What McGregor needs to do to beat Diaz at UFC 202

With UFC 202 just days away, we’ve assessed what Conor McGregor will need to do to beat Nate Diaz…

Often, rematches can be a bit of a waste of time. If a fighter was better than their opponent once, won’t they just win again? Chris Camozzi has lost to Jacare Souza twice with a combined time of six minutes and 10 seconds. BJ Penn has fallen to Frankie Edgar a rather dismal three times now.

But if this was always the case, we wouldn’t have Michael Bisping as middleweight champ right now. The best fighters love to get a shot at redemption. George St. Pierre, perhaps the greatest of all time, only lost to two men- and beat them both in rematches.

So then, what can Conor McGregor do to get his revenge on Nate Diaz? He had good success in the first round of their fight, before gassing in the second, getting rocked on the feet, and then finally being submitted. He’ll need to change a lot about his game this time around.

1. Match Nate’s five-round cardio

There’s no doubt that Conor lit up Nate in the opening stanza of the fight. Conor’s straight left is his money-shot, and Nate ate it repeatedly. But Conor was too confident that the left would drop Nate like it has done many featherweight opponents, and when it didn’t it meant that Conor finished the round having spent a large amount of his gas tank throwing heavy hands. Conor needs to accept that Nate’s chin is solid, and plan for this fight to go the distance. Not every shot has to have KO power, just the right shot does.

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2. Employ that special movement, and keep those hands up!

We’ve all seen Conor move with grace inside the Octagon to avoid his opponents attacks. However, for every fight Conor had pre-Diaz, his opponents all had the smaller reach. Diaz has the longer reach than McGregor, and uses his jab and a fast 1-2 left right combo to great effect, both of which landed far too often on McGregor’s face in the first fight. Conor needs to believe in his movement for sure, but he can’t get cocky and lazy like against other opponents. It’s basic stuff: he needs to keep his hands up and his defence on point.

Conor’s movement can be a weapon against Nate’s longer reach. McGregor has excellent kicks, and this can help to negate Diaz’s reach advantage. McGregor is always talking about ‘efficiency’ inside the octagon. I’d like for him to take his own advice, and drop the inefficient ‘stylish’ spinning wheel kick that he likes to throw, and replace them instead with some ruthlessly efficient low leg kicks to slow Diaz down- a weapon Dos Anjos used to decimate Diaz in 2014.

3. Be smarter: Fight to win the rounds, not the fight

As I mentioned in point no.1, Conor needs to expect this to be a five-rounder, and needs to try to do enough to win every round, not to score a big KO. I don’t mean he should be a boring ‘point fighter’. A KO is certainly plausible for McGregor. But it will take patience for the opportunity to emerge, a patience McGregor lacked in the first fight. He should look to accumulate damage and end the fight late on, not early on.

Related: UFC 202 press conference ended after Diaz, McGregor bust-up

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