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UFC 196: Nate Diaz, Tate earn shocking upsets over McGregor, Holm
1:18 | MMA
UFC 196: Nate Diaz, Tate earn shocking upsets over McGregor, Holm
Tuesday March 8th, 2016

Yes, Conor McGregor got beat up and choked out over the weekend. Yes, Conor McGregor remains in the SI.com pound-for-pound Top 10.

If that sounds incongruous to you—especially in light of the Irishman’s conqueror, Nate Diaz, not being on our list—then it’s time for a brief reminder of what pound-for-pound rankings are all about. They’re not a measure of how one elite mixed martial artist would do against all others—if that were the case, we’d have a hard time explaining how 125-pound UFC champion Demetrious Johnson could be ranked ahead of heavyweight belt holder Fabricio Werdum. No, a P4P list—at least in our interpretation—is a relative assessment of how each weight division’s top fighters are faring within their own universe.

So, in the case of McGregor, a loss to a bigger man at welterweight does not necessarily make him any less of a featherweight rock star. However, “The Notorious” does drop down a few spots—he was No. 4 last month—because of the way he was defeated on Saturday night and the potential for residual effects.

If these rankings were an assessment of mental warfare, McGregor would have been the reigning No. 1. No one in the history of MMA has defeated more opponents before they’ve even stepped inside the cage with him. And McGregor’s ability to talk a good game is not only directed outwardly. His brash words fortify his self-belief.

MMA
McGregor cut back down to size by Diaz at UFC 196

This is a man who just last December won the 145-pound championship, immediately set his sights on grabbing the golden ring at 155 pounds, then boldly accepted a fight at 170. McGregor truly believed that his preeminence knew no bounds.

UFC 196 served as a cruel reminder that weight classes exist for a reason. McGregor hit Diaz with everything he had, and while it was enough to bloody the bad boy from Stockton, Calif., it was not enough to stop the slightly bigger man in his tracks, as those punches had done against 145-pounders.

Now, that shouldn’t necessarily set off an alarm. As long as McGregor gets back to featherweight, he’ll have the power to rock people’s world. But the alarm bells do sound when one considers how Saturday’s fight ended. After being lit up and wobbled by Diaz midway through the second round, McGregor uncharacteristically shot for a takedown. He was essentially giving up, right then and there.

Diaz is a jiu-jitsu black belt who’d scored 11 of his previous 19 professional wins by submission. McGregor is not a black belt, and his two previous losses had come via tapout. But even those cold facts don’t foretell how easily Diaz handled business on the canvas. The American quickly gained full mount position, battered the Irishman until he gave up his back, and slickly clamped on a rear naked choke. McGregor put up no resistance.

That doesn’t bode well for the featherweight champ if the UFC books him for a title defense against Frankie Edgar, who is No. 2 in the SI.com 145-pound rankings. Edgar is elusive on his feet and quick with the takedown. And once he has an opponent on the canvas, he knows how to keep him there. That would be troubling for McGregor, who’s shown himself to be a fish out of water when not in a standup fight.

McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, has let it be known he’d prefer that the first title defense be against former champion José Aldo. Of course he would prefer that. While Aldo also owns a jiu-jitsu black belt, he has demonstrated a preference to keep his fights standing. And that’s a place where McGregor swims just fine.

An Aldo rematch also would do wonders for McGregor’s confidence, which might be flagging a bit following Saturday’s defeat. The Irishman needed just 13 seconds to flatten Aldo in December and take away the championship. He would have a huge mental edge in the lead up to a rematch.

We’ll soon find out whether the UFC treats McGregor as a meal ticket or feeds him to the grinder.


SI.com's P4P MMA Rankings
 
  • 1
    1Jon Jones
    Light Heavyweight
    Record: 21–1–0
    Last fight: W (R5 UD) Daniel Cormier, Jan. 3, 2015

  • 2
    2Demetrious Johnson
    Flyweight champ
    Record: 22–2–1
    Last fight: W (R5 UD) John Dodson, Sep. 5, 2015

  • 3
    3Fabricio Werdum
    Heavyweight champ
    Record: 20–5–1
    Last fight: W (R3 Sub) Cain Velasquez, June 13, 2015

  • 4
    4LUKE ROCKHOLD
    Middleweight champ
    Record: 15–2–0
    Last fight: W (R4 TKO) Chris Weidman, Dec. 12, 2015

  • 5
    5RAFAEL DOS ANJOS​
    Lightweight champ
    Record: 24–7–0
    Last fight: W (R1 TKO) Donald Cerrone, Dec. 19, 2015

  • 6
    6ROBBIE LAWLER
    Welterweight champ
    Record: 26–10–0
    Last fight: W (R5 SD) Carlos Condit, Jan. 2, 2016

  • 7
    7DOMINICK CRUZ
    Bantamweight champ
    Record: 21–2–0
    Last fight: W (R5 SD) T.J. Dillashaw , Jan. 17, 2016

  • 8
    CONOR McGREGOR
    Featherweight champ
    Record: 19–3–0
    Last fight: L (R2 Sub) Nate Diaz, Mar. 5, 2016

  • 9
    9DANIEL CORMIER
    Light heavyweight
    Record: 17-1
    Last fight: W (R5 SD) Alexander Gustafsson, Oct. 23, 2015

  • 10
    10FRANKIE EDGAR
    Featherweight
    Record: 20-4-1
    Last fight: W (R1 KO) Chad Mendes, Dec.11, 2015


On to the rest of the rankings …

Heavyweight

1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)
2. Cain Velasquez (13-2)
3. Stipe Miocic (14-2)
4. Ben Rothwell (36-9)
5. Alistair Overeem (40-14)
6. Junior dos Santos (17-4)
7. Andrei Arlovski (25-11, 1 NC)
8. Travis Browne (18-3-1)
9. Mark Hunt (11-10-1)
10. Vitaly Minakov (17-0)

Nearly a year after winning the UFC belt, Werdum makes his first defense May 14 against Miocic. The fight is in the champ’s native Brazil, at a 42,000-sat stadium in Curitiba.


Light heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (21-1)
2. Daniel Cormier (17-1)
3. Anthony Johnson (21-5)
4. Alexander Gustafsson (16-4)
5. Ryan Bader (20-5)
6. Phil Davis (13-3, 1 NC)
7. Glover Teixeira (24-4)
8. Liam McGeary (11-0)
9. Rashad Evans (19-4-1)
10. Ovince Saint Preux (19-7)

Cormier vs. Jones II is set for April 23 in Las Vegas—not Madison Square Garden, as originally planned. MMA-phobic New York doesn’t know what it’s missing.


Middleweight

1. Luke Rockhold (15-2)
2. Chris Weidman (13-1)
3. Ronaldo Souza (22-4, 1 NC)
4. Vitor Belfort (25-11)
5. Lyoto Machida (22-7)
6. Tim Kennedy (18-5)
7. Michael Bisping (27-7)
8. Anderson Silva (33-6)
9. Gegard Mousasi (38-6-2)
10. Robert Whittaker (15-4)

Bisping lands the biggest fight of his life, against Anderson Silva in front of his London countrymen, and the Brit wins it. And that lifts him just one spot in this tally. There’s a lot of talent stalled in front of him.


Welterweight

1. Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC)
2. Rory MacDonald (18-3)
3. Stephen Thompson (12-1)
4. Tyron Woodley (15-3)
5. Johny Hendricks (17-4)
6. Matt Brown (20-13)
7. Ben Askren (14-0)
8. Carlos Condit (30-9)
9. Demian Maia (22-6)
10. Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1, 1 NC)

“Wonderboy” Thompson moves up from No. 9 on the strength of beating Hendricks, our former No. 2. That very well could have earned him a title fight, but instead he gets MacDonald on June 4. The path to the top is no easy ride.


Lightweight

1. Rafael dos Anjos (25-7)
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)
3. Tony Ferguson (20-3)
4. Donald Cerrone (29-7, 1 NC)
5. Eddie Alvarez (27-4)
6. Anthony Pettis (18-4)
7. Nate Diaz (19-10)
8. Will Brooks (16-1)
9. Beneil Dariush (12-1)
10. Edson Barboza (16-4)

Diaz moves up a few spots, despite not having fought a lightweight on Saturday night. Against McGregor, he showed the gritty relentlessness for which he’s become known. The high-profile win earned him more high-profile opportunities.


Featherweight

1. Conor McGregor (19-3)
2. Frankie Edgar (20-4-1)
3. José Aldo (25-2)
4. Chad Mendes (17-4)
5. Max Holloway (15-3)
6. Ricardo Lamas (16-4)
7. Charles Oliveira (21-5, 1 NC)
8. Daniel Straus 25-6)
9. Patricio Freire (24-3)
10. Cub Swanson (21-7)

McGregor still reigns here, but after last weekend’s defeat he’s not quite so puffed up. Sure, the loss was to a bigger man in a bout contested at welterweight, but watching the Irishman get overwhelmed on the mat no doubt further emboldened No. 2 Edgar. Let’s see if the UFC dares book the wrestler extraordinaire against its cash cow.


Bantamweight

1. Dominick Cruz (21-1)
2. T.J. Dillashaw (12-3)
3. Renan Barão (33-3, 1 NC)
4. Urijah Faber (32-8)
5. Raphael Assunção (23-4)
6. Aljamain Sterling (12-0)
7. Thomas Almeida (20-0)
8. Bibianio Fernandes (16-3)
9. Marcos Galvão (17-6-1)
10. Joe Warren (12-4)

The second reign of Cruz sees its first title defense June 4. It’s another clash with old nemesis Faber, the only man to have defeated him. But that was way back in 2007, long before Cruz had embodied the nickname “The Dominator.”


Flyweight

1. Demetrious Johnson (23-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (23-4)
3. John Dodson (17-7)
4. Henry Cejudo (10-0)
5. Ali Bagautinov (13-4)
6. Jussier da Silva (18-4)
7. Zach Makovsky (19-7)
8. John Moraga (16-4)
9. Kyoji Horiguchi (15-2)
10. Ian McCall (13-5-1)

“Mighty Mouse” defends his belt next month against Cejudo, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist wrestler. It’s billed below the Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones main event, but don’t overlook this one.


Women’s bantamweight

1. Miesha Tate (18-5)
2. Holly Holm (10-1)
3. Ronda Rousey (12-1)
4. Cat Zingano (9-1)
5. Alexis Davis (17-6)
6. Amanda Nunes (12-4)
7. Julianna Peña (7-2)
8. Tonya Evinger (17-5)
9. Sara McMann (8-3)
10. Julianna Peña (7-2)

Meet the new boss. She lost to the old boss (twice). But she made a gritty comeback Saturday night against the boss-in-between. With Rousey’s reign having been replaced by Holm’s, then ended by Tate’s—all within four months—the 135-pound belt has become a hot potato.


Women’s strawweight

1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11-0)
2. Claudia Gadelha (13-1)
3. Jessica Aguilar (19-5)
4. Carla Esparza (10-3)
5. Rose Namajunas (4-2)
6. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (8-0)
7. Valerie Letourneau (8-4)
8. Joanne Calderwood (9-1)
9. Tecia Torres (7-0)
10. Maryna Moroz (6-1)

Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha finally have a date for their rematch: July 8, in the main event of a Las Vegas card built around the finale of Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter. Can’t wait, after seeing their staredown at last week’s press conference hyping the fight.

Follow Jeff Wagenheim on Twitter at @jeffwagenheim and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jeffwagenheimwriter.

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