Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: How their Styles Clash (part 2 of 3)

We continue off on part 2 of the Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz style clash. If you missed part 1, go here: Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz style breakdown part 1

Nate’s Bag of Hand fighting Tricks

Max Holloway proved his competency in the realm of hand fighting. This shows us that using hand fighting based strategies can prove to be useful down the line compared to other fighters who would rush in and get countered. Marcus Brimage often rushed in without measuring distance and ate a lot of counters as a result. Nate also touches his way in and has his own set of tricks for hand fighting. Lets take a look at just a few.

Nate’s Hand Fighting Tricks

nate hand control cross 3 edited.gif
Nate’s Controls Josh Thompson’s lead hand, pulls down the guard, invites his cross.
nate hand control cross mid.gif
Nate establishes Gray Maynard into a reaching rhythm. Nate changes his rhythm to a fast jab cross to throw off Gray’s reaction.

Nate’s Boxing Rhythm Breaker trick

nate feint jab, jab cross.gif
Nate feints a jab, then throws a quick jab, cross and ends with a hook. The speed differences throws off Cerrone’s reactions.

As you can see, Nate possesses a variety of tools at the boxing range.

What History Tells Us

There is another roadblock that may very well be present for Nate when he fights Conor. If we look back at Nate vs Rory, when Rory was in threat of getting attacked while in the state of hand fighting, he was quick to evade away. That’s a benefit of hand fighting; since you’re in a balanced stance, you can quickly evade if necessary. This means a lot for Nate vs Conor because Conor has the same tendencies to abandon hand fighting if the opponent attempts to break through. Keep in mind, Conor doesn’t typically fight at the same inside range that Donald Cerrone did against Nate. It’s very rare for him to fight that close; the majority of the time, Conor actually fights at the very end of the pocket. If you try to get any closer inside that range, Conor will adjust distance.

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Rory evades the moment Nate tries to enter Boxing range.
conor adjust range in hand fighting
Conor often evaded the hand fighting range as soon as Max attempts to enter the boxing range.


Conor’s Input on Nate’s Habits

Conor has spoken recently that he notices Nate’s habits. He referenced that Nate did a lot of “hit and pull.” He mentions that his patterns we’re predictable. I wrote a piece a while back about how Nate Diaz used this against Michael Johnson, in which case, he did indeed use his range to hit and pull quite often.


nate cross, retreating hook comp
Hits and pulls

Nate did a great job at using range in conjunction with counter punching. It worked well against Michael Johnson since he stayed in the pocket and choose to counter back from that exchange. I mentioned the 3 ranges from earlier. The way Nate pulls his head back in the pocket allows him to strike at the advantage range, thereby making his opponent’s fall slightly short on when trying to counter him.

Will the Hit and Pull Work against Conor?

It becomes a different story when we look at the habits of Conor McGregor. Conor rarely counters off of staying in the pocket like Jim miller or Donald Cerrone attempted to.

miller in the pocket with nate.gif
Miller more willing to stay in the pocket to counter back. Nate makes use of his range and understanding of breaking rhythm in boxing.

Conor is more known to constantly adjust to avoid that range. He’s always adjusting to fight at arms-length where he can engage in hand fighting where he work his way in on his own terms. When it comes to counters, it’s more common for him to do it from movement than from stationary pocket exchanges like Cerrone tried.

The Difference in Movement

Nate’s and Conor’s counter habits are unique and slightly different. Conor often brings his entire body with him while countering while Nate is more accustomed to bringing his upper body with him while while countering. Conor also does well at throwing his counters in different rhythms. Check out their counter preferences in these examples.

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Conor moves his whole body while going on the counter.


Diaz crouch forward retreating counters.gif
Nate pulls his upper body back to time counters.

It’s worthy of noting that most of Conor’s best counters came from the opponent advancing and over-committing their shots. Nate might prove to be a different case because he doesn’t throw full force to over extend all the time and he touches his way in instead of abruptly moving in.

Style Clash

Just to give you an idea about style clashes, many of those hit and pull sequences Nate used we’re not present at all in Nate’s fight with Rory MacDonald. Rory, just like Conor McGregor, both fight at the hand fighting distance and adjust distance accordingly. There may be some occasions where they stay in the pocket, but it’s much more common to see a display of distance management for both fighters. Since Conor doesn’t normally sit in the pocket to wait for counters, we may not see these hit and pull sequences much based off of Conor’s countering habits.

Despite the notion that Conor recognizes Nate’s habits in the first place, it leaves a lot of question as to what he would do to counter it. Conor talked about ripping Nate’s body. We know that when you pull the head back, your upper body leaves the pocket while the lower body often stays in striking range. It’s very possible Conor may use that chance to kill the body or the legs if he catches Nate’s pattern to head pull. Alternatively, Conor may look to time a precise attack to where Nate’s head will appear as it comes back to its original position. Michael Johnson found some success timing a counter to the hit and pull.

nate gets counter rhythm thrown off 2.gif
Johnson was able to time his counter precisely when Nate brought his head back to a neutral position.

Kicks to the Head

Conor may have the edge if he can manipulate Nate guard to open him up for kicks. Josh Thompson spoke about how he landed his kick against Nate. He mentions that he liked going for body shots, then he disguises a head kick by giving Nate the illusion of a body shot. This lowered Nate guard and opened him for kicks.

Josh thompson body feint head kick.gif

Conor also has the ability to disguise his kicking technique as well. Here he demonstrates a hop. Now the hop can either turn into a oblique kick to the leg or a hopping kick to the head. He has a wide variety of ways of landing kicks, so it’s possible to we’ll see some display of technical kicking.

Conor hand engagement into kicks.gif

Lets recap these fighters:

Conor McGregor

  • Good in the boxing range, uses a variety of feints to manipulate rhythm.
  • Good tools for hand fighting
  • Dynamic kicking and variety
    • (Many fighters like the Legendary Multi-weight Muay Thai champ saenchi, and Anthony Pettis has mentioned that Conor’s kicks aren’t all that great. He can land kicks, but there isn’t too much power behind them. They all agree his strengths lie in his hands.)
  • Great counter puncher
  • Great movement and balance
  • Explosive power and precision
  • Has shown weaknesses in takedown defense

Nate Diaz

  • Good in boxing range and a variety of rhythm killing tactics
  • Good at hand fighting as well
  • Generally uses his physical reach well against opponents of lesser reach
  • Very linear in his stance and often vulnerable to kicks
  • Known for great cardio
  • Weaker on the takedown offense and defensive scale. 44% takedown defense rate. 31% success takedown rate.
  • Great ground game with impressive submission victories over various opponents
  • Will be fighting on very short notice

This write up focused a lot on how their styles clash, so now lets look at a few more possible keys to victory. Because there are a lot of key points that suggest Conor has certain advantages, I’m going to shift my focus to Nate’s Keys to victory on the last part of this match up. The last part also serves to show exploitable habits of Conor McGregor.

See the final piece here:Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: Keys to victory (Exploiting Conor’s Habits)


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