D. FOX: Post-fight reactions to UFC 196 “McGregor vs. Diaz”

By Dayne Fox, MMATorch Contributor

The age of Mystic Mac is over. I’m not saying that the Conor McGregor era is over, but he can no longer claim that he hasn’t been wrong yet, as Nate Diaz pulled off the biggest upset since Holly Holm upended the indestructible Ronda Rousey. Speaking of Holly Holm, her reign came to a crashing halt at UFC 196 as well following a fifth round submission from Miesha Tate to crown a new champion. Now there are all sorts of questions about the UFC’s immediate financial future, as the UFC’s title fight rematch between Rousey and Holm is now longer on the table, and it seems likely that McGregor no longer has the option to fight Rafael dos Anjos for the Lightweight Title. Is the McGregor hype train derailed? Only time will tell, but there is no debating that it is very much slowed down if nothing else. The rest of the main card was overall pretty disappointing, but then again nobody really cared about those fights. So despite a slow start to the card, it was a huge night for the UFC.

Nate Diaz defeated Conor McGregor via submission at 4:12 of the second round

For about the first eight minutes of the fight, it went exactly as expected. McGregor was landing the harder shots as he stalked Diaz while showing absolute disdain for his opponent’s returning fire. Diaz was bleeding and even appeared to be on shaky ground on occasion as McGregor landed big shot after big shot. Diaz was landing some good shots, but McGregor was pretty much walking through them… until he wasn’t. Diaz landed a hard left that stumbled McGregor in the second, something that hadn’t happened yet. McGregor tried to play it off, only for Diaz to turn up the pressure, holding the smaller man against the fence and doing damage from there. McGregor soon went for a desperate takedown only for Diaz to counter with a guillotine. McGregor escaped, but after a series of transitions from there led to Diaz taking the back of McGregor for a rear naked choke, to which McGregor tapped quickly.

While not quite on par with Holm’s upset of Rousey last November, this is certainly one of the biggest seen in the sport; McGregor had seemingly predicted everything he was going to do with no end in sight to his success. Diaz was certainly a marketable opponent, but he was also stylistically the most favorable opponent for McGregor to take out of those who were willing to step up. This really hurts McGregor, and we can now expect him to return to featherweight to defend his crown there, something that hasn’t been the focus of the Notorious one. Frankie Edgar is probably the happiest dude on the planet with that news.

Diaz reminded us size does matter even if his style was favorable to McGregor. He was able to push McGregor against the fence at times, a tactic he doesn’t often use against opponents close to his size and dealt a good amount of punishment from there too. He is now coming off of the biggest win of his career and should have the spotlight firmly on him at this point. He very well could get the next title shot based on the strength of this win despite having already lost to dos Anjos just 15 months ago in a very one-sided affair. I don’t think he will get that shot, but he should be able to be much more selective about the fights he takes from this point forward.

Miesha Tate defeated Holly Holm via submission at 3:30 of the fifth round

Holm was in control of the fight through the first four and a half rounds for all but the second round in which she was finally able to get Holm to the ground and damn near finish the champion with a RNC. Holm controlled the other rounds with her striking, mixing in punches as kicks at a rate that Tate couldn’t compete with. All it took was one scramble in the fifth round to change everything. Tate was able to get Holm’s back again much like she did in the second round. This time though, Tate was able to get her arm underneath Holm’s chin. Holm did get to her feet and managed to attempt to fling Tate off of her back to no avail. Tate’s choke was deeper than ever at that point and Holm went to sleep, crowning Tate the new champion.

Though I don’t necessarily believe it, it’s very possible the outcome of this fight could have larger seismic shifts in the landscape of the sport than the Diaz-McGregor fight as the question turns to what Ronda Rousey will do now that Holm has been dethroned. Will Rousey maintain her current schedule which would have her back by October at the earliest? Will she jump at the chance to fight a foe whom she has already beaten twice before for the opportunity to get the title back as soon as possible? Or does she bypass a title fight and go straight for revenge on Holm? Rousey’s presence is still the largest in the sport (much less the division) and she will dictate what happens in the division from here more than anyone else.

One possibility is having Tate jump in the cage as soon as possible so that they UFC might be able to squeeze in a title fight/defense before Rousey makes her return, as it is likely Rousey will go straight for the title when she returns. If Tate does end up defending in that time, I could very well see her re-matching Holm. I don’t necessarily agree with that idea as Amanda Nunes has now done enough to get her shot, but as much as the title has changed hands recently (third titleholder in the last four months), I don’t think they want to risk putting the belt around the waste of someone who draws as little as Nunes does, whereas Holm is money due to her victory over Rousey.

Holm has nothing to be ashamed of, as she was about two minutes away from defending her title before the fight went awry. She didn’t win, but she did show that she is capable of hanging with anyone in the division as opposed to being the perfect stylistic matchup to beat Rousey. Like Tate, what she does next will be influenced by Rousey, but I’d like to see a fight with Cat Zingano take place, though I don’t think that will happen. Expect Holm to fight Valentina Shevchenko next in what would be a fun strikers battle that the UFC would hope would put Holm back on the winning track.

Ilir Latifi defeated Gian Villante via unanimous decision

While this was a good win for Latifi, I couldn’t help but be frustrated by his performance. He pushed Villante against the fence for the majority of the fight and thoroughly out-wrestled him when he was able to take him down. What frustrated me was Latifi dove for a shot almost every time he backed Villante up rather than work him over with punches when he had him hurt, something that happened several times. With Villante’s history of horrible striking defense against the fence, my mind was blown that Latifi didn’t try to blast through him there. He still got the win as Villante became tentative after Latifi started threatening the takedown by catching Villante’s kicks. Curiously enough, despite knowing Latifi’s struggles with a jab in the past, Villante didn’t try too hard to utilize that. Latifi might be in position to challenge someone in the top ten, but I like the idea of him being the final test for Corey Anderson before Anderson starts fighting the top ten himself. Latifi is still fairly new working with ATT and it might be good for him to continue working with them longer before making a big step up. Villante didn’t live up to his action fighting reputation, but it he should be back to those ways in his next fight as Latifi was a bad style matchup for him. A fight with Jimi Manuwa would make sense to me to get one of them back on track.

Corey Anderson defeated Tom Lawlor via unanimous decision

Who the hell gave Anderson a 30-27 score? Seriously, that is inexcusable. And there were two morons that scored the fight that way. Lawlor had Anderson on wobbly legs within the first minute of the fight and though he didn’t do anything significant after that point for the rest of the round, neither did Anderson. The rest of the fight was pretty much forgettable; neither did anything significant throughout the rest of the fight either with Anderson landing a bit more volume. Anderson didn’t necessarily look bad as he did what he needed to do to walk out with a win. Then again, he didn’t look impressive at all either. As mentioned earlier, a fight with Latifi would be the best option for him as he isn’t ready for primetime yet and there are few reasonable options for him to continue to develop as he has already faced most of those in that bracket. Lawlor was clearly unhappy with the decision, and I wouldn’t have complained had he taken it as the first round should have been his and the second round was close enough that I could have seen him taking the decision. He does have more job security fighting at 205 since there is so little depth in the division, so he might survive another loss. A fight with Sean O’Connell would make the most sense to me.

Amanda Nunes defeated Valentina Shevchenko via unanimous decision

Not the kind of fight I was expecting. Nunes was the more aggressive fighter in the first round as expected, but only just barely. Capitalizing on a botched takedown attempt from Shevchenko in the second round, Nunes got Shevchenko down on her back and landed a series of punches and elbows to bloody up Shevchenko and take a dominant round as Shevchenko wasn’t able to do anything until about 10 seconds remained in the round. Shevchenko took the third round pretty easy as Nunes was tired, but she needed the finish and didn’t get it, giving Nunes the win.

Nunes showed a lot more discipline by conserving her energy rather than “blowing her wad” in the first round as she has been prone to do. But she didn’t show the killer instinct that she had been known for that got her to this point. Even with that said, I like what I saw out of Nunes as she showed that she could win a decision, something many weren’t sure she could do against a high level opponent. It is possible that she gets the next title shot as we have no idea how long Rousey is going to be playing in Hollywood. Nunes will want to stay ready as Rousey’s target range has been stated as October… plenty of time for a title fight in between. Shevchenko showed that she has the physical capabilities to be a title contender, she just didn’t show enough urgency in the first round which ultimately cost her as she needed the finish in the final round. As I stated earlier, I could see her fighting Holm as the UFC will want to give Holm a winnable fight to get her back on track. Cat Zingano might be another fight that makes sense.

Siyar Bahadurzada defeated Brandon Thatch via submission at 4:11 of the third round

The only people who didn’t appreciate this fight are those who can only enjoy a technically clean contest, as this fight was anything but that. Thatch tried to use his height and length at times to keep the shorter Bahadurzada at bay, but had minimal success with that which led to the fight degenerating into a brawl… which is exactly what Bahadurzada wanted. Both showed solid chins as both landed some incredibly hard punches and knees to each other that would have put most fighters out cold. Thatch scored the first takedown of the bout, but allowed Bahadurzada to score a reversal and score some GNP. The second and third round were similar except Bahadurzada was the one scoring the takedowns before landing the GNP. Slowly Thatch was wearing down and Bahadurzada could sense it. After his fourth takedown of the fight, he started searching for the submission finish and found it by cinching in an arm triangle choke to put a definitive finish to the fight with less than a minute to go.

Bahadurzada almost assuredly would have been cut with a loss as it had been over two years since he last fought. Even though the fight was pretty sloppy, Bahadurzada showed more discipline than he had in his previous two UFC appearances as he lulled Thatch into his type of fight. His brawling style is fun to watch, so he could get some higher profile fights than he probably deserves. Thatch looks like a severe disappointment as this is his third loss in a row with each subsequent loss coming against lesser competition. Due to the entertainment value of each fight in addition to his dominance in his previous two victories, I don’t see him getting cut even though about 90% of roster would be let go with similar results. Make no mistake though, one more loss and he will assuredly be gone.

Nordine Taleb defeated Erick Silva via KO at 1:34 of the second round

I should have known better. Silva has yet to win a fight in the UFC that has gone past the first round and that still reflects on his record. Despite taking a more measured approach and still having some gas in the tank going into the second round, Silva had a kick of his caught by Taleb who countered with a hard right hand that put Silva out cold with Taleb’s follow up shot actually bringing Silva back around. It didn’t matter as the ref jumped in to put an end to the beating. This should solidify Silva’s status as a bust as he has received chance after chance to bust into the upper echelon only to piss away every chance to do so. This fight wasn’t even an opportunity for him to bust through as Taleb was supposed to be a dude to get him back on the winning track. Silva can still win fights in the UFC, but I can’t see him ever getting a marquee fight ever again. I have a feeling this will be the signature victory of his career. He’ll get a step up as he is now 4-1 in the UFC and has shown enough improvement since his stay on TUF Nations that he could very well be more than a middling welterweight. I got my doubts, but he has earned that chance to prove me (and others) wrong.

Vitor Miranda defeated Marcelo Guimaraes via TKO at 1:09 of the second round

Yeah… that went pretty much as expected. Guimaraes did everything in his power to make the fight ugly, pushing Miranda against the fence and going for grinding takedowns. Miranda was able to fight off the takedown attempts and minimize the amount of damage that Guimaraes was able to do while allowing Guimaraes to wear himself out a bit. Eventually he saw the opening he was waiting for by landing a series of elbows to the head of Guimaraes as Guimaraes went for the takedown ala Travis Browne. Guimaraes was clearly rocked from the shots and Miranda began to tee off from there, landing a head kick and a few punches before the ref stepped in. Miranda has now won three in a row which should be enough to give him a significant step up in competition which will give us a much more accurate feel for where he is in the standings. Guimaraes could be cut despite entering the fight on a win as it had been almost two years since he had last fought and has a very boring style.

Darren Elkins defeated Chas Skelly via unanimous decision

Like the old school appliances our grandparents owned back in the day, the one thing they haven’t improved upon with the newer versions is the durability and how long those damn things can run. Even though Skelly is the new and improved version of Elkins, he just didn’t have the gas tank to outlast Elkins and Elkins was relentless in his attack in addition to eating the best Skelly had to offer early on. I was actually enjoying the early portion of the fight when Skelly was attacking with heel hooks while Elkins toughed out the sub attempts, eventually escaping the holds and keeping the pressure on. It wasn’t nearly as fun to watch once it became apparent that Skelly had little left to offer, relying on desperation haymakers to pick up the win in the short time periods that Elkins allowed him to remain on his feet. None of his punches that connected had the power to finish the fight and the judges had an easy time scoring the win for Elkins.

Elkins continues to be the ultimate overachiever at 145 lbs, making him the perfect gatekeeper into the top 10. Every time he has fought someone who is there, he comes up short. That’s why I don’t want to see him fighting someone ranked ahead of him quite yet. Besides, who would you have him fight? Max Holloway? Ricardo Lamas? I’d rather see him test Brian Ortega. Skelly won’t be able to break through until he solves his stamina issues, something he has been able to overcome at the lower levels. The loss hurts, but I still think he’ll get there as this is the first time it has truly cost him and I expect him to really try and tackle that now. I’d be fine seeing him face either Diego Brandao or Cole Miller next.

Diego Sanchez defeated Jim Miller via unanimous decision

For the first time since October of 2010, Sanchez pulled out a legit victory without any sort of controversy. That is a period of over five years! That has everything to do with Sanchez actually fighting a smart fight for the first time in ages as he took a measured approach to his striking, avoiding the brawling style that has become his signature and timing his takedowns very well. See how much better he looks when he isn’t rushing head first into everything? I’ve been as frustrated as anyone over Sanchez’s performances the last few years and am very encouraged by this showing. He’ll never be a contender again, but he won’t be the punchline he has been for the last few years if he can continue to fight like this. Miller looked solid too as he also took a measured approach and made some good adjustments to take the second round, even sinking in a deep choke momentarily before Sanchez was able to escape. But his history of gassing and the wear and tear he has suffered has taken him out of the upper echelon as he is now in the middle of the lightweight pack at best as he has now dropped four of his last five. I don’t think the UFC will cut him yet as he offers an exciting style, but he is a shell of what he was in his prime.

Jason Saggo defeated Justin Salas via TKO at 4:31 of the first round

Kind of a hard fight to commentate as there wasn’t any surprises and few major developments to take from it. After a tentative early first minute, Salas took down Saggo off of a leg kick only for Saggo to sweep him onto his back and take control of the fight from there. Eventually getting Salas’ back, Saggo started raining down punches while looking at the referee, waiting for him to jump in a save Salas from any further unnecessary punishment. Salas had every chance to prevent the stoppage, but didn’t do so and the ref soon called it. Saggo was easily the superior fighter and most believed that going into the fight. I agreed with the sentiment, but I was surprised at how easily he disposed of Salas. I don’t know if it is because Saggo is that much better than I thought or is Salas is worse than I thought. Saggo’s next fight will be very telling as Salas won’t be brought back.

Teruto Ishihara defeated Julian Erosa via KO at 0:34 of the second round

Don’t you hate it when you breakdown a fight and everything that you thought you would see happened only for the end result to go in the exact opposite direction of what you thought would happen? I misinterpreted this contest badly. I thought Erosa would use his reach to keep Ishihara on the outside and pick him apart with Ishihara occasionally getting inside and doing some damage. Instead Ishihara continually got inside of Erosa’s reach while Erosa was only able to effectively use his reach marginally. Where I really screwed up was Ishihara’s improved takedown defense as he was able to use his speed to negate Erosa’s speed on the few attempts Erosa made to go to the ground. Ishihara showed no fear and eventually exploded into Erosa with a powerful left about 30 seconds into the second round and followed up with a few punches to put Erosa out cold and pick up a win. Ishihara is a better prospect than I thought, though I still think he’d be better off moving to bantamweight. Erosa might be cut with this loss as the UFC should look to trim some fat.

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