Two of the most exciting stars in the UFC lost last night, badly. Don Rowe describes what happened and pays homage to the omnipotent power of chaos in the sport of sanctioned violence.
If UFC president Dana White had any hair left on his shining bald dome, it would have been violently pulled out by the roots last night when Nate Diaz wrung the neck of Conor ‘The Golden Goose’ McGregor.
Things were already looking grim for the UFC when Holly Holm was choked unconscious in the fifth round by perennial contender Miesha ‘Cupcake’ Tate. As the revenue stream from an eventual Rousey rematch was cut-off like the blood to Holm’s brain, White and Co. would have consoled themselves that at least there was one blonde-haired, white-skinned moneymaker left on top.
They had every reason to be confident.
Riding high on a 15 fight win streak with 13 knockouts and a submission, McGregor had looked almost immortal for half a decade, breaking necks and cashing cheques like Ronda Rousey on steroids. Hell, at Rousey’s last fight in November, the Etihad stadium in Melbourne was replete with Irish tricolours and bearded McGregor lookalikes despite The Notorious being on the other side of the planet.
Opposite McGregor, Nate Diaz was the sacrificial lamb. Tough enough to take a few shots and make a fight of it, but ultimately too slow, too weak and too much of a target to pose much of a threat to MMA’s first million dollar man. Plus, coming into the fight on ten days notice, Diaz barely had a chance to lace up his sparring gloves before it was time to throw down for real in front of the baying Irish hordes.
From the opening bell, it looked like another early night for McGregor. Working predominately off the left-hand, his most powerful, McGregor cracked Diaz with straight shots, hooks and even a sneaky uppercut that had the bigger man cut badly and spraying blood just over halfway through the round. Diaz had his moments, landing several stiff jabs and even a couple of uncharacteristic kicks, but it was McGregor throwing heat and doing damage.
Coming into round two, it was more of the same from McGregor, slinging full-power shots at Diaz and continuing to work on his cut and bruised eye. The bleeding worsened, and Diaz looked at risk of losing via a doctor-enforced stoppage.
But then it happened: an open-hand slap followed by an aggressive ‘what?!’ by Diaz. Anyone who’s followed the Diaz brothers knows that when they start to strut on fools, shit is about to get serious.
Almost immediately, a stiff one-two combination to the chin had McGregor moving backwards. Another slap. Another right-hand on the button. Diaz flurried, pressing into McGregor and wiping his blood across the shorter man’s torso. Diaz pinned McGregor’s head against the cage using his own face and fired several left hooks. A knee to the body, more left hands and the fighters moved back to the centre of the cage.
A few more hard punches from Diaz and McGregor shot for a desperation tackle, trying to staunch the flow of unanswered punches to the head. The fight could have been stopped here, anything further was a formality, as the blackbelt Diaz sprawled, reversed the position, slapped McGregor around a bit and proceeded to choke him into submission.
Arms raised, blood streaming from his face, Diaz screamed at the cameras. “Stockton motherfucker, what?!”
It’s safe to say the UFC brass suffered an incredible series of spontaneous intestinal herniations at the sight. Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Conor McGregor; the great white hopes of the UFC all soundly finished in fights they were supposed to win within six months of each other.
On the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, the chaotic essence of sanctioned cage violence proved once again the only constant in MMA.
Judging by the reaction online, there was some serious cognitive dissonance experienced in the immediate aftermath of the fight. But not, however, by the veteran Nate Diaz.
“You just shook up the world, how does that feel?” asked colour commentator Joe Rogan in the post-fight interview.
“Hey, I’m not surprised motherfuckers,” said Diaz.