MMA Review: #558: UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor II

-Even after the debacle surrounding UFC 200 it was pretty clear that at some point UFC would be able to put together the Diaz/McGregor rematch – especially when it emerged that UFC 196 might’ve broken the all-time buyrate record – and the only surprise was that it came so closely after UFC 200, just six weeks in fact. Card looked pretty strong but strangely enough the hype levels didn’t reach overdrive until the wild pre-fight press conference, but more on that later. As always with anything involving Conor McGregor, this felt like a big fucking deal.

UFC 202: Diaz vs. McGregor 2

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Welterweight Fight: Tim Means vs Sabah Homasi

Coming back from a USADA suspension – supposedly due to a “tainted supplement”, but who knows really – Means hadn’t fought since a December knockout win over John Howard, his fifth win at 170lbs in the UFC. Originally set to face Sean Strickland, when ‘Tarzan’ pulled out with injury Means was instead faced with TUF 21’s Sabah Homasi, an accomplished kickboxer coming off three knockouts in a row. Smart pick seemed to be Means but with Homasi’s good striking and Means potentially having been juiced up before, I was tempted to actually go with the newcomer.

Round One begins and Means stalks forward as Sabah moves on the outside. Hard body kick from Homasi but Means lands a left hand counter on him. Hard left from Means as he backs Homasi into the fence, but Sabah circles out and lands a good leg kick. Exchange sees Homasi hurt by a left, then thrown down from the plum clinch, but Homasi grabs the leg and hits a takedown to butterfly guard. Sabah settles into the full guard, while Means looks to scramble back up. He does it and gets to his feet, breaking off quickly. Exchange sees both men land for a moment. Nice left hand from Means and he’s stalking again and forcing Homasi back. Clinch from Means and he moves Sabah into the fence. Elbow connects inside for Means. Homasi fires back with a combo but he’s being forced back into the fence. He also looks tired. Wild swings from Homasi don’t really land and Means stands right in front of him before hurting him with a front kick to the body. Takedown attempt from Sabah and he gets Means down again, but eats some nasty elbows to the arm and can’t keep Means down. Head kick breaks the clinch for Homasi but it doesn’t land cleanly. Left to the body from Means and he hurts Sabah with a heavy knee and a pair of vicious elbows from close range. Homasi swings back and forces him to reset, and it looks like he’s been cut by the elbows as there’s blood literally POURING from his forehead, wow. Uppercut lands for Means but Homasi pegs him back with a knee. Jab snaps Sabah’s head back and then Means comes in with a couple more nasty elbows from the clinch. Sabah keeps trying to fire back but he’s not landing with the force of Means. Another elbow connects for the Dirty Bird and Sabah looks like he’s struggling. Big knee and elbows from Means but Homasi survives the round. Clear 10-9 for Means and Sabah looks in deep trouble.

Round Two and Means stalks forward again, avoiding some wild swings from Sabah before glancing with a head kick. Means is really walking Sabah down here. He shrugs off a clinch and Homasi looks exhausted. Big combination from Means has Homasi in trouble and he chains together a nasty knee to the body with some harsh clinch striking. Front kick to the body lands for Means and Homasi’s badly hurt. Another body shot follows and now Means is just picking him apart. Sabah comes back with a body kick but Means answers with one of his own and Homasi is in survival mode. Big flurry puts him on the run and he’s in trouble again. Heavy jab snaps his head back. Left to the body sets up a pair of vicious knees and some more elbows, and a right hand sends Sabah on the run. Means stays calm though and doesn’t chase in, instead simply landing on him with brutally clean shots again. This could be stopped, and sure enough Means continues to destroy him standing with nasty, clean combinations until Herb Dean steps in to mercifully stop it. Homasi looks like he’s been sliced up by a machete.

Means just looked phenomenal in that fight, mainly because while Sabah admittedly gassed early, Means didn’t get crazy or anything trying to finish him – he just stayed efficiently violent and picked the TUF veteran apart until he couldn’t take any more. His clinch work in particular with those elbows was fantastic. May as well push him up into a fight against a top ten guy methinks (what’s Johny Hendricks doing next?) because he’s awesome to watch and needs a step up. As for Homasi he’ll be back I’m sure, but hopefully against someone lower down the ladder. Massively entertaining opener.

Welterweight Fight: Hyun Gyu Lim vs Mike Perry

This was another injury-hit match as Lim was initially matched with Sultan Aliev, but when Sultan pulled out, largely unknown newcomer Mike Perry stepped in to take the fight. And man, it looked like a horrible fight for him on paper as Lim had such a huge size advantage. Well to be fair he has that over most 170lbers. I’d never seen Perry fight but the people in the know online were suggesting he basically had no chance against a striker like Lim.

First round begins and these guys look like they should be in different weight classes. Right hand and a leg kick peg Lim back a little, but a couple of jabs from the Korean force Perry to back up a bit. Nice leg kick from Perry. Left hand follows and snaps Lim’s head back, but Perry gets shoved aside when he tries to rush in. Another leg kick connects for the newcomer. Lim is really hanging his hands here despite landing some decent shots. Uppercut connects hard for the Korean. He continues to advance with his hands low though, and gets CRACKED by a right hook that puts him down! Perry looks to follow up and drops down into half-guard, but Lim ties him up enough not to take much damage. Sweep from Lim goes a bit wrong and Perry winds up in a mounted crucifix, dropping heavy punches directly to the face, but Lim manages to roll and stand back up. Another leg kick lands for Perry and he hits Lim with a HARD counter left too as the Korean wings some bombs at him. Lim is looking criminally sloppy with his defense here. Sure enough he swings again but walks right into ANOTHER BRUTAL RIGHT and down he goes! Perry again bombs on him from the top, but Lim turns to his side and manages to survive, just about. To be fair this could easily be stopped. Perry works into side mount again and continues to land, but Lim somehow forces his way back up. Again he chases in though and walks into a vicious left this time, and finally Big John McCarthy stops things as Lim goes crashing down for a third time.

Well, you don’t get many better UFC debuts than that, as Perry landed an absolute highlight reel knockout right there. I’m not sure of his ceiling though – he has to fight someone who doesn’t keep their hands so low I reckon – but hey, he’s a prospect to watch for sure. No clue on what Lim’s gameplan was all about as he didn’t use his reach at all and kept hanging his hands and getting tagged – maybe he was realistically knocked out by the first knockdown and couldn’t recover? Who knows. Unfortunately the fight was marred slightly by Alex Nicholson busting out some RACISM in Perry’s corner, but hey, not Perry’s fault and still a fantastic debut.

Welterweight Fight: Donald Cerrone vs Rick Story

So far, so good up to this point for Cowboy at 170lbs then as he’d beaten Alex Oliveira and Patrick Cote already in 2016, but this was a bit of a tougher test for him – Story had looked as good as he’d ever done, back to his 2010-11 form against Tarec Saffiedine in May, and he’s also renowned for his body work, something that’d caused Cerrone problems in the past. Still, I was picking Cowboy as I couldn’t see Story using his wrestling to win – Cowboy is too good to get lay-and-prayed on these days – and I figured he’d probably pick Story’s legs apart with kicks for a decision or catch him in a sub on the ground.

Round One and Story comes out aggressively into an early exchange. Wild left hand misses for Story. Good leg kick from Cowboy and he surprisingly shoots and gets Story down. Story immediately scrambles into full guard, but Cowboy works to pass and does so, moving into half-guard. Story gets butterfly guard back and manages to scramble up, and now he goes for a takedown of his own, forcing Cerrone into the fence. Sweet outside trip from Story puts Cowboy on his back but right away he goes into a triangle attempt. Story manages to block it just about, and then throws the legs to the side to take side mount. Cerrone gives his back in an attempt to stand, but Story can’t get any hooks in and he doesn’t really land much aside from a knee to the body either. Beautiful spin allows Cerrone to sneak free with two minutes to go. Inside leg kick lands for Story but Cerrone fires back with the step-in knee to the body and a kick too. Body kick answers for Story and they trade off with hard leg kicks. Vicious one from Cerrone almost buckles Story’s left leg. Less than a minute to go now and Cowboy catches him with the knee to the body again and then follows it up with a crisp combo. His timing looks awesome here. Story keeps firing back but he takes another heavy combo. Inside leg kick lands for Story but he takes a body kick and a brief combo on the buzzer. 10-9 round for Donald Cerrone, as Story seemed to be playing into his hands pretty much.

Round Two and Story comes out swinging wild, but gets hit by a right hand counter and a glancing head kick. Counter knee lands for Cowboy to stuff a takedown and he follows it with a quick combination. Another single leg is avoided by Cerrone but he takes a left to the body. Nasty leg kick sets up a pair of heavy right hooks for Cerrone. Front kick to the body follows as does another leg kick. Story is getting picked apart now and another nasty pair of leg kicks connect, one on the outside and one on the inside. Story lunges in but gets hit by the knee again. Just over three minutes in the round and Story fires with a left, but Cerrone comes back with a RIDICULOUS COMBO, left hand into a right body shot into a left into a BRUTAL RIGHT HIGH KICK and Story looks out on his feet! VICIOUS FLURRY follows and Story just wilts under the barrage, and that’s all she wrote.

That combo was unbelievable, seriously. Best combination finish since Nate Marquardt on Wilson Gouveia or maybe even better in fact. It was like a real life Mortal Kombat finish. Without the spine-ripping, of course! Cowboy’s hardest test at 170lbs thus far and yet he passed it with flying colors, looking better than ever in the process. And showing that he’s a smart guy indeed he’s already signed a new long-term deal with the UFC and is now about to fight in a marquee fight on the first New York card. Gotta love Cowboy – hopefully he can keep rising up at 170lbs all the way to a title shot, because he remains probably the best fighter to watch in MMA right now.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Anthony Johnson vs Glover Teixeira

Fantastic co-main event here – this one had initially been booked for July’s Fox card, but Teixeira was injured and so they postponed it to here. For all intents and purposes – especially with Jon Jones’s positive PED test – this was a match to decide the next title challenger to Daniel Cormier. Johnson was the hot favourite coming in as he’d come back from his 2015 loss to Cormier by destroying Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader, but I was going for the mild upset as I still see Johnson as a guy who wilts if you can survive the initial storm – which isn’t easy of course! – and I figured Glover could weather the storm, get him to the ground and tap him out.

First round begins and Rumble comes out firing. Teixeira obliges and fires right back, but Johnson catches him with a CRUSHING RIGHT UPPERCUT THAT KNOCKS HIM SENSELESS!~! Two hammer fists are academic and it’s all over.

Holy shit that was violent. Post-fight Teixeira doesn’t know where he is at all and manages to take down Dan Miragliotta as he thinks the fight is still going. That’s scary power from Rumble. Nobody had ever knocked Glover out since his debut back in 2002 and as far as I can recall nobody in the UFC had even knocked him down! And yet it took less than a minute for Rumble to turn his lights out. That’s another three KO’s in a row for Rumble and surely he has to get the next title shot now, Jones or no Jones. I don’t think he beats either Jones or Cormier but he’s definitely earned another shot and even if he can’t beat them, he might be the scariest fighter in the whole division due to that power. Simply put this was one of the best knockouts of the year.

Welterweight Fight: Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor

As I mentioned earlier then, this rematch should originally have headlined UFC 200 before Conor was pulled out due to issues surrounding the promotion of the fight, but hey, I’m thinking now that it was a masterstroke by the UFC – UFC 200 would’ve sold regardless while this show might’ve been forgotten without such a big headliner. Strangely enough there didn’t seem to be that much initial hype – within the hardcore fanbase anyway – largely because people thought Conor should go back to 145lbs and defend his title and a feeling that it was too early for a rematch, but that changed once the pre-fight press conference went off, as it got crazy like never before, with Diaz storming out and Conor throwing cans of Monster energy drink at him. As far as a pick? I felt it was damn near impossible to choose, as while Diaz would have a full training camp for this fight, last time was the first time Conor had fought at 170lbs and his gameplan seemed to go out of the window once he couldn’t KO Diaz early. With the knowledge that he couldn’t expect an early KO, I figured McGregor would come in more patiently – but I still wasn’t sure whether it could get him past Diaz. In the end though I went with Conor just because.

Round One and Conor opens with a leg kick, pressuring Diaz back. Another leg kick lands and he sort-of taunts Nate before landing a third kick. Right to the body from Diaz but he takes another leg kick. Conor is really backing him up here. He’s going to the leg kick again and again. Weird side kick doesn’t really land for Diaz and Conor manages to dodge a right hand swipe. Nice one-two from Conor and he follows with another leg kick. Left hand hurts Diaz and sends him down, but Conor wants nothing to do with the ground and calls him right back up, where he meets him with another leg kick. Right hand lands for Diaz and backs McGregor up a bit, but he tells ate to bring it and then hits him with a shovel hook to the body and another kick. Diaz looks like he’s favouring the right leg now due to all of the kicks. Another combination connects for Conor. Diaz comes back with a combo of his own but McGregor seems fine. Beautiful slip of the jab from Conor and he connects on his own combo. This round has been all McGregor, in a much smarter fashion than how he took the first round of the first fight. One minute to go and Diaz really wings a right hook, but it doesn’t land cleanly. Good left hook from McGregor and he stops Diaz in his tracks with another heavy leg kick. Conor moves out of the way for a while and then clips Diaz with a sweet counter left, and the round ends with him swinging. 10-9 McGregor for sure, really excellent round as he picked Diaz off with the leg kicks and hurt him with punches too.

Round Two and Conor again presses forward, landing a combo and another leg kick. Diaz is firmly on the back foot now. Big left hand puts him down for a second time but again Conor waves him right back up. Leg kick lands again for McGregor and he follows with a glancing combo and another left that lands flush. Big left hand drops Nate for a second time in the round but again he won’t go to the ground and forces him up. Diaz is bleeding now. He tries to fire back, but eats a flicking jab from Conor and a leg kick follows. Right hand glances for Diaz but he eats yet another leg kick. Another follows and McGregor easily avoids Nate’s punches. Big right hand connects for Nate but Conor eats it up and fires right back with a combo. Beautiful counter left lands flush for McGregor. Looks like it’s Diaz’s nose that’s bleeding. Big one-two from Conor but Diaz does get through with a couple of jabs. Another leg kick from Conor and a follow-up lands too. Punches miss for Diaz but a counter combo connects and Conor has to back up now. Big combination from Diaz and Conor is on the run. Nice left to the body from Conor but Diaz is suddenly on the attack, beating him to the punch. Combo lands for Diaz and McGregor gets caught off balance and almost goes down, and that allows Nate to come in and OPEN UP with a flurry! McGregor is in a bit of trouble, but he manages to clinch to slow Diaz down somewhat. Diaz breaks off though and continues to flurry on him, landing a knee for good measure. Right hook from Diaz and he goes to the body now too. Conor clinches again, and that’s the round. Clearly McGregor’s round as he was on top for the majority of it and got two knockdowns, but Diaz has the momentum going into the third. 10-9 McGregor though yeah.

Round Three and Conor is breathing heavily coming out of his corner. He comes out firing, but Diaz looks calm in the pocket and an exchange sees Nate land with a hard right hand. McGregor is GASSED. Big one-two stuns McGregor and Nate clinches and forces him into the fence. Conor stuffs a takedown attempt and switches position, but he’s definitely exhausted and Diaz is working him over from close range now. Nice elbow exits for Conor but Diaz tags him with a right hook. Counter left and a right hand land for McGregor though and he lands with a leg kick too. Big counter left from Conor but he walks into a stiff jab. Right to the body from McGregor. This is a hell of a fight. Diaz gets on the attack again as Conor has to back up, and a right hand lands clean for McGregor but only causes Diaz to taunt him. Spin kick is caught by Diaz and he goes for the takedown, but Conor blocks it and they’re clinched again. Another takedown attempt from Diaz is defended and Conor cracks him with an elbow inside the clinch. They muscle along the fence before Diaz breaks with a combo and now Conor’s on the run. Diaz continues to taunt him but he does eat another leg kick. Conor is firmly on the retreat though and his punches aren’t doing as much damage. Solid combo lands for Nate. Both men are swinging now. One-two lands for Diaz and he follows with a combo that has Conor in trouble. He manages to clinch, but eats more shots and Diaz is all over him now! McGregor somehow manages to hold on, but he’s taking more and more punishment. Brutal right hand to the body and another big combo hurts Conor again, but he manages to survive the round. Clear-cut 10-9 for Nate Diaz but I wouldn’t go as far as a 10-8 as outside of those last twenty seconds or so Conor never looked out of the fight. He’s gasping for breath in his corner between rounds though.

Round Four and this is officially the longest fight of McGregor’s career. He starts with a sharp leg kick and a combo as it looks somehow like he’s getting a second wind. One-two also lands. Looks like Diaz is struggling with a cut around his right eye or his cheek. Big leg kick from McGregor and he lands with a nice straight left too. Right hand fires back for Diaz. Quick combo from Diaz but he eats a hard right hand and a front kick to the body. Another kick to the body follows as does a right hand. Diaz’s face is an absolute mess. Leg kick practically buckles Diaz and now he’s on the retreat. Right hand to the body from Conor. This is such an impressive rally from him after that previous round. Nice combination lands for the Irishman as he shrugs off a clinch attempt. Diaz manages to get hold of him after taking another combo and this time he goes for a double leg, but McGregor defends it impressively. He’s still got his back to the fence though. Couple of solid knees to the body from Diaz and he lands a quick combo to the body to follow it up. This is a tremendous fight. Big left elbow inside the clinch from McGregor. Diaz responds with another knee to the body, but Conor spins him around into the fence and then breaks off with an excellent combo. Right-left from Nate staggers Conor slightly, but he comes back with a nasty left hook counter. Leg kick follows and another combination lands for him too. One minute to go and another combination connects for Conor. He’s moving much better now and he counters with a heavy one-two and then an overhand left. Sharp leg kick lands for Conor in the last few seconds, and the round ends with a combo from Diaz that sees him slip on a head kick. 10-9 McGregor and I’d have it 39-37 for him going into the fifth.

Round Five and holy shit, Diaz looks like he’s been in a car wreck. Big leg kick opens for Conor but Diaz is really pressuring forward, forcing McGregor on the run again. Nice right jab from Diaz. Counter combo lands for McGregor and he glances on a flying knee, but Diaz drives him back into the fence off it. Nice knee from the clinch for Conor and he manages to switch position and then lands some short punches from the clinch, but Diaz breaks off and avoids a leg kick. Good right to the body from Diaz and McGregor is on the retreat big time, pot-shotting and moving out. Another clinch from Diaz and he forces Conor into the fence and drops deep for a double leg, but somehow McGregor defends again! Who said he can’t wrestle? Hard combo lands for Nate though and Conor has to completely retreat again. He fires back with a combo though, but Diaz comes right back with one of his own. Big shot from Diaz and he looks for the takedown again, but he can’t get it and they openly exchange in the clinch. Big elbow lands for Nate. This is such a gutsy showing from both men. Another takedown attempt is defended by McGregor. He’s continuing to take shots inside the clinch though. One minute to go and he can’t shake Diaz off him. Ton of blood on McGregor’s back from Diaz’s face. Takedown from Conor (!) but Nate pops back up only to eat an elbow. More strong clinch work from Nate follows and with seconds to go he hits a beautiful takedown and goes to work inside Conor’s guard until the buzzer. Awesome fight. 10-9 Diaz, 48-47 McGregor overall.

Official scores are 48-47 McGregor…..47-47 for a draw and 48-47 McGregor to give Conor the majority decision win. Diaz looks FURIOUS as per usual but I think the judges made the right call, obviously the dissenter gave Diaz a 10-8 third which would be arguable but personally I just didn’t think he dominated quite enough for that, so yeah, 48-47 for Conor giving him the 1st, 2nd and 4th seems right to me. This was an absolutely TREMENDOUS FIGHT though – maybe the FOTYC although Lawler vs. Condit was excellent too – as both men showed heart and desire in bucketloads and definitely put on a performance worthy of breaking the PPV buyrate (which the show apparently did) and also worthy of the biggest purses in MMA history ($3m to Conor, $2m to Diaz and that’s without a cut of the PPV money…). Basically the first two rounds kind of went how I expected the fight to as Conor adjusted from the first meeting, didn’t wing as many power shots and worked Diaz over with more combinations and leg kicks, but then he began to succumb again to both a fading gas tank and Diaz’s combo-heavy style, and it looked like he could be done before that big rally in the fourth. The fifth was just a war of attrition with both men running on nothing but sheer guts and will to win really, just a truly amazing fight.

Post-fight McGregor basically says he wants the trilogy but with the third fight at 155lbs and Diaz seems down with that (as he claims he won, naturally) but right now it seems like they’re going to go with McGregor against Eddie Alvarez for the 155lbs title at UFC 205. Where that leaves Diaz – and McGregor’s 145lbs title for that matter – I don’t know, but to see Conor beat Alvarez and then make the first defence of his 155lbs title against Diaz would not surprise me at all. Even if Diaz doesn’t even fight again until that point! Who knows with Conor these days.

-Show ends with discussion of what the future holds for Conor (Joe Rogan thinks he should drop the 145lbs title, for the record….) and also with what should happen at 205lbs with Rumble and Cormier and Jones. And then we finally hit the highlights. Whew. Now that’s a show!

Final Thoughts….

Best PPV of the year thus far for me, putting UFC 199 in the shade (just about) as we got four ridiculous finishes to exciting fights in the first four matches – the big highlight being Donald Cerrone’s Mortal Kombat-style combo, what else? – and then a bonafide classic in the main event that could well end up being the Fight of the Year. In the words of Diaz, I’m not surprised, motherfucker. Highest recommendation.

Best Fight: McGregor vs. Diaz
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: *****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: