Conor McGregor is a betting favorite to beat Nate Diaz at UFC 196, despite Diaz being two weight classes higher than the 145-pound champ. McGregor opens as a -350 favorite, while Diaz is +260 as the moneyline underdog, according to Bovada oddsmaker Jimmy Shapiro. Though the public is likely to bet on the more famous fight, I’m guessing a lot of action goes on Diaz, given his 10% weight advantage.
Conor McGregor was supposed to fight Rafael dos Anjos, the lightweight champion, at UFC 196. If he had won, McGregor would have been the first fighter to have held two UFC titles at once. Instead, McGregor/Diaz is going to be a non-title fight.
UFC 196: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
It’s an unlikely showdown, because one is a champion on the rise and the other is a middle-of-the-pack fighter. Given the size difference, it’s going to receive a lot of added attention.
It helps that Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz both know how to sell a fight. The Featherweight Champion’s mike skills are preternatural, but Nate Diaz has skills in that regard, as well. They should have some nice buzz by the time the fight takes place. The fight will take place on March 5, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“The Fight the Fans Wanted to See”
At the press conference to announce the match, Dana White said the UFC had approached Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo about taking the fight. The UFC president said, “We called Jose Aldo; Jose Aldo turned the fight down. We called Frankie Edgar; Frankie Edgar turned the fight down. Those are two guys everybody was talking about.”
Dana White praised both fighters for taking match on such short notice. He added, “A lot of guys wanted this fight, but we ended up with Nate Diaz. We felt this was the fight to make and the fight the fans wanted to see.”
Jose Aldo Takes Criticism
Frankie Edgar is injured, while Jose Aldo declined to take the fight, citing the two-week time table and the fact he was out of shape. The news Jose Aldo declined the fight caused a wave of derision among MMA fans, because Aldo had tweeted 3 weeks ago that he would fight Conor McGregor “any time, anywhere”.
But Aldo is coming off a mandatory medical suspension after his 13-second knockout at the hands of McGregor.
His opponent would have been through a full training camp and Jose Aldo would have been at a severe disadvantage. If Aldo is ever to reclaim his mystique in a rematch with “Notorious”, he’ll need to be in supreme shape. It’s a good career decision, but it cost him fans.
Conor McGregor Garners Respect
Meanwhile, Conor McGregor won fans simply by accepting this fight. He was training to fight a 155-pound fighter, but is now going all the way up to welterweight and fight at 170-pounds. Given the short time frame, Nate Diaz did not have a chance to get down to 155 pounds, and probably not a catch-weight, either.
If he wins, Conor McGregor is going to look like an unbeatable superstar. A boxing champion wouldn’t move up two weight classes on two weeks notice. If he loses, then he’ll have a built-in excuse.
Fighting at a Weight Disadvantage
Still, many fans of combat sports don’t understand the severe disadvantage a world class fighter is at when he fights some 15 pounds heavier than him. Some fans will see parallels between a Conor McGregor loss and the loss of Ronda Rousey to Holly Holm — a big name, loudmouthed fighter getting taken down by a virtual no-name.
For his part, Conor McGregor showed no pause in taking the match. He posted on his Twitter page, @NotoriousMMA, “God bless this hard work. I don’t care about weight divisions. I’ll run through everyone on the roster.”
Even the Aldo fans were praising the bantamweight champion for his warrior spirit. Most fans think Conor McGregor is going to win the fight, despite the weight difference.
Nate Diaz Profile
Nate Diaz (18-10) has a 13-8 record in his 21 UFC fights. He began his long UFC career by appearing on The Ultimate Fighter 5 way back in 2007. His career highlights include victories Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller, Takanori Gomi, and Gray Maynard.
Diaz put his name into contention for these kinds of fights with an upset victory back in December over Michael Johnson on UFC on Fox 17. Diaz has a 2-2 record as a welterweight in the UFC.
Conor McGregor Profile
Conor McGregor (19-2) has a perfect 7-0 record since he joined the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He currently holds the UFC Featherweight Championship and is listed as No. 3 in the official UFC pound-for-pound list. Sherdog has him listed as the 5th-best fighter in the world.
Despite the rankings, Conor McGregor is the most recognizable MMA fighter in the world right now, excepting the overhyped Ronda Rousey. The Irish fighters brings with him a ton of Irish fight fans, who make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean every time he fights in Las Vegas. One of the likely reasons he agreed to the fight was to assure his fans wouldn’t waste thousands of dollars on a fightless trip to Vegas.
McGregor Haters to Watch with Anticipation
The Featherweight Champion’s trash talking and use of psychological warfare makes him a fight people either love or hate. Whichever side of the divide you’re on, it’s great for the sport to see a champion who get people passionate about the next fight.
Personally, I didn’t much like the guy when he first came on the scene, but I’ve learned to respect the man as I learned more about him. He doesn’t duck fighters. He wants to fight the best. He’s proudly Irish, and understands what it means to be an Irishman).
Prediction for UFC 196: McGregor versus Diaz
There’s a danger here for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Many fighters have struggled when going up in weight class. This would be like Floyd Mayweather moving up from his usual 147-pound Welterweight Division up to fight Sergey Kovalev at the 168-175-pound Light Heavyweight Division. People would say that’s crazy, and MMA is a sport where grappling is legal.
If McGregor loses badly to a much larger fighter, then it could take some of the shine off their most marketable star. The UFC already lost a lot of value when Rousey lost back in November. Say what you will about Holly Holm (and she’s straight-up a better fighter), but there’s a lot to be said for charisma. Larry Holmes was a great fighter, but he could never replace Muhammed Ali.
Luckily, there should be an excuse ready if McGregor loses, especially if he looks good on his feet, but gets overwhelmed on the mat. Also, there’s a good chance he’ll be able to take apart Nate Diaz from his feet. Given his surgeon-like skills and the vast difference in quickness, if Conor McGregor is smart, he should be able to win with his striking. But Nate Diaz is likely to walk through punches that would put down most featherweights.
Bet the (+260) Underdog
If I were going to bet on this fight, I’d bet on the underdog. You get much better odds and (on paper) it’s a mismatch. I think Conor McGregor is going to win, but betting the underdog here is a good option. You can afford to lose the $100 in hopes of winning $260.
Pound-for-pound, Conor McGregor is a much better fighter than Nate Diaz. But then, when the two fighters step into the octagon on March 5 at the MGM Grand, the pound-for-pound theoretical stuff goes out the window.
Nate Diaz Quotes from the Press Conference
"You fight midgets. I got a 145-pound homeboy that will beat your ass."
"F--- you, and f--- your belt."
"I train to kill."
Conor McGregor on Nick Diaz (Nate’s Brother)
"He makes gang signs with his right hand and animal balloons with his left hand."
Conor McGregor on Himself
Conor McGregor Quotes from the Press Conference
"[When] a man fights me, they need to take 10 months to a year off."
"I'm motivated by movement and money...and the movement of money."
"I don't care about the belt. All I care about is my checks and my checks are super heavy."
"I'm gonna create my own division. I don't care about weight. It makes no difference. As long as there's an opponent and a date, I'll be there."
"I should create my own belt. I am, in myself, my own belt. It doesn't matter if its featherweight, lightweight, welterweight. It's the McGregor belt. That's it, I'm fighting for my own belt."
Diaz vs McGregor: A War of Words
Diaz: "This is America." McGregor: " I run the West Coast. I run the East Coast."
McGregor: "Nate, congratulations. You're rich now." Diaz: "Congratulations, to you. I'm the show."
Diaz: "Everybody does steroids. The whole UFC. Everybody." McGregor: "I'm not on steroids....I'm just an animal."