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

welcome to part 2 of the Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz 2 rematch. If you missed part 2, go back here: Part 1

An Exploitable Opportunity

This next sequence was interesting too because it demonstrates exploitable vulnerabilities in Nate’s jab and lead hook strategy. From the previous example we saw Conor stopping Nate from setting up his left hook by throwing the left power shot to disrupt the jab setup Nate needed to set up his hook. In this next example, you see him use different ways to counter disrupt the lead hook. See the following example here Conor attacks the body.

conor disrupts jab, bypasses left hook.gif
Conor disrupts Nate’s jab set-up with a well-timed left hand, which throws off Nate’s left hook. Conor then counters Nate’s lead hand by going to the exposed body to bypass the left hook. 

When Nate throws his lead hook/Stockton slap his body is left open and he’s unable to reach Conor from the angle at which Conor’s throws his body shot. This wasn’t consistently exploited on Conor’s end, but it does demonstrate a viable way to counter Nate’s signature Stockton slap due to his exposed body.


One of the most prominent features of this fight was that Conor finally made use of leg kicks. It says a lot about his ability to adapt considering he has never embraced leg kicks so heavily before. Nate uses a linear boxing stance that makes it hard to check kicks. You need to traditionally be in a square stance to check kicks because it allows you to lift your knee outwards to block them. Conor exploited this against Nate in the rematch and was able to score many strikes off of it. We would sometimes see Conor throw the leg kicks only to see Nate fall short on returning counters as the range of kicks extend further than that of punches.

Conor showed some nice creativity as well using leg kicks to set up other offensive entries. Check out the following strategy. Conor throws a leg kick. This caused Nate to enter a defensive awareness to block kicks. Conor feints to draw out Nate’s kick defense, then enters with punches.

conor kicks, feints the kick to set up punching combos.gif
Conor fires a kick, Nate enters a defensive mode to check it. Conor feints to draw out the check, Nate is temporarily immobilized and opened to attack. 

This was a refreshing strategy to see from Conor’s arsenal. By making use of the leg kicks, Conor was able to exploit Nate’s unique defensive reactions.

Principles of Kicks

 To block a kick, a fighter must lift the leg up in order to check the kick (blocking kicks). When you are forced to lift the leg to block like this, you’re no longer grounded on both feet. You need both feet to fully transfer your weight to throw your punches. Conor drew Nate into this defense, and used that chance to land some combos while Nate wasn’t able to return offense.

The shots weren’t completely clean but do indeed land on the guard. If you ever took initiative to count the strikes landed in a match, even strikes on the guard tend to get counted as strikes landed, which in turn could potentially help down the road with the judges. Conor also displayed some excellent kicking strategy by landing well timed kicks while Nate was in motion. If you recall, a fighter in motion can’t block kicks, so timing the kicks is a good way of disrupting their movement.


On a side note, Conor had made claims to cut Nate up and persistently attempted to use elbows to damage Nate. From a strategic approach, this might have served to be useful. Fights have been stopped before because of cuts just as Kenny Florian had done early in his career. If you can’t knock Diaz out, tear him down in hopes the fight is called. It was an intriguing spectacle to see Conor Attempt this although it didn’t quite end the fight. Conor was forced to weather the storm and pull out a close decision. We saw a lot of elbows thrown from both fighters across various positions.

conor reigns elbows.gif

Building on the Jab 

In the first fight, Conor often looked to lead in hopes of constantly finding his power hand shot. It was an narrow approach that costed him tremendous energy and eventually contributed to his defeat. In the rematch, Conor made much better use of his jabs, often using them as a more energy efficient way to score and put Diaz at bay from pressuring forward. When Conor looks to tag the opponent, it’s usually that power hand he often searches for, so it was a nice development on his behalf to focus beyond just finding that left power shot. A more energy efficient jab served him well in the later rounds when it became vitally important for Conor to survive the last few minutes in the fight. Looking outside his usual approach to find that Left hand was a wise decision.

conor jab comp.gif
Swift sidestepping jabs to pick shot the opponent. 

Forcing the Fight

Nate Diaz had a difficult time trying to establish a rhythm on the feet since Conor readily answered many of his main boxing entries with his own counters. Nate had to use a variety of effective strategies to force the fight into an area where Conor would be most disadvantaged. It’s was a constant struggle from both ends to gain their ideal positions. Nate constantly pressed forward in order to pressure Conor into constantly working. Nate knew that Conor’s stamina would come into question as the later rounds progressed and constantly sought to drown Conor in constant activity. He attempted to draw Conor into the pocket to force the fight in that manner, but Conor had a tendency to reset the range away from Nate’s preferred boxing range. As a result, we saw Nate constantly pressing forward to cut off ground so he could force the fight into the cage.

nate cuts off the cage comp.gif

Once Nate was able to cut off Conor into the cage, he would immediately look to pin him against it in the clinch. Nate attempted a variety of things within the clinch, but what paid off the most were his boxing strikes. One of the strong characteristics of a more traditional boxer is that they have a strong grasp on utilizing appropriately ranged punches. Nate would regularly use short precise punches against Conor while getting the fight up close. If you recall, when it comes to beating the opponent to the punch, you want to throw the shorter hook. The shorter hook travels the least amount of distance and will reach the target first. As demonstrated by Nate Diaz in the following:

nate short concise punches.gif
Short yet precise punches. 

There was a particular rhythm to the way Nate worked on the inside. Once he was able to trap Conor on the inside range, he’d reign down punches in bunches, then resetting by going back to pin Conor against the cage. Nate was able to repeatedly score offense by recycling this process, although Conor was able to break away from that range on occasions.One of the things that set the Diaz brothers apart is their ability to beat opponent’s to the punch from boxing in the pocket.Forcing the fight into a close up exchange, especially against the cage, became the most meaningful aspect of what helped Diaz earn rounds.

Nate’s Craft In The Pocket

Nate and his broth Nick Diaz tend to share some similarities as well as certain technical strategies they often use. One that comes to mind is their body work once they manage to get on the inside range. Nick and Nate would sometimes look bury their head right into the head of their opponent’s and work the body. There’s a strategic purpose to doing this if you observe how the Diaz brothers use this. By burying your head so close to your opponent’s head, it becomes very difficult for the opponent to mechanically strike the head region. If you were to try right now to punch your own head, you’ll notice it’s mechanically difficult to generate any viable power to strike that area. The Diaz brothers would place their head in that range allowing them to work the body. See the following example:

nate and nick body shot comp.gif
Head pinned to the opponent’s head. Only when they decide to attack the head, watch how they create space by pulling the head away to throw punches to the head. 

Notice that opponents can’t effectively attack the head in such a close range but the body is free to attack. In a way, it traps the opponent momentarily because moving laterally to escape runs the risk of moving directly into the power of the body shot like this next example where Conor eats a body shot trying to move away laterally [here]. When Nick and Nate are ready to strike the head, they usually remove their head from the opponent’s head to quickly open an opportunity for head strikes.

Clinch work 

Another effective strategy from Nate was the use of wrist/arm control while in the clinch range. When Conor applied an overhook, Nate would use his arm to reach over to control Conor’s arm. He was effectively able to occupy both of Conor’s arm with just one of his arms in order to score multiple strikes. Notice in the next example, Nate locks away Conor’s arm to score shots from the inside.

nate controls conor's arms.png
Conor’s left arm trapped by Nate’s left arm circled in red. Conor’s right arm is occupied in an overhook. Overall, his head is exposed to punches.
nate controls arm and throws strikes comp.gif
Nate holds his Conor’s left arm to control it in order to reign strikes to the head. 


It appears that one of the most common topics of discussion from this fight is the notion that Conor “ran” from Nate Diaz. I’m not here to debate the wrongs and rights of what he did, but I can provide some technical insight about what can be gained from his actions. In some scenarios, Nate would pin Conor into the cage. Keep in mind that one of Conor’s most effective counters was the pull and cross counter. With the back up against the cage, you’re severely limited with your own movement. By staying against the cage, Conor was deprived of his go-to counter because he wouldn’t be able to effectively use his pull cross or use other forms of footwork that require backwards movement while backed against the cage.

Alternatively, Conor tends to expend more energy with his striking and counters compared to Nate, a fighter whose striking style centers around throwing shorter energy efficient shots. Nate excels at working his boxing in the pocket so Conor often looked to reset once and a while to stay out of the energy intensive pace that Nate was looking to establish. As Carlos Condit has recently mentioned, staying in the pocket against the Diaz brothers isn’t a good idea. There were a lot of questionable moments of Conor “running,” but the most important things to draw from the fight was the craft that happened outside of this.

If you’re interested, check out Carlos Condit’s technical explanation of creating space when fighting the Diaz brothers. Condit Discusses Conor’s tactics to create space.

Final Note 

Nate made the best of what he could in a worthy manner by attacking in the pocket. This fight really tested the limits of their ability to learn and adapt. Unfortunately, we saw an all-too-familiar Nate Diaz who’s still shown vulnerabilities to kick due to his tendencies to stay on the inside range to exchange in his linear boxing stance. Conor showed dramatic improvements in a short amount of time by implementing a variety of offensive adaptations catered to the weaknesses in Diaz’s habits. It’s an interesting process to see Conor expand on his leg kicking game while also learning to adjust the proper timing, range, and technique needed to fight more efficiently. These are new tools he’ll certainly be able to carry over to his next opponent.

You never know what’s going to happen in a fight, but when the loser comes back to earn a victory, it becomes a special moment that tells us a lot about that fighter’s intelligence. Not many fighter are able to adjust accordingly when a rematch comes around.  This is the crazy thing about the fight game; although we can get a general idea of how someone fights, we can never truly know how much a fighter has learned and adjusted until the fight happens.



If you enjoyed this, visit my last write-up on T.J. Dillashaw vs Raphael Assuncao 2 to see the subtle changes made to change the tide of the rematch.

or visit my homepage to see my list of other breakdowns, fighting styles, or rematches like Aldo vs Edgar 2.


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