Conor McGregor has, at UFC 202 overnight, silenced those who doubted his commitment, endurance and abilities by avenging his defeat to Nate Diaz, suffered at UFC 196.
McGregor v Diaz 2 was billed as a bitter grudge match and antics between the pair in the days leading up to the fight did nothing to dispel that notion.
Ireland wakes now to a victorious McGregor once again. A titanic five-round war between the weight-shifting Irishman and the ever-advancing Stockton lightweight was adjudged to have been edged by the featherweight champion, three rounds to two.
Both fighters had their purple patches in the fight and both had to endure tough moments. While hard-nosed fans from both camps will say their fighter was the clear winner, nobody can, with any credibility, say that McGregor has not delivered a staggering performance of heart and strength.
While a deciding third encounter now seems inevitable, one must cast a thought to Jose Aldo, the interim featherweight champion and the man who was humiliated by McGregor last December when he lost his crown to the Irishman a mere 13 seconds into their title bout at UFC 194.
Since beating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200 for the interim belt, Aldo has been extremely vocal about his shot at redemption against McGregor. Even last night, following UFC 202, he took to Twitter to restake his claim.
— Jose Aldo Junior (@josealdojunior) August 21, 2016
Reading between the lines, just what must Aldo be thinking following McGregor’s victory over Diaz? Clearly outmatched on size, weight and reach, the man from Crumlin went toe-to-toe for five rounds and emerged the victor. In doing so he almost certainly provided some extremely worrying food for thought for the former featherweight champion.
Where his defeat of Aldo was spectacular in its brevity and precision, victory over Diaz on Saturday night revealed an entirely new animal in McGregor.
The man has proven he can go the distance, take unrelenting punishment and still come out on top. His striking is arguably better now than it was when he defeated Aldo last year.
Aldo deserves his own rematch with McGregor. As the former champion and now interim champion, he has earned that right. Demanding that shot at UFC 205 therefore seems fair. That, or abdicate the featherweight throne. Again, that seems like a fair call by the Brazilian.
Having watched McGregor come through a 25-minute war with a ‘heavy’ lightweight, however, you might well wonder which of the two options Aldo would actually prefer.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena