HEART VS. BRAIN – UFC 202 (pt. 1): Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor – Breaking down emotional and rationale reasons to predict who will win

By Ross Clark, MMATorch contributor

Do you ever find your fight predictions coming down to an internal battle between who you hope will win and who you think will really win, even if you don’t fully admit it to yourself until after watching the opponent’s hand raised? Do you recall times when you picked against a fighter you didn’t like who you knew had the advantage all along, and you refused to acknowledge the fact?

When trying to keep an open mind leading up to a fight, many of us find ourselves making predictions on who will win based on who we want to win, even if it’s only on a subliminal level. The difficulty lies in separating your personal feelings towards a fighter, whether positive or negative, from a fighter’s proven ability and fight history.

In this column, I will delve into the main cards of key UFC events and explore that unending struggle of Brain vs. Heart.

Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor


When it comes to this rematch, a lot of people are jumping on the fact that Diaz will be getting a full training camp into this fight as opposed to the two weeks he had previously. However, both Diaz brothers are well known for staying in shape between fights and competing in triathlon events. That being said, there is definitely a difference between being “in shape” and being “in fighting shape.” So not only can we presume this gives Diaz a greater cardio advantage this time than last time, but also a possible mental edge into the rematch. Although I must stress the “possible” in that last sentence as this is Conor McGregor we are talking about.

A factor that will not be changing in this rematch is the size advantage between the two. Diaz holds a two-inch reach advantage over McGregor, but that isn’t the full tale of the tape. Diaz also stands three inches taller than McGregor, which compounds his reach advantage. That’s right people, all those maths classes learning about Pythagoras have some use after all!

Many people were quick to criticise McGregor’s ground game after the first fight, but I personally believe that to be unfair. At the end of the first round when the fight hit the mat, McGregor immediately landed a nice x-guard sweep on Diaz which displayed his capability on the ground. He then also actively attempted passes to side control which were only held off due to Diaz’s use of the inverted guard – a technique usually avoided in MMA due to the openings given to the opponent to strike.

McGregor has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu which is very respectable, and whilst I believe Diaz to be on another level when it comes to BJJ, this is not BJJ. To paraphrase a saying I’ve heard many a time, every time you punch a guy on the ground, they drop down a belt. While this is not to be taken literally, the fact of the matter remains that adding strikes to BJJ changes the ground game, and it wasn’t until McGregor was rocked on the feet that Diaz could truly shine on the ground.

Despite the one-sided nature of the last two minutes that’s embedded in everyone’s memories, it is not representative of the entire fight. McGregor was doing well on the feet and was landing cross counters on a lot of Diaz’s jabs. If McGregor can be more conservative with his energy and have a more opponent-focused training camp, which he has done according to his coach John Kavanagh, then there is every possibility he wins the rematch. I’ve gone back and forth on this pick a few times now and I’ll probably keep changing my mind as they walk to Octagon on Saturday. But for now…

Brain’s Prediction: McGregor via Unanimous Decision.


McGregor put a lot of pressure on Diaz during the first round of their previous fight. This tactic has paid dividends at Featherweight where McGregor owns the reach and height advantages. It also seemed to be effective against Diaz.

However, whilst McGregor’s overall game plan from Featherweight seemed to have stayed the same, the execution required against a larger opponent was different. McGregor had to close the distance to land his strikes on Diaz whereas at Featherweight his opponents have always been at the end of his punches. This constant extra movement is obviously going to be more tiring. However, I want to believe that McGregor and his team have studied the tape and have made the changes to build on the success he had in that first round. So I’m not going to waste your time on this one any further, I’m going with some European patriotism whilst Britain can still do so. On this fight, my Brain and my Heart agree (today at least)…

Heart’s Prediction: McGregor via TKO in the third round.

Up Next…

Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira, where my Brain and my Heart do not agree.

[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]

(Ross Clark is an MMATorch contributor from London, England. He has trained in MMA at the London Fight Factor and has attended classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Wrestling, and MMA. He attained his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu last October. His “Heart vs. Brain” column is inspired by his night’s out talking with friends about upcoming fights, debating who will win, and seeing people struggle between rationally, objectively predicting an outcome versus and the emotions that come up regarding whom they want to see win. He analyzes upcoming big name fights by breaking down the two approaches and acknowledging when one approach leads to a different prediction.)

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