Nate Diaz became the third man to beat Conor McGregor on Saturday night at UFC 196, when he induced a tap from the Irishman with a rear-naked choke in the second round of a welterweight contest.
It was a sensational and shocking result that has turned the MMA world on it’s head.
Over the last few month’s McGregor’s lofty ambitions have been the most popular topic of conversation among the sport’s passionate observers. It started with his talk of winning the lightweight belt, and in recent weeks it escalated even further.
As if the task of dethroning Rafael dos Anjos at 155lbs wasn’t daunting enough, the SBG product began talking about taking on Robbie Lawler for the welterweight belt as well.
At first, his words probably weren’t taken seriously, but when Dos Anjos was forced to withdraw from UFC 196, McGregor chose to fight the Brazilian’s late replacement, Nate Diaz, at 170lbs.
Suddenly, a “Notorious” welterweight odyssey didn’t seem like fantasy.
In the midst of all the speculation about the weird and wonderful match-ups to come, the fact that McGregor was facing a tough, experienced opponent in a new weight-class seemed to become obscured. Everyone was thinking about who McGregor would fight when he won, and few considered what might await him in the event of a defeat.
Not to give ourselves too big a pat on the back, but here at Pundit Arena we did examine the possibilities.
In our original piece, we speculated that a rematch would make most sense were McGregor to fall against the Stockton native, with the caveat that it should come at 155lbs.
Given the dramatic way in which the fight unfolded, a sequel now looks even more appealing.
McGregor was hammering Diaz in the early stages, but an over-eagerness to finish the fight seemed to lead the Dubliner into a wilder approach. As he put it himself, he just wasn’t “efficient”. In the end, a single left-hand shot from Diaz turned the fight around.
Under the circumstances, one gets the feeling that this is still a fight McGregor could win.
However, it is now looking more likely that “The Notorious” one’s next bout will be back down at 145lbs. Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting tweeted shortly after the conclusion of the contest that Frankie Edgar approached UFC president Dana White to ask if he would finally be getting his shot at Conor’s featherweight title. White didn’t say for sure, but he did indicate that McGregor was likely to return to his former division.
Edgar asks DW straight up if he gets the next shot. Dana says he doesn't know what Conor will do but he thinks it should be 145.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 6, 2016
At the post-fight press conference, the fighter himself also suggested as much and didn’t seem to feel that making the weight would be an issue, in spite of his recently increased muscle mass.
“I weighed in 168lbs, I didn’t make anything, I simply ate regularly. 145 is a cut, it’s intense, but I make it and I make it every time,” said McGregor.
“I think 145 will be next. I think I will defend my belt”.
Asked about a possible opponent, the bruised champion said that would depend on the fans.
“I’ll keep my ear to the ground and see who the fans want to see the most”.
Edgar was mentioned as a possibility, as was his most recent victim Jose Aldo, but McGregor didn’t seem to favour either man with any conviction.
“It’s hard not to give Aldo another go, he was ten years undefeated, but again he pulls out a lot, he doesn’t show up a lot. Frankie at least gets in there and competes”.
In the end the decision of which man gets the coveted title shot is likely to be Conor’s.