Strategy is determined by styles, and styles make fights.
Whether it’s cage, ring, the YAMMA pit, there’s always (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, Stockton ninja master Nate Diaz will look to replicate his performance, and shut the mouth of Conor McGregor once and for all. Can he do it? Here’s a look at how he might go about business this weekend at UFC 202.
Expect A Different Fight
Diaz couldn’t possibly be foolish enough to expect McGregor to fight with the same extreme tenacity as in the first bout. While this seems like a logical suggestion, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a fighter to rest on the laurels of their past performance.
Diaz should be well-aware that not only will McGregor assuredly employ a different game-plan, but he will be more accustomed to the 170-pound limit this time around. While it’s safe to say “The Notorious” won’t be tremendously transformed in his body weight, he will have added the weight in a more tactical manner with more preparation time.
One of the more surprising aspects of the first round during the original UFC 196 clash was how comfortably McGregor returned to his feet after being taken to the canvas by Diaz. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, McGregor is incredibly confident in his grappling abilities this time, likely bolstered by his original performance. McGregor told Daniel Cormier and Kenny Florian on UFC Tonight that Diaz,
“caught that kick, took me down. I swept him, controlled him on top. All the situations against the fence, he was reversed. I felt I dominated every grappling exchange up until his left hand landed and my tank was gone.“
For Diaz, this attitude should be music to his ears. While he isn’t exactly known for his wrestling abilities, the 31-year-old Diaz had no problems taking the 28-year-old McGregor to the mat. If McGregor is successful in his management of his stamina, Diaz could deploy his formidable grappling skills to wear out McGregor. As the first fight demonstrated: a tired McGregor is no match for Diaz, particularly on the ground.
Find The Range Early
Last time around it took Diaz well into the second round before he managed to find his range. This was something he attributed to the lack of a proper training camp, so there should be no excuses with normal preparation time, against an opponent he is now familiar with.
The sooner Diaz can establish his jab, the sooner he can get to work on wearing the Irishman out with his striking ability. Should McGregor be more careful and cautious this time, Diaz can ill-afford to allow his opponent to dictate the pace of the fight. This has caused him problems in the past (see: Rafael dos Anjos). A Diaz brother is at his finest when he can dictate the pace of the fight, since few men can match the tempo put forth.
Just as suggested in the Path to Victory for McGregor, ego is going to play a big part in this fight. While McGregor should perhaps fight with less, it is important for Diaz to just do what he always does. Talk that trash. Flip him off. Slap him upside the head. This throws a ton of fighters off their game, causing them to fight with more emotion than logic. An emotional fighter can quickly become a tired fighter, and we all know what happens then. Diaz needs to draw this emotion out of McGregor and judging by the press conference, he has. The next step is to bring that emotion out in the cage, hopefully causing McGregor to make rash decisions.
If Diaz can replicate his performance from their first fight, but in a more smooth and crisp manner, victory should be well within reach. Mixing in some grappling with his rangy striking, Diaz will look to drag McGregor into the deep waters of the fight and hand him the first 2-fight losing skid of his career.