may be some truth to that. However, don’t expect a Nate Diaz like gameplan to work for featherweights.
Nate Diaz used his size and reach extremely effectively when he defeated Conor at UFC 196. That same approach simply cannot be used at 145-pounds because there is nobody in the division who is that big. McGregor is massive in size for a featherweight fighter.
Conor’s size and reach advantage over his former featherweight opponents is a big reason why he has gone a perfect 7-0 in the UFC’s 145-pound division, with six of those seven victories coming by form of knockout.
I think back to when our namesake BJ Penn moved up to welterweight to challenge Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight belt at UFC 94 and lost via TKO. A lot of people thought BJ was done and that Kenny Florian would be able to defeat him in his return to lightweight.
Well, when Penn came back down and defended his lightweight title against Florian at UFC 101, it resulted in one of the most dominating wins of BJ’s career.
The point is that Conor McGregor has won all but one of the fight-rounds that he has participated in during his time in the octagon as a featherweight. So other than the first-round of his UFC 189 victory over Chad Mendes, Conor McGregor has gone a perfect 10 for 10 in rounds fought in the UFC featherweight division.
Do I think former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar has something to offer McGregor, of course I do. “The Answer” is a beast. But until someone knocks McGregor off of his divisional throne, the “Featherweight King” he remains.