Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look ahead to the much anticipated sequel headlining UFC 202: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor. Nate Diaz (Record: 19-10, +110 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A- (Lightweight)) The long time Cesar Gracie product has long been an enigmatic figure in the UFC. He’s been fighting in the world’s largest MMA promotion since 2007 and has over 20 fights in the organization. He’s riding a two fight winning streak into this bout including a second round submission win over McGregor when they fought earlier this year. The third degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has long been one of the most popular fighters in the lightweight and welterweight divisions in the UFC. Diaz is a no nonsense fighter that has an aggressive approach to fighting. He’s a very capable boxer with one of the best jabs in MMA. When able to fight at range, he’s very good at timing his punches and landing with accuracy. He combines that with tremendous conditioning. Diaz regularly competes in triathlons and is a fighter who can fight a consistent pace for several rounds. The longer a fight goes, the better Diaz typically is. On the ground, he’s very dangerous off his back and capable of a variety of submissions. Diaz has been neutralized in the past by fighters that use a lot of leg kicks to chop down his legs and by wrestlers who can take him down and avoid the submissions. Diaz can be out struck with power on the feet, but no one is going to beat him with volume. Conor McGregor (Record: 19-3, -130 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A+ (Featherweight)) The pride of Dublin, McGregor has been on a meteoric rise in the UFC. He won his first seven fights in the organization beating the likes of Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes to earn himself the featherweight champion. McGregor jumped all the way up to welterweight earlier this year to fight Nate Diaz losing by second round submission. It was his first loss in the UFC and first loss overall since 2010. The featherweight champion has one of the best striking arsenals in the sport. His ability is predicated by his southpaw approach. He likes to use a lot of kicks to get inside where he can land his massive left hand to finish opponents. He does an excellent job of pressuring opponents and using cage control to limit his opponent’s movements. Defensively, he is hittable, but he has an excellent chin and has never been finished by strikes in his professional career. On the mat, he has shown modest success in top control. Where he’s had the most issues is on his back. He’s given up his back on multiple occasions allowing opponents to sync submissions. This was the case in his first matchup with McGregor. Furthermore, he put on a lot of muscle in the lead up to his previous fight which was the main cause of conditioning issues in that bout. Match-up Rankings and statistics can be thrown out the window when Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor face off on Saturday night. When the two first fought, McGregor won the first round by outlanding Diaz in the first both with power and with volume. In round two, things took a significant turn as McGregor slowed down and Diaz pushed the pace landing 54 of his 90 strikes in round two. There’s no doubt in mind that if McGregor can fight his one round pace for the entire fight he will win. The result of this fight will be determined by McGregor’s conditioning and his ability to hold pace in this bout. Diaz will be tough to finish and could succumb late to an accumulation of strikes, but McGregor will need to hold a high pace long enough to get it to that point. If McGregor tires in the second round again, Diaz will take over and get a finish. Either way, I don’t see this fight going five rounds. My gut says that McGregor makes the adjustments and gets the win to setup a trilogy down the road, but without having confidence in his level of conditioning being able to stand the test, this fight is a total pass from a betting perspective.
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