The UFC’s Featherweight Champion and biggest superstar, Conor McGregor, will be back in action this Saturday at UFC 196.
Originally, McGregor was supposed to take on the UFC Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in a champion-versus-champion showdown. Instead, dos Anjos was forced to withdraw due to a foot injury and Nate Diaz has taken his place.
McGregor is known for his trash-talking but it was Diaz who came out firing shots, suggesting that McGregor is on steroids. McGregor didn’t take kindly to that as the two traded barbs in a pre-fight press conference this past week.
The question bettors are wondering about is why would Diaz want to rattle the hornets’ nest when he’s already coming into this fight as a big underdog. McGregor, who is posted as a sizable -380 favorite, has been lethal since joining the UFC, winning all seven of his bouts while earning knockouts of Dennis Siver, Dustin Poirier, Marcus Brimage, Diego Brandao, Chad Mendes and former champion Jose Aldo.
Diaz is an intriguing opponent as he’s fought both at welterweight and lightweight, and he’s had some success against quality competition. His three-fight winning streak in late 2011-early 2012 over Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller showed how capable he is.
He also looked very good in his decision win over Michael Johnson last December. But he’s also stumbled against elite competition, which includes losses to dos Anjos and Benson Henderson in his last five bouts.
He does have a shot to beat McGregor as a +290 underdog but the general consensus is that this is the Irishman’s fight to lose. Diaz is taller and has a reach advantage, but he’s probably not a big threat to take McGregor down. And even if he does, that’s exactly what McGregor was preparing for in his potential bout with dos Anjos.
So the question becomes can Diaz beat McGregor at his own game and win the fight standing up? He’s done it before and those who are betting on an upset will point to his bout with Cerrone, when he beat up and outpointed a fighter who was then known as one of the best strikers. However, there’s no one better at this game than McGregor right now, so Diaz will have to be very careful.