Saturday night's UFC 196 in Las Vegas turned into The Night of Stunning Upsets, with Conor McGregor losing for the first time in 16 fights and Miesha Tate turning what appeared to be the road to defeat into a sudden victory over women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Here are three takeaways from the surprising night:
1. The bigger they are…
…the harder they are to fell. Conor McGregor’s fight with Nate Diaz began much the same as all of the Irishman’s previous UFC bouts—with “The Notorious” stalking his opponent and peppering him with punches and kicks. He found his target against Diaz, too, bloodying him up in the first round. But he never buckled Diaz. The fighter who eventually buckled was McGregor, after Diaz began beating him to the punch in the second round. What was the difference? McGregor wasn’t facing a featherweight but a natural lightweight who, because he’d been brought in on late notice, was not required to cut to the 155-pound limit. The fight was contended at welterweight, and Diaz, the bigger man, was able to withstand the best that McGregor could dish out. It might be time for the Irishman to do an about-face and go back to fighting 145-pounders.
2. They call it MIXED martial arts for a reason.
Once Diaz put McGregor on the canvas midway through the second round, the fight was essentially over. The Irishman had no answer for the jiu-jitsu black belt’s ground game, as Diaz easily moved into dominant position before clamping on a rear-naked choke to end the fight at 4:12 of the round. This only confirmed what has always been thought to be the Achilles’ heel of McGregor’s game. He’s a slick striker who had finished all of his previous UFC opponents, but the one man to get him to the mat before Diaz, Chad Mendes, had dominated McGregor before running out of steam. Now that a weakness has been confirmed, this is the fight McGregor is going to be in for the rest of his time in the UFC. Or until he develops a legitimate ground game.
3. If at first you don’t succeed…
Miesha Tate’s victory was a product of relentlessness. Facing Holm, a multiple-time boxing world champion, the challenger knew she had to get the fight to the mat. And she tried. And tried. Her first attempt was a success, and she beat up Holm for the better part of the second round. But then the champ maintained her distance and discipline, and fended off takedown try after takedown try. With the final round nearly half over and Holm seemingly in the lead on the scorecards, Tate kept coming but kept failing. She was 1 of 8 on takedown attempts when she shot for another with under four minutes left in the fight. This time she succeeded, and showed her grappling savvy, quickly getting the choke hold that made her a champ in her second shot at the UFC title.