Such was the success of McGregor-Diaz II, pundits and fans have begun to speculate on what a trilogy fight might look like. For this pundit, there is little doubt that McGregor would go on to dominate that fight if it takes place at 155lbs.
The dust had hardly settled on Conor McGregor’s hard-fought victory over Nate Diaz at UFC 202 when the Dubliner announced his willingness to fight Diaz for a third time. However, rather than meeting again at welterweight, McGregor was firm in establishing that any future fight would have to take place at 155lbs.
Brendan Schaub, former UFC Heavyweight and current pundit on The Fighter and The Kid podcast, commented that fighting Diaz at 155 would be a bad move for McGregor, asserting that Diaz would be much better in his natural weight-class. “If you are a McGregor fan,” Schaub said, “you don’t want to see McGregor Diaz III.”
However, Schaub failed to realise that McGregor too would be a much improved fighter at 155lbs. The reality is that McGregor is a very intelligent operator and would most likely be dominant over Diaz at the lighter weight class.
The reason for stating this is two-fold.
Firstly, McGregor most definitely has the power to hurt Diaz. At UFC 202 he floored the bigger man on three occasions in the first two rounds. This is a crucial factor given that McGregor was estimating Diaz to be some 20lbs heavier than him on fight night. It is not certain that Diaz was that much heavier, but there is little doubt that he had a size and weight advantage over his opponent.
With Diaz’s frame coming in smaller and leaner at 155lbs, it is likely that McGregor’s power would be more effective given that the weight difference is less likely to be as significant. We know McGregor has power beyond belief at 145lbs, but he has also demonstrated in Cage Warriors that his power does carry through when fighting 155ers, as is evidenced by his KO of Ivan Buchner when winning that promotion’s title.
As a result, it is plausible that McGregor would have enough power to put Diaz away in the early rounds of any rematch at lightweight.
If this line of argument fails, however, there is also reason to believe that McGregor’s cardio would hold up much better at the lower weight-class. In the featherweight division, McGregor showed excellent cardio when beating Max Holloway and with a lot less muscle on his frame at 155lbs, one would expect McGregor’s cardio to stand up a lot better.
McGregor argued in his post-fight press conference that “in the first round, the difference in class was there to see”. His undoing was his lack of cardio in both fights. Had he the cardio to continue his first round performances in both fights, then he may well have been the dominant athlete.
Diaz has much lauded boxing skills and many believed his boxing would help him get the better of McGregor in the stand-up exchanges. However, McGregor showed that Diaz’ striking lacks the class of his Irish counterpart within the realm of mixed martial arts rather than simply boxing.
In the first round of UFC 202, McGregor landed some 20 leg kicks and an equal number of strikes to Diaz’ chin and body. In return, McGregor was hardly touched by his opponent. With better cardio at 155lbs, it is far more likely that McGregor’s classier striking and more fluid movement would see him easily outpoint his opponent.
The bottom line is that while Diaz may be a better fighter at 155lbs as well, he has been fighting the same way for the last 10 years in the UFC. Diaz is unlikely to add to his skill set for the third instalment, while McGregor is clearly growing with every fight. More power and a more durable gas tank would see a dominant performance from the Irishman.
Gary LaCumbre, Pundit Arena