Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: Post Fight Technical Breakdown

conor and nate embrace.png


Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz is all said and done. We have a winner at the end of this war with Nate Diaz coming out as the victorious one. This fight told us a lot about style and what fighters are made of. We finally witnessed a moment in Conor’s UFC career where he lost composure in the midst of the stand up battle. Conor did fairly well in the first round with the second round taking a turn for the better in Nate’s favor.

There were a lot of previous habits from their past that showed up in this fight. Despite Conor’s steep arsenal of attacks, he shied away from what was the safest route to deliver what he had claimed to do–find the knockout and find his uppercut. We’ll be looking at these fighters’ signature habits in this fight and looking at what left Conor technically vulnerable for Nate to capitalize on.

How Conor Adjusted to Nate’s Range

This was a fight where we saw two southpaws match up. Many adjustments had to be made in order for Conor to effectively strike the longer opponent. Conor had to get pass Nate’s range. In previous fights, Conor has always been the longer opponent. This allowed him to counter off of movement. He would regularly step back, let the opponent come in and strike them as they fall short. If we recall, the longer opponent has one unique range against the opponent with lesser reach; they have the range where they can hit you but you can’t hit them. Conor simply moves back to get into his advantage range to counter strike his opponents moving in.

conor move and conter comp
Adjust range and counters upon movement.

The question coming into this fight was centered around how Conor would deal with Nate’s longer boxing range. We regularly saw him move and counter from previous fights. In this fight, he couldn’t afford to move and counter against Nate’s style and physical advantage. I mentioned previously that Conor’s countering style may not work on Nate because Nate carefully touches his way into range. He often measures with the jab or hand fights to break into range. Since Conor’s usual move and counter relies on abrupt advancement, it wasn’t a reliable option to use. Also, Nate has a greater reach, making it much harder to land a counter off of movement unless Conor used kicks. Conor’s solution to range was to stay in the pocket with Nate in order to counter him. This way he could wait for Nate to step into striking range and unload his own counters. Conor did this through a variety of delayed counters and simultaneous counters on the inside.

Delayed counters: A counter that follows after some kind defensive sequence. Here’s a few examples.

slip cross comp.gif
Conor stays in the pocket, slips his head pass the long jab, comes up to throw a cross counter.
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Conor slips and comes up with an uppercut.

Simultaneous counter: A counter that’s thrown during the opponent’s advancements to catch them simultaneously.

conor timing power hand comp.gif
Conor timing his left hand shot.

Conor had perfect timing on landing a simultaneous left hand power shot over Nate’s lead hand. This landed numerous times. The longest weapon that Nate had for his boxing were his straight punches. Conor knew that was one tool he had to counter and did so very often by timing the left power shot.

Adjusting to Attacks

Nate landed a nice body jab but Conor adapted fairly well by countering his low posture with an uppercut after catching Nate’s pattern soon after.


nate lands stiff body jab.gif
Nate attacks Conor’s body.


Now Conor Counters It Moments later

conor times uppercut on nates low posture.gif
Conor times and uppercut to Nate’s slipping body jab.

Nate’s Offensive Craft

Nate on the most part had a slow start. He mentioned in post fight interviews that since he didn’t have a full camp, he knew he would have had to pick up the pace over time as the fight progresses. We witnessed Nate utilizing many of the same habits we’ve seen him use before. If you haven’t seen my previous breakdown of Nate’s fight with Michael Johnson, here’s a little recap of some of his striking habits I mentioned.

Jab to bait and pull, then Counter.

nate hit and pull sig comp with conor.gif
Nate probes with the jab, baits them forward into his range, Nate then pulls back and catches them with a lead hook as they move in.

Nate does this regularly in this fight, but he couldn’t quite find his timing on this and would often fall short on his hook or get countered with Conor’s explosive timing.

Another notable tool in Nate’s arsenal is his long jab. He does a good job of maintaining a range where he can hit you and you can hit him. He’ll often prob his jab out and pull the head back to his advantage range where you can’t hit him.

nate jab and pull comp.gif
Nate assumes a forward crouch posture so he can pull back just enough to a safe range. The forward posture makes Nate appear closer than he really is.

The issue in this fight was that Conor would regularly counter Nate’s jabs by throwing his power shot over. It wasn’t until the second round when Conor started to fatigue that Nate would land the jab more successfully. Conor no longer had the energy to deal with the timing needed to handle Nate’s shots and volume. Keep in mind, Nate regularly expended very little energy probing with many little shots in contrast to the explosive energy Conor would use to answer a lot of them. In general, Nate’s offensive strategies didn’t really land as clean until Conor’s stamina hit a decline into the second round.

Nate’s Counters

Nate found success in throwing the check hook to counter Conor’s advancements. I mentioned in previous pieces that one of the strategies to countering Conor’s linear kicks was to use movement with punches to bypass Conor’s linear attacks. Nate was able to find his counters in various sequences throughout the fight.

nate check hook comp on conor.gif
Nate throws the check hook to time Conor’s offensive advancements. Nate Pivots off into a new angle.
max check hook counters conors kick
Max finding success with the check hook against Conor.

Nate would regularly land a check hook counter as a general counter against Conor’s offensive advancements.

Nate didn’t go for too many jab and cross combos at the start. In the few occasions that Nate did try to go for the classic jab and cross combo, Conor would sometimes throw his simultaneous power left hand to disrupt it. There were mostly mixed results in these exchanges. Sometimes Conor would land, sometimes no one would land. The timing was always various in the first round.

Conor’s Offensive Craft

I talked about Conor’s tendency to hand fight often and how it’s likely we’d see this used in his fight against Nate. Conor use of hand engagements to measure his way in allowed him to break Nate’s rhythm, allowing Conor to break the the barrier of range. Here’s an example.

conor hand fight, rhythm break comp on nate and chad.gif
Rhythm killer.

This is one of the common hand fighting tricks Conor has used on previous opponent’s like Chad Mendes. He gets them into a rhythm of reaching with their hand, feints his cross by shoulder bumping then quickly breaks through range with a jab that slides pass their arm and lands the cross.

He didn’t quite find his target every time, but another application of hand fighting to was to draw Nate into a defensive reaction. Conor would either hand trap by controlling Nate’s guard to attempt uppercuts up the guard or had Nate reach out to control Nate’s arm, and then invite the uppercut. Controlling the arms or the guard helps to ensure they wont use it to attack.

conor hand control invite uppercut.gif
Conor Measures to control the arm or guard to invite an uppercut.


The End Is Near

Conor had a few issue he addressed in post fight interviews. Range was a present obstacle for Conor as he mentioned he would sometimes fall short of his punches. Also, his efficiency had become an issue. Conor expended tremendous energy putting so much into his upward strikes and sporadic movements. Conor looked nowhere close to how fluid and efficient he looked against Max Holloway. Putting so much energy into his counter crosses left Conor slowing down into the second round.

conor expends energy spinning.gif
Conor expends more energy moving his entire body just to miss Nate, who expends little energy moving just inches away to avoid.

How Nate Rocked the Chin

In other instances, Conor found himself getting punished from the uppercut in the second round. Check out this sequence.

nate counters conor's uppercut.gif
Nate shells in the pocket and catches Conor on his uppercut timing. Nate throws a classic boxing short hook.

Conor had found a lot of success in timing a simultaneous counter. When he decided to go for delayed counter, he ran a lot of risk because of the openings he left open. You see, Conor would regularly slip his head off his centerline, then come back up the centerline to return a cross or uppercut. It worked so well in the early rounds because Nate wouldn’t follow up his jab (see the delayed counters for a visual example back above).

In the second round, Nate switched up his striking rhythm. Instead of throwing a singular shot and retreating, Nate returned to throwing the classic jab and actually following it up by throwing a cross. Conor had become accustomed to landing the delayed uppercut on Nate’s single strike. When Conor tried to use a delayed counter by slipping and coming back up to uppercut, he found himself caught by Nate’s follow up cross. At this point, Conor had already showed signs of fatigue as his timing was no longer there and his explosive movements  had already begun to fade. It was a combination of rhythm change, being stunned, and Conor’s fatigue which lead to him getting tagged. Lets look at the moment Conor gets stunned.

nate changes rhythm on conor's delayed uppercut attempts.gif
Nate probes the jab and pulls. Conor slips and brings his head back to the centerline, open for a shot. Seconds later, Nate changes rhythm, throws the Jab and cross to catch the chin.

Note that Nate would regularly probe with the jab and pull away. Conor would look to slip and uppercut. Conor didn’t seem to have explosiveness movement he needed to commit to an uppercut quick enough to catch Nate’s head like in the first round in his disoriented state. Here’s an example of the uppercut working in the first round.

nate changes rhythm on conors delayed uppercut final.gif
For the second round, Note Conor drops his hand preparing for an uppercut attempt but gets caught off guard.

It worked in the first sequence, but the second sequence, Nate changes it up to throw a jab and cross instead of a jab and retreat (Note Nate drops his weight downwards into his cross). He catches Conor’s head coming back up the centerline.

The Art of the 1-2

Experienced boxers naturally have more than one way to use a jab or any punch for that matter. The one thing about being confined to just punching is that you become very good at mastering various ways of landing them by manipulating speed or variety. At Nate’s level, he has the ability to land his Jab and cross combo by disrupting his opponent’s defensive rhythm. He did this a variety of ways.

Like in our previous example, Nate established a pattern of a jab and retreat pattern. Conor got use to a slip and counter to answer it. Nate changed up the pattern to a quick Jab and then Cross to kill Conor’s rhythm.

Another notable habit of the Diaz Brothers is to use dynamic hand movement. Dynamic hand movement is harder to detect than static hand movement. While hands are actively in motion, it disguises your strikes and makes the opponent accustomed to abrupt movement. It essentially serves as a multitude of feints to disrupt rhythm. He can now sneak his punches through to an opponent trying to establish a defensive answer to the movements.

nate dynamic hand movement comp against mj and conor.gif
Dynamic movement to disrupt rhythm and disguise his attacks.


The uppercut can be a risky move if you’re not on point with the execution. It’s mechanically difficult to keep the guard up while throwing it. It’s a reason why many fighters don’t use it as an integral part of their striking set ups. Fighters like Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has mentioned he only uses it when they’re stunned because of the risk involved.

nate counters uppercut.gif
Another sequence where Nate counters the uppercut.

Once Nate started landing in the second round, maters only became worse for Conor. He was no long able to effectively handle Nate’s volume and aggression. His timing wasn’t there and his body couldn’t move effectively.

Perspective on Conor’s Downfall

Conor relentlessly pursued the knockout and the uppercut he claimed he would put Nate away with. These may have very well been the aspects of the fight that became his downfall. The energy he expended through his power shots, attempts at powerful spinning movement as well as the openings he left out looking for the uppercut, these were a price he paid for. Nate’s signature habits really started to find it’s mark once Conor’s fatigue kicked in. Nate eventually found Conor’s chin with his own craft.

Conor has all the offensive tools to play the same striking game Rory had displayed. Other fighters have already shown us blueprints for what successfully works against Nate. Rory’s use of using kicking variety out of the hand fighting range to keep the fight at a distance, the leg kicks Rafael Does Anjos used to kill Nate’s stance, and even Josh Thomson’s  dynamic kicks to open the head, these very aspects of the game had been ignored in Conor’s approach. He showed he could do it on very rare occasions in the fight but chose to challenge Nate in the pocket regardless of what his corner suggested. Conor does have a habit to headhunt after all, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised he took the approach he did.

rory hand fighting comp with kicks
Rory won the stand up fighting at arm-distance, unloading a variety of kicks where Nate couldn’t use his boxing range.

Perspective on Conor

Since Conor has always been good fighting off the counter or fighting by going on the offense, he had the ability to pressure the fight at first. Conor demonstrated the skills to pull off effective striking, but he took many risk trying to deliver his claims. Credit is due to Conor as his approached had some success against Diaz despite the absence of effective kicking. Conor showed us effective boxing methods to Nate’s own Boxing. Diaz took a lot of significant shots but his chin and power shot proved too much for Conor to hold his composure. Conor entered a state of panic from what he has mentioned. He went for the takedown, Nate stuffed it, and a few transitions later off the guillotine, Nate mounted him reigning down punches. Conor gave up his back while Nate capitalized with a rear naked choke to earn the victory.

conor gives up his back.gif

Nate’s Edge

Nate isn’t the best at pursuing the takedown in order to enter his ground game. But Nate’s dangerous submission game is accentuated by the fact that Nate can disorient opponents and pressure them with punches until they’re forced into taking the fight into the ground. From there, opponent’s are forced to work in a state of recovery against Nate’s submission attempts. In which case, Nate’s dangerous guard plays well into a recovering opponent. Since this blog focuses on the stand up realm of the fight, we move forward to find some closure to this significant event.

Final Note

In the end, this wasn’t exactly a one sided fight. Conor’s loss doesn’t diminish the skills he displayed. Conor was technically sound but the stamina and chin didn’t hold up in the end. The better fighter that night was able to bring the fight into his favor with solid boxing and dangerous submissions. Nate Diaz earned a well deserved victory. Do you think Conor McGregor will mature from this fight? Would he be able to fight smarter in a rematch? Who knows. Only time will tell.

This would be a shite analysis if didn’t include the Stockton slaps for 209 fans, so I end this piece with a series of Stockton slaps I caught studying the fight. Slaps

I’ll be on TMMAC if you wish to join in the discussion or have any questions. Everyone is welcomed.

For more breakdowns of previous fights (Dominick Cruz, Overeem, Anderson Silva, etc) visit my homepage for my list of breakdowns.


4 thoughts on “Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz: Post Fight Technical Breakdown”

  1. Excellent. Thant you. Do you think Conor can win a rematch using the same tools and strategy only with better cardio and energy management? Or does he need to also adopt a new strategy based on Rory, RDA and Thompson’s winning strategies vs Nate.


    1. I believe it’s very possible given the energy management is there and cardio is on point. Conor might need to make a few technical adjustments if he wants to avoid getting his uppercuts countered again. It’s still a difficult match for the two.


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