Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor both have a lot on the line as they prepare for their hyped rematch in the main event of UFC 202 on Saturday night. Diaz won the first meeting between the outspoken stars in March by second-round submission.
The second meeting was originally supposed to help headline the milestone UFC 200 event last month, but it got pushed back after a highly publicized dispute between the UFC and McGregor. The issues have since been sorted out and now the budding rivalry is back in the spotlight.
Let's check out all of the important details for Saturday's showcase. That's followed by a closer look at the matchup and a preview of what to expect this time around.
Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Saturday, Aug. 20 at 10 p.m. ET
Live Stream: UFC TV
Tale of the Tape
|UFC 202: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor Measurements|
|Weight||170.5 lbs.||168 lbs.|
|Sources: TheProvince.com; BloodyElbow.com|
|UFC 202: Main Event Odds|
|Source: Odds Shark|
McGregor built himself into a mainstream media sensation because of his terrific work on the mic, but all of the trash talk carries far less weight if he's not winning. That's why avenging his earlier loss to Diaz is so important Saturday night.
The 28-year-old Irishman is still the featherweight champion, and the case could be made that he simply stepped out of his element by going to welterweight. The problem for the UFC is while that argument might carry weight with diehard fans, it means little to the average viewer.
Now, that's not to say Diaz doesn't have a compelling story of his own, but he's yet to prove he can sell himself on the same level as McGregor. And it's that singular star power that really helps UFC make an easier case for attention in the crowded sports landscape.
So it will be interesting to see how The Notorious performs now that he's in the rare position of having to bounce back from a loss with a boatload of pressure on his shoulders.
The first fight wasn't as lopsided as a second-round submission might make it seem. McGregor got his fair share of shots in, but it didn't seem like he was fully prepared for the counterattacks from the 31-year-old American, which left him vulnerable to the upset.
Damon Martin of Fox Sports noted the featherweight champ used a television analogy to explain how the loss happened:
You ever see that episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer starts boxing and he's competing and he's just in the ring and he's getting the head slapped off him, boom, boom, boom and then the guy just can't punch him no more and then Homer tips him and the guy falls over. That's similar, that's the way Nate was in that fight. He's like Homer Simpson.
He took the shots until I couldn't hit him no more. He's going to be no different this fight. He's going to just take the shots and hope that I can't hit him no more. Only I'm going to still be there poking him to the face so I look forward to it.
While it's an extreme example based on what really happened, the general sentiment is right. McGregor came out firing from all angles, and when things didn't go his way early, Diaz took advantage.
One thing Diaz has been consistent about since getting his first shot at one of the top draws in the company is that he belongs in the same category. Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times passed along the veteran's comments about being previously overlooked.
"I don't think [the UFC] realized I was the best market they could've got," Diaz said. "I'm the definition of a real fighter. Now that they've stumbled upon me, it's like, 'Oh, [wow], maybe we should've been marketing him the whole time.'"
Another victory over McGregor, and there's no doubt the UFC brass would be forced to take him more seriously in terms of deserving those top spots more often.
Getting that win will likely be tougher than last time, though. McGregor is still one of the most effective fighters out there, as highlighted by Reed Kuhn of Fightnomics:
Fightnomics Reed @Fightnomics
McGregor has been very effective to date. Magny and Story also deserve mention. Strickland off the card now #UFC202 https://t.co/UHCZ31in8l8/14/2016, 10:10:18 PM
Ultimately, expect to see a slightly more cautious McGregor this time around. He won't want to empty the tank so quickly with the knowledge Diaz has the chin to take a lot of punishment. Preserving some energy for the middle rounds is crucial.
The best news from an entertainment perspective is that the fight could truly go either way, and there will be a multitude of storylines to discuss regardless of what happens. But McGregor should be the more desperate fighter, and that should pay off in the end.
Prediction: McGregor by third-round knockout