Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: How their Styles Clash (part 1 of 3)

Picture by PowerHouseNation –Eron Ramadanov

The specifics of this match up might remain unclear for many, so it’s time to tackle this showdown like I did last time I broke down Dominick Cruz vs T.J. Dillashaw. Lets see what the stand up war will amount to. We’re going to take a look at the habits and the history of fighters who’ve given Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz a difficult time stylistically. Let’s see how they match up to help open some perspective.

This will also be a fight where we see two southpaws face off. Nate Diaz has a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie but predominantly uses his boxing unless the ground game presents itself organically as the fight progresses. It’s very likely for this fight to stay in the stand up realm. Reach is no longer an advantage for Conor McGregor in this fight but lets get a closer look at what range is about.

The 3 Ranges All Fighters Must Consider

Nate Diaz has a reach of 76’’, and 74’’ for Conor. This might very well be a special chance for us to observe how Conor will actually deal with an opponent who has greater reach. We’ve seen a variety of tools in Conor’s arsenal, but rarely do we see what he’s capable of doing against the adversity of range. Nate is a tall lengthy fighter relative to the average opponent he faces.

When it comes to just the punching range, there are 3 ranges that exist in a short vs. long reach match up. These ranges are important to consider so here they are.

  1. The range where no one can hit each other.
  2. The range where you both can hit each other.
  3. The range where the longer fighter can hit you and you can’t hit them. (Let’s call this the advantage range for now)

It’s important that a fighter understands distance management when keeping these punching ranges in mind against the fighter with longer reach. Rafael Dos Anjos, Benson Henderson, Josh Thomson and few other fighters were very aware of these ranges. These particular fighters constantly made sure to stay within only the two ranges where they can operate, often evading to adjust distance when necessary. They we’re never stationary and willing to stay in Nate’s advantageous range for him to unload his offensive strategies.

This was a downfall for Donald Cerrone (73’’ reach). He was more than willing to stay in the pocket to take what Nate would dish out. When Nate approached, Cerrone stood there to take on the attack. This proved to be his detrimental as he allowed Nate to work where he was at his best.

nate catches cerrone in pocket.gif
Cerrone was always willing to stay in the pocket to take Nate’s striking attempts.

It makes no sense to stay stationary for Nate’s attacks because he can strike at his advantage range. If you plant yourself in the same spot looking to counter back, your punches may not reach. A longer fighter will keep his strikes in the advantage range. Note in the example, Cerrone would sometimes miss his shot by a very slight margin of reach.

Conor’s/Nate’s Vulnerable Stance

Keep in mind that Nate Diaz uses a more linear boxing stance (a stance well known for its difficulty for blocking leg kicks). Many fighters have taken advantages of this over and over through his career. The leg kicks allowed several of Nate’s opponents to outreach his advantageous punching range with their own kicking range. The kicks we’re sometimes used to invite punching range since you can combo off of kicks. Even the fighters Nate has beaten have found success in leg kicks to kill Nate’s stance.

nate eats kick comp
Nate too linear and vulnerable to kicks.

Nate is susceptible to leg kicks but Conor hasn’t always been the type to target the legs often aside from his constant usual oblique kicks to the lead leg. It’s very possible for Conor to target the legs if necessary. All we know is that it’s an option he’s smart enough to utilize if needed. Likewise, Conor has shown susceptibility to kicks as well, but it’s less of a threat against Nate’s tendency to use more of his boxing.

Dangerous Hands

Conor has a wide variety of ways to go on the offensive. He can enter with the boxing range or the kicking range. Diaz, unfortunately is forced to approach with just the boxing range the majority of the time. In previous breakdowns, I have mentioned how hand fighting was an important aspect of finding range. It’s one of the safest ways to gauge your way in to invite the boxing attacks. It allows you to sample your opponent’s reactions and move away on the fly if the opponent tries to counter (If you’re not familiar with hand fighting by the end of this, check out my previous breakdown of Conor McGregor’s hand fighting for more detail).

Both McGregor and Diaz actually have a wide variety of ways of fighting in the boxing range. They either feint within the boxing range to enter, use combo set ups, or hand fight from the very end of the boxing range to invite punches. These fighters consistently demonstrate the use of hand fighting. It is within a high realm of possibility that you will see a display of hand fighting at work when these two finally clash. Hand fighting is one of the main entries from Nate Diaz, and the main method of entry for McGregor for his striking. This fight will often take place from this aspect of the game.

conor and nate hand fight.gif
Conor and Nate using hand fighting.


This is what makes this fight even more intriguing. You see, Conor is rarely placed against someone with greater reach. We’ll get to see how he deals with the range discrepancies. Whether you feel Conor outclasses Nate or vice versa, it’s undeniable that we will witness a masterful display of dealing with range. Will we see a unique skill-set from Conor? Who knows, this fight is going to tell us.

How to Handle Range

When it comes to hand fighting, you start to enter an entirely new game of attacking which entails its own unique strategies to expose the opponent’s guard. Since Conor has diverse arsenal of attacks to use, he’s going to hold an advantage over Diaz in the hand fighting department. History tells us this to be evident. Let’s see why.

Tristar gym is known for producing many fighters who are very capable of implementing hand fighting strategies (in fact, Sage Northcutt has actually started utilizing it in his most recent fight). If we look at Nate Diaz’s fight with Rory MacDonald, that fight will tells us how Rory used the full extent of his hand fighting capabilities to trump Nate.

Rory MacDonald’s Hand Fighting Tools

Lets take a look at techniques that were successfully used in the hand fighting range. Here you can see Rory using a variety of hand fighting strategies to stifle Nate’s ability to fight at his optimal boxing range.

rory hand fighting comp with kicks.gif
When engaging in hand reaching, Rory used all his kicking tools to strike at the hand fighting range. He stifles Nate’s ability to enter with boxing range.

Keep in mind, by occupying the hand, it often takes away the opponent’s ability to effectively use both their arms to block kicks. Lets take a look at another crafty hand fighting technique Rory often used.

rory hand trap to superman punch.gif
Here, Rory controls Nate’s lead hand. By controlling the hand, Nate can no longer use it to attack. This allows Rory to feint a kick that actually transitions into a superman punch.

As you see, this fight pretty much entailed Rory using a lot of long range attacks at the hand fighting engagements. The barrier here for Nate is that he needed to touch his way in to find range, but Rory utilized kicks to negate Nate’s ability to use his hands effectively. Because of this, it was hard for Nate to answer kicks or enter in.

Nate’s fight with Rory is important because it tells us a lot about what can happen with Conor McGregor. Conor has all the offensive kicks Rory used to fight Nate at the hand fighting range. He also uses his own variety of kicks from hand engagements.

Conor hand engagement into kicks.gif
Conor uses a variety of kicks off the hand fighting range.

Tricks of Hand fighting

When it comes to boxing range, both McGregor and Diaz have their own little tricks to disrupt your rhythm and expose your guard. They’re fully capable of inviting their boxing off of feints or hand control in their own respective ways. Despite the fact that Conor uses hand fighting often, he’s still vulnerable to them according to his past fights with Max Holloway.

This write up is already too long, so I’ll only share a few tricks from Conor’s game. (You can view Conor McGregor’s style breakdown for more).

Conor’s Hand fighting Trick

conor hand trap rhythm breaker 6. best. bait, hooks around the draw, crosses.gif
Conor gets Siver into a rhythm reaching his arm out straight out to engage in his reaching. Once Conor notices the pattern, he hooks around as Siver reaches out to catch his opening.

Conor’s Rhythm killer trick

conor feint, lead, cross - lead.gif
From the hand fighting range, Conor feints a slow cross feint by bumping the shoulder forward, changes the rhythm quickly to a jab, cross and catches Chad off guard.


The Fighter Who Survived

Now, there aren’t an awful lot of fighters who have bested Conor or survived a fight to the end, but if we take a look, Max Holloway may show us some valuable traits that might prove to be useful in understanding how to deal with Conor. Holloway actually has his own unique set of hand fighting tricks. He also uses very similar tricks that Conor uses. In fact, Max caught Conor a few times with his own tricks. Holloway’s understanding of the hand engagements allowed him to survive Conor’s own craft to the very end.

Max Hand fighting Trick

max parries down conors hand control, lands cross.gif
Max Controls the upper hand position to allow his hand to parry down Conor’s to sneak his cross through.


Max hand bait into hook around.gif
Max gets Jeremy Stephens into the rhythm of reaching out. Max then changes his the tempo and hooks around his reaching.



We continue on to part 2 where we look at Nate’s own arsenal of tricks and finish off how their styles clash:  Part 2 of Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz


2 thoughts on “Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: How their Styles Clash (part 1 of 3)”

    1. Much appreciated. I tend to not post on Reddit since it sometimes get downvoted like crazy despite the positive comments. I just have to figure out why, that way I can give the community content they’ll enjoy.


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