Tuesday 12 December 2017

Conor McGregor v Nate Diaz: Game plans could go out the window as trash talk reigns

Conor McGregor faces Nate Diaz in Las Vegas tomorrow night
Conor McGregor faces Nate Diaz in Las Vegas tomorrow night

Dan Hardy

Usually when a fight as big as this weekend's main event comes around, I'm counting down the days until the fighters step into the Octagon. This fight is different. As excited as I am to see Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz throw down, the build-up has been so entertaining that I could stand another week or two of trash talk!

Originally scheduled to face Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight title, McGregor was disappointed again when a broken foot pulled the champion and his belt from the UFC 196 fight card.

As you would expect from the Irish featherweight champion, stepping down to wait for his opponent's recovery wasn't an option. McGregor was determined to face someone on March 5th in Las Vegas. And that someone is the lanky, foul-mouthed fan favourite, Nate Diaz.

In Diaz's last post fight interview he made it clear that Conor was at the top of his priority list and he knew that a few strong choice words could not only ignite the fans' attention, but they could also possibly coax McGregor into accepting the fight. As luck would have it for Diaz, the phone rang and precisely what he had asked for was placed right in front of him.

Immediately the fans seemed to forget their disappointment over the injured Dos Anjos, and with baited breath they waited for the first shot to be fired.

In no time at all this became the fight that everyone wanted to see; a super-fight between the featherweight champion and an on top lightweight prospect, meeting at welterweight, no less than two weight classes above McGregor's championship division.

With so much emotion going into this fight, the skills and game plans could actually prove to be irrelevant. If either fighter gets drawn in by the trashing that their opponent is giving them, they could fight recklessly and expose targets that may be their undoing.

McGregor is an accurate striker with proven power in his left hand. Diaz brings a street boxing style that incorporates a high volume of straight punches at range and a very good submission game. Both like to try and psyche out their opposition with bravado and insulting comments, and are usually pretty effective. I expect to see this in full effect from both athletes as they circle each other, trading verbal barbs and punches until someone breaks.

Although the belt is not an incentive for McGregor in this fight, the satisfaction of beating Nate would surely be enough. Nate, meanwhile, has the opportunity that every fighter in the lighter divisions wants right now. If he is able to pull off the upset, he could topple the McGregor tower and potentially ruin the Irishman's chance of a lightweight title shot in the near future. From the walk-outs to the fight’s conclusion, I will be on my feet, twitching with anticipation as if I'm in the fight myself.

Holly Holm, meanwhile, fresh off her shocking knockout victory over Ronda Rousey, will jump straight back in to face the division number two in Miesha 'Cupcake' Tate. Don't be fooled by these ladies' nicknames though. Holm, also known as 'The Preachers Daughter', was the most decorated female professional boxer before crossing over to MMA. Miesha will be her first title defence and poses very different challenges to the previous champ. Gritty and determined, Tate's wrestling ability is the foundation of her game.

Never one to be discouraged, Tate will push forward against Holm and attempt to take away her clear striking advantage. When the range is closed down the fight is far more winnable for Tate, and Holm will be aware of this. As well as the rest of the card having some great fights, the main and co-main could be very special encounters - Holm looking to establish herself as the new champion, and Conor living up to his word and taking a fight against anyone willing to step up and seize the opportunity. But there is no doubt in my mind that Tate and Diaz have the minerals, and the confidence, to push their opponents and give the fans what they paid to see.

Independent News Service

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