Every time a fighter steps into the Octagon, they have a prepared strategy.
Whether it’s cage, ring, or uhh, the YAMMA pit, there is always (okay, usually) a plan in place, based around the best methods or tactics to achieve victory. Fans, analysts and bettors alike all carefully examine the means in which one fighter can attain dominance over their foe, be it through striking, grappling or Octagon control.
In the rematch of perhaps the single biggest fight in UFC history, Irish sensation Conor McGregor will look to redeem himself against Nate Diaz. Can he do it? Here’s a look at how he might go about business this weekend at UFC 202.
Practice makes perfect is the ultimate sports cliche, and for good reason. Mixed martial arts is likely the least forgiving sport in terms of making athletes pay the price for failed preparations. Just prior to fight night at UFC 196, McGregor was gleefully stuffing his face as he had no concerns about tipping the scales over the agreed upon 170 lbs. weight limit. This time around, McGregor seems to have made full-scale changes to his training regimen, spending a reported $300,000 (USD).
Right from the moment Herb Dean clapped his hands together and said, “Let’s fight!” McGregor stormed from his corner to the centre of the Octagon.
A very brief feeling out process occurred before the big shots started flying. A mere 30-seconds into the fight, and “The Notorious” had already thrown several hooks, overhands and even a spinning wheel kick at the rugged Stockton, CA native.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise – that’s how McGregor has fought, and won, in the past. Unlike his previous opponents, Diaz would not be overcome by the ferocity of McGregor’s initial attack. When the first round concluded, McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh could tell that his fighter was in trouble, as he elaborated on The MMA Hour (via BjPenn.com),
before going on to praise the Diaz brothers’ incredible stamina. This is going to be an extremely important issue for McGregor to fix, as there seems to be little chance of the 28-year-old sustaining his relentless barrage of power punches and kicks throughout the duration of a 25-minute fight.
The overwhelming majority of McGregor’s assault through the first easy 8-minutes of the original match-up was done with his left hand, particularly the left uppercut. Time and time again McGregor would throw the uppercut, or a looping left hook at Diaz.Of course, he did have some success here, busting up Diaz in the first round (as is tradition).
However, if there is one skill that both Diaz brothers are very adept at, it’s overcoming predictable striking with their own boxing abilities. McGregor will need to implement a more traditional approach to combating Diaz, that is to say, he will need to attack the base of Diaz with kicks. Spinning kicks need to be reduced to next-to-none (not one was close to landing) and perhaps incorporating a more standard leg kick as opposed to the oblique kicks he threw more frequently. This has proven to be successful in the past against the Diaz brothers, as both tend to plod around the cage, their lead leg planted firmly for much of the time.
Check Your Ego
Defeat can be a very humbling experience. Some fighters learn from their losses, citing it as a great chance to learn and better themselves. Others drift into a deep depression that seems insurmountable.
Coach Kavanagh, the head of SBG Ireland where McGregor trains has a personal philosophy that defeat is a source of knowledge, having written a book entitled Win or Learn. Kavanagh told the Irish Examiner that he always wanted his gym, “to be a place where people were comfortable losing because it was a great opportunity to learn an area of weakness.”
McGregor will be best served in this fight by checking his emotions at the cage door before he steps in. Keep the mid-fight chatter to a minimum, don’t get riled up over a Stockton Slap and focus on the task at hand.
It would seem to contradict his nature, but those sorts of shenanigans are best served for opponents who can succumb to mind games. The approach can work, it’s just that Diaz, it would seem, is impossible to be gotten to. For any Futurama fans who might be out there, Diaz is something like Fry in the episode with the giant brains.
If McGregor can stick to these principles, don’t be surprised to see him outmaneuver Diaz en-route to a decision victory as he carefully tallies up more strikes (with less significant power shots thrown) in a more tepid affair than the first fight. After all, in MMA, rematches are almost never the same.