Conor McGregor Vs. Nate Diaz 2: The telling story of technical adjustments (Post Fight skill Breakdown part 1 of 2)

MMA: UFC 202-Diaz vs McGregor 2
Photo by MMAjunkie Staff

More often than not, it’s common to see that the loser of a rematch meeting the same fate once again. Take a look at the following data about rematches from Fight Matrix:

In instances where fighters meet in their second encounter, the same winner has prevailed only 64.5% of the time.  If the first fight ended in a knockout or submission, this number increases to 67.7%.”

This suggest that we don’t typically see fighters winning a fight against someone they’ve lost to. When we actually do see a previous loser win a rematch, it’s becomes compelling moment, just like when Micheal Bisping won his rematch for the title against former middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.

The second time around, we watched as Conor McGregor met Nate Diaz at UFC 202 in a much anticipated rematch. Conor was able to pull off a victory which ended in quite a controversial manner. It’s a tactical fight that left a lot to be discussed. One of the best aspects of a rematch is seeing how a fighter matures when it’s time to fight.The amount of adjustments made by Conor really showed the extent of his intelligence as a fighter. His style looked significantly different to accommodate his opponent. Credit is owed to Nate Diaz as well for pulling off such a close fight while making the best of his own craft. We’ll be taking a look at the technical details behind what went down what changes had been made in this rematch. (Continue to part 2 to check out Nate’s offensive craft)

Conor’s Adjustments

One notable change in the rematch was Conor’s energy expenditure. In the first fight between Diaz and McGregor, Conor had spent tremendous energy attempting to finish Nate Diaz in such an inefficient manner. When the rematch came around, Conor toned it down on his energy intensive movements while resting when needed in the clinch. Intensive movements were costly actions that yielded little results. It was a strategically wise approach for Conor to choose where he invested his energy in the rematch because it allowed him to withstand the grueling war of a five round fight against an opponent who’s very difficult to finish.

Adjusting Counters

In my previous piece, I covered their first fight demonstrating different ways Conor adjusted to countering an opponent with greater reach. As a fighter who would typically step back and counter the smaller opponent, this wasn’t the optimal counter to use against someone who has a greater reach. Conor adjusted and made use of slips to return various counters from within the pocket. He would typically throw an overhand right over Nate’s arm or slip to return an uppercut.

conor uppercut and power hand counter comp.gif
Conor countering with uppercuts and well-timed power hand shots. 

We would see later down the line that Conor’s drive to find the uppercut would soon work against him as Nate was able to punish Conor multiple times as he attempted to throw it.

nate counters the uppercut.gif
Nate finding multiple opportunities to counter the uppercut in the later round. 

The uppercut can be a high risk technique because of openings involved when throwing the strike. You head is generally left open down the centerline, and protecting the head from strikes to the side can be difficult. It’s a technique that requires precise execution to ensure you can land it without getting countered. In fact, we even saw Hyun Gyu Lim getting his uppercut punished by Mike Perry’s counter earlier in the fight card.

Conor had refrained from constantly pursuing the uppercut this time around. Instead of slipping off, then throwing the uppercut to counter, Conor switched to a safer options that provided better defensive measures. When it came to Conor’s counter striking, he did an excellent job of landing some of the following counters:

  1. A head  pull, into counter power hand shot (delayed counter).
  2. A slipping power hand shot to intercept Nate’s advancements (simultaneous counters)

Pull Cross

In order to achieve an effective counter game against the longer opponent like Nate Diaz, we saw Conor keep inside the pocket to use a pull counter; one reminiscent of the style Floyd Mayweather uses.  It’s a delayed counter where the user throws a counter following a defensive sequence like a slip or pull, etc.

conor and floyd pull counter comp.gif
Pull and Cross counter. 

Less Is More

This was a safer option on Conor’s end because it allowed him to utilized better head movement since he was able to pull his head away from counters, than slip into his own counters. This allowed him to move away from his centerline more effectively than throwing the uppercuts. These movement’s were very precise adjustments in distance. The small head movements were important because it meant he could move just slightly enough out of danger. The shortest path you take to move away from a position will often mean you’ll have a shorter commute to move back and attack the target. As a result, this cuts down the time it takes to strike back. These precise movements allowed Conor to consistently beat Nate to the punch.

Slipping Power hand

Conor found the same success throwing that simultaneous counter by intercepting Nate’s jab using his power hand. On multiple occasions Conor would often counter Nate’s body jab by aiming his power hand shot in a downwards trajectory to accommodate Nate’s low head posture.

conor power hand counter comp.gif
Conor throwing a simultaneous power hand counter when Nate advances. 

These particular counters were immensely important because it essentially stopped Nate from finding success with his jabs. On top of that, Conor was able to score pretty significant knockdowns with it. The jab is often one of the very foundations of a boxer’s offensive striking ,so by taking it away, Conor was able to cut down a large part of Nate’s offensive arsenal. This meant that Nate would have many of his signature offensive strategies cut off.

Conor’s Cross

The cross is such a basic technique that tends to leave casual viewers wondering how such a simple strike can land so consistently. The short explanation is that it often requires that a fighter has a strong sense of rhythm and manipulation to land it, and it’s a process that takes quite a while to master. To some, his left hand might make him seem one-dimensional, but it’s an art after all. There’s no wrong or right approach, as long as you can pull off the win, you’re free to use whatever creative process you choose.

Conor has been able to touch everyone’s chin with his powerful left hand thus far and has wide variety of ways to land it. Over the course of several fights, one of the noticeable sets up for his left hand shot is in his ability to disguise it using deceptive rhythms. He has this ability to manipulate the opponent’s rhythm to expose them for the cross. For example, take a look at his shoulder feinting. He often throws the shoulder feint to draw a defensive rhythm from the opponent. After establishing a rhythm, he breaks that rhythm by changing the speed of his strikes to kill their timing. I often mention this set up, but it’s an important thing to consider because Conor has dropped several opponents pulling this off. Check out this following example to see one of the ways he’s sets up that power hand shot.

conor feint cross, jab cross rhythm breaker fixed.gif
(watch his shoulder) Conor feinting to the shoulder, then abruptly changes rhythm by moving quickly into his jab, cross.

It follows the following rhythm: slow, fast, fast.

Note that Conor will often throw a feint cross. The feint will often come out in a slow manner. This slow rhythm causes the opponent to enter a slow defensive rhythm. By manipulating the opponent into a slow rhythm, Conor breaks the rhythm quickly by breaching forward with the Jab cross. This can be a bit hard to catch at first because the feint is often used in such a subtle manner(I’ll be mentioning more of his habitual power hand set ups in future write ups).

Destroying the Jab

Nate Diaz’s jab heavily comes into mind when it’s time for him to work his craft. Nate depends on his jab often in order to start off his offensive approach. He uses it to probe at the opponent or to throw that long 1-2 (jab, cross combo). He also uses the jab to set up his lead hook or his signature “Stockton slap” (a lead hand slap). The lead hook counter is not always easy to land because it requires that the opponent is in the proper range. In order to get the opponent in range, you must wait for them to step into range or draw them in. Nate usually uses his jab to bait the opponent forward in order to draw them into the proper range of his Stockton slap/lead hook. He’s used this against both Conor and previous opponents like Michael Johnson.

Jab, Lead hook

nate jab, bait, lea hook comp.gif
Nate jabs, baits the opponent forward, then punishes their forward movement with a lead hook. 

You might have noticed that Nate Diaz found little success replicating this strategy the second time around. He even found troubles landing it in their first fight. One of the reasons why he had such trouble landing with this was because Conor was able to defuse the use of Nate’s jabs with his power hand counters and precise timing. As a result, Nate’s offensive options were greatly hindered.  By shutting down Nate’s jab, Nate couldn’t effectively set up some of his signature offensive strategies. Conor effectively mitigated the very tool Nate needed to set up most of his craft while on the feet. Nate was able to land the jab once and a while, but Conor precise timing took on the best of the fight.

See as Nate’s attempts to use his Jab and lead hook only to get disrupted. 

conor pull and counter.gif
Conor would regularly disrupt Nate’s attempts to jab and throw the lead hook which fails to connect. 

It was quite a frustrating endeavor for Nate to constantly press forward with the jab while constantly eating counters. His durability to take heavy shots served him well to press forward but did little help for him on the scorecards if it meant he would keep eating counters.

This is the end of part 2, in part two we take a look at some of the crafty work on Nate Diaz’s end! Go here for part 2: Part 2.

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