Six of Conor McGregor’s last twelve opponents have pulled out before their date with the Dubliner and one has to wonder whether his theory that many are running scared has some level of truth in it.
Nevertheless, Rafael Dos Anjos did break his foot and defending his lightweight title was clearly not an option. There were many possible replacements of course, but the fans favourite fight was Nate Diaz all along and that’s what we’ve now got as the mouth-watering headline event in Las Vegas, which is set to be a welterweight bout in the 170lb division – McGregor remarkably stepping up two weight classes and Diaz happy to fight at 170lb to avoid a late weight cut to 155lb.
McGregor is strong 1/4 favourite versus Diaz the 4/1 underdog, but while those odds are probably a fair reflection of the likely outcome, they do not justify the awkward and new style Diaz presents McGregor with. Nate Diaz has a long, rangy style and good hand speed, not to mention bags of experience. Against Michael Johnson last time out, Diaz utilised tremendous boxing skills to dazzle his highly ranked opponent that day, where he showed up in the best shape he’s been in for a long time. But the fact is, Johnson – a far less capable striker than Conor McGregor – was able to find the face of Nate Diaz with his fists time and time again. This obviously doesn’t bode well for him against a man like Conor McGregor, whose KO power and outstanding striking skill could just overwhelm the Stockton City native.
It could take a while for McGregor to figure out Diaz to finishing effect though, so expect a composed McGregor, one happy to play chess with a man with vast experience inside the UFC octagon and who won’t be phased one bit by the mind games of the Irish man.
These two have a lot of respect for each other and rightly so, but McGregor will still come out victorious here; this train has too much momentum to stop just now. Ladbrokes and bet365 are offering 10/11 this fight goes ‘Over 1.5 Rounds’ of the 5 rounds scheduled, which overall could just prove the bit of value.
It wouldn’t surprise many if McGregor manage to dust Diaz in a minute or two, but equally, it’s about time a little – just a little bit – of balance was restored for McGregor inside the UFC cage.