Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz – FS1 panel weighs in on fight results, talks about what’s next (w/Keller’s Reax)

By Wade Keller, MMATorch editor

Conor McGregor (photo credit Joshua Dahl © USA Today Sports)

Here are some key quotes from FS1’s UFC 202 post-game show conducted by host Megan Olivi along with my added analysis… 

Rashad Evans: “Conor was calm and composed. That was the biggest key to his victory tonight.”

(Keller’s Reax: Conor made note of that in the post-fight interview. There was a steady flat emotional workmanlike approach to the fight. While he’s known for getting in the head of his opponents, he gets credit for not letting Diaz get in his head, even with the late middle finger gesture or the earlier mocking of him by pointing and laughing or smiling. There were times I thought McGregor should just swing for the fences when he saw an opening in the fourth round, because he seemed spent after three, but because he didn’t panic or rush anything, he regained his wind enough to continue. The turning point, though, more than Conor being so steady might have been the cut above Diaz’s eye that really seemed to hamper Diaz’s aggression as he couldn’t see where he was hitting, thus he switched to going for takedowns where he could “feel” his way through the fight instead of “see” his way to landing punches.)

Dominic Cruz predicts a third fight:This fight is going to a trilogy. This made McGregor a better champion and he’ll grow from it. It’ll make both better in the long run. The next matchup will even be better. Both went to the body early and often. One of the differences was the adjustments Conor made from the first fight. We haven’t seen Diaz make the adjustments from the first matchup with the leg kicks and the counters. This is a game of inches and Conor made the adjustments, but Diaz didn’t.”

(Keller’s Reax: I think this falls into the category of sports analysis that bugs me a little. The judges easily could have given Diaz rounds 2, 3, and 5, and Cruz would be saying something completely different in speaking about the key for Diaz to gain victory. I think this might fall under the category of Cruz having a camera and mic aimed at him and having to come up with something to explain why Conor won, although I suppose you could say the context of Cruz’s comment is more speaking to why Conor didn’t lose again. There’s definitely truth in that. Both guys fought a smart fight and both had chances to win and both could have come up winners on the judges’ scorecards without it seeming to be a travesty.)

Fox UFC analyst Brian Stann on how Conor won: “We wondered what game plan McGregor would have and thought he would use the kicks, attacking the lead leg, and being patient. And he did that. He knocked Diaz down twice, but stayed patient. I think round two is the controversial round and it was hard to tell who won that. Round three was all Diaz and he looked like he was taking over. But in round four Conor put Nate against the fence and really dug deep.”

(Keller’s Reax: That matches my take on how things played out, too. Joe Rogan on commentary made a big deal out of the leg kicks on commentary early, and for good reason. Still, Diaz’s best rounds came after he took those leg kicks. It was a factor, but not decisive. The cut hindering Diaz’s vision was huge too.)

Rashad Evans: “What an amazing fight. It was unfortunate that someone had to lose. McGregor showed people what he could do. Conor was composed. When you have a fight like this, it’s easy to let emotions get away from you, but Conor was calm and composed. That was the biggest key to his victory tonight.”

(Keller’s Reax: Conor’s second wind changed the course of the fight. I thought he looked concerned and nervous after round three, but he took those deep breaths, cut Diaz more with some precise jabs, and managed to regain his footing as Diaz seemed to lose his edge.)

Brian Stann on what McGregor should do next: “I want to see him fight for the featherweight title. If this is going to be a trilogy at 155 next, he should vacate the featherweight belt and let Max Holloway, who’s on a nine fight win streak, fight Jose Aldo for the real belt.”

(Keller’s Analysis: While there’s big money in a third fight – although less money because of how friendly they were to each other afterwards with mutual showing of respect – and a lot to lose if Diaz and McGregor each lose to another fighter before facing each other again, I agree with Stann. It’s time for Diaz to take his increased name value to another fight, which will be a good discussion for various writers here at MMATorch this next week, and Conor should get back to defending his title.)

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