During the verbal jabs and jibes between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz leading up to March’s UFC 196 headliner, the Irishman prophesied that he would change his adversaries “bum life”.
He also predicted a first-round knockout. But while one premonition was wide of the mark, the other has certainly come to fruition.
Indeed, Diaz’s life has altered dramatically since he choked out the McGregor mystique. Not all of it has been to his advantage, though.
While the Stockton, California native has enjoyed a meteoric ascension into the mainstream consciousness, his victory has also brought about taxing media obligations – ironic for a fighter UFC president Dana White once labelled as not “a needle mover”.
Diaz has emerged as a star in his own right with his raw street-style charm enamouring a wider audience. For some, it’s been a long time coming. The question is, though, while he wasn’t surprised by his triumph, can the same be said for the aftermath?
McGregor was willing to sacrifice a spot on the landmark of UFC 200 card because of the perpetual and incessant media requirements.
After the Diaz defeat he insisted it was necessary to focus on what he does best having “grown complacent”.
And so Diaz has taken the reigns, appearing in recent weeks on McGregor reserved chat show spots like Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel while the featherweight champion has tucked himself away in a private Las Vegas gym.
In effect, Diaz has faced an interim opponent he’s never taken on before and arguably it has changed the complexion of Saturday’s clash at the T-Mobile Arena.
Initially, Diaz was the hunter. He cried out for his shot at the divisive Irishman and his unscripted call out after dismantling Michael Johnson was genius, eventually swinging the money clash in his direction. He demanded it and he got it.
Now, the script has flipped with McGregor on the assault, desperate to re-run his sole UFC loss.
He is chasing redemption and without the weighty distraction of the media to slow him down this time around, Diaz has become something of a sitting target.
‘Mystic Mac’ is predicting a second-round finish at UFC 202 – the same round he lost in – and should that happen the role reversal will have been rubber stamped.
The mercurial McGregor was stopped in his tracks by Diaz at UFC 196 back in March and, ever since, the Irishman has been plotting his revenge.
And now, ahead of UFC 202: DIAZ vs. McGREGOR 2, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on August 20, fighters from across the UFC’s roster have offered their thoughts on the unmissable match up. Here’s who’s backing who this Saturday…
EDDIE ALVAREZ, UFC LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION:
“I think Nate’s going to do the same thing he did to Conor the first time. Conor tripped over his shoe laces the first time around and I think he’s going to trip up again. Conor’s a good talker but he has to be a good talker because he’s not too damn good at fighting.”
JOSE ALDO, INTERIM UFC FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMP:
“From what I saw, Nate is way bigger, stronger and he’s training. He got the first fight on short notice and was still able to win. Well-trained, he’ll be really hard for McGregor. If you look at Diaz’s fights, even when he’s getting beat he finds a way to come back. If I had to bet, it would be Nate.”
ALEX GUSTAFSSON, #3 UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
“I think Conor has learned a lot since the last fight but Diaz is too big. Conor is one of the best guys in the world in his division but it’s hard to move up and compete against the best guys in another weight class.” Alex Gustafsson, #3 UFC light heavyweight
JUNIOR DOS SANTOS, #4 UFC HEAVYWEIGHT
“I see Nate winning again. Nate can take punches and he’s got good stamina which is going to put a lot of pressure on Conor McGregor.”
MICHAEL CHIESA, #9 UFC LIGHTWEIGHT
“Diaz all day! I don’t think Conor wants this fight as much as he says he does and I think Nate Stockton Slaps his way to a win.”
DERRICK LEWIS, #11 UFC HEAVYWEIGHT
“Diaz is going to win. I can’t see McGregor lasting all five rounds; Diaz can last all day.”
JAN BLACHOWICZ, UFC LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
“I think Diaz wins this fight again. The last fight was a really good fight but I think this one will go the same way.”
ROSS PEARSON, UFC WELTERWEIGHT/LIGHTWEIGHT
“I think the fight will go the same way as the first one did. The opening exchanges will be different though. Conor is more focused and is a lot more switched on for the fight with regards to the training he has been doing. The outcome will be the same though. Diaz to win by ground and pound submission in the third round; it’s his biggest asset.”
MICHAEL BISPING, UFC MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION
“Conor is a game-changer, Conor is on top of his game and Conor is going to win the rematch. No disrespect to Diaz, but Conor will win.”
DAN HARDY, UFC WELTERWEIGHT AND COMMENTATOR
“I expect Conor to try and pace himself early on – not without pressure, but without the heavy focus on landing his powerful left hand. I think his attack will be more varied, and I think we will see a lot more of his kicking game. For Diaz, he will start steady and try to counter McGregor’s attack. If Conor is commanding the centre, look for Nate to try and back him up with boxing pressure. The Diaz game plan is to pressure you until either you break and fall to the floor, or you shoot. I doubt it will change for this fight. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw McGregor take Diaz to the floor towards the end of a round though, just to prove the point that he isn’t intimidated by Nate’s Jiu Jitsu skills.”
GUNNAR NELSON, #11 WELTERWEIGHT
“I think if Conor takes his time and breaks him down, does what he does best, uses his speed a little better and maybe not concentrate on power as much, I think he will walk through Diaz.”
JOE DUFFY, UFC LEIGHTWEIGHT
“This is a great fight, even more exciting than the first one. I think in the first fight we all underestimated Diaz and his power. For Conor, I think he’ll be faster on his feet and take the fight all five rounds and outpoint him. He’s brought in better people since the first fight and will have prepared well for this. Conor by decision.”
BRAD PICKETT, UFC BANTAMWEIGHT
“When you’re used to winning all the time, it can sometimes be hard to get super motivated for a fight. Conor has a point to prove now and I can see him being a lot grittier in the rematch. I’m backing him to beat Diaz.”
TOM BREESE, UFC WELTERWEIGHT
“I think Conor will be smarter than he was in the first fight and he has the ability to pick off Diaz in a five round fight. Conor will be fitter and sharper this time, but I think Diaz will get the finish in the 4th or 5th round. The outcome will be the same, it will just go on a few rounds longer.”
John Gooden and Dan Hardy go in-depth on a brand new Inside The Octagon and break down the huge rematch between Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor this Saturday night.
If your watching 202 this weekend, let us know what you think of the fights by using #360Fans across social media.