The Notorious One, Conor McGregor, is back. And he is looking better than ever.
At the UFC 202 on Sunday, McGregor, the reigning UFC Featherweight champion and arguably the most popular (as well as controversial) MMA fighter in the world, produced one of the best performances of his career to defeat Nate Diaz in a rematch to their UFC 196 fight.
The much-anticipated fight stretched through five rounds with both fighters showing tremendous passion. In the end, McGregor clinched the UFC welterweight (70 to 77 kg) bout via majority decision (48-47, 47-47, 48-47).
The ‘fight of the year’ candidate was the perfect climax to the tension and drama that surrounded the most anticipated rematches in recent UFC history. Earlier this year, Diaz stunned the world by defeating McGregor through a second-round submission. The buzz over the rematch began ever since.
From press conference altercations to verbal warfare during the weigh-in, the main card of UFC 202 had one of the most intense build-ups in recent times and the fight did not disappoint.
McGregor began the match with a different approach. The Irishman is known for his aggressive style in the first round. Instead of all-out attack, the 28-year-old focused more on slowing Diaz down with repeated kicks to the right leg.
That turned out to be one of the deciding factors in the match as the kicks hampered Diaz’s ability to move smoothly in the later rounds. Diaz came back strongly in the second round with hard punches and, by the end of the third round, he had established a clear striking advantage.
However, the last two rounds were the true testament to McGregor’s resilience as he composed himself and took calculated risks. This was the first time in his UFC career that the Irishman was fighting past the third round, but he did not let that bother him.
McGregor outboxed Diaz on most occasions and his punches were much more accurate which made it really hard for Diaz to go for takedowns. McGregor did not run out of steam like their first encounter and though the result left fans polarised, there was no doubt that the Irish fighter was the one who dictated things.
This victory reconfirmed McGregor’s billing as one of the biggest UFC superstars and it also silenced the critics who were of the opinion that his style is not fit for a five-round fight.
There is more good news for the fight fans. When asked about the future of this rivalry, McGregor said that he is ready to fight Diaz again but the next time, he wants the fight to take place in the lightweight (70 kg) category.