Conor McGregor faces Nate Diaz on Saturday night for the main event of UFC 196.
Whether the mantle of favourite lays heavily on McGregor’s shoulders is an interesting question. The Irishman has never been beaten in the UFC, but he has rarely been so heavily backed to triumph. Indeed, as underdog or favourite, the results have been the same, with McGregor winning. Will his short price be playing on his mind come Saturday evening in Las Vegas?
Following his stoppage of José Aldo within 13 seconds in December, McGregor was always going to be favourite for this fight. The Irishman is currently 1/5 with Ladbrokes bookmakers, with his American opponent 4/1.
However, while most fans expect the Dubliner to triumph, few view this as a sure bet.
Despite McGregor being at such a short price, this is not a dead cert. Diaz is a dangerous fighter, having gone the distance with Rafael dos Anjos one year ago, and his other scalps include Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.
According to the Las Vegas odds, McGregor is trading at -310, with Diaz at +370.
Nonetheless, we have seen in the past how frequently upsets occur in the UFC, and Saturday night could give us another one.
Many are claiming that Holly Holm’s KO of Ronda Rousey was the biggest shock in the promotion’s history, and this is true to an extent, if the raw scale of the event is the metric used.
However, when put in black and white as the odds are lined up, the Preacher’s Daughter fails to crack the top 15 in MMA history.
TJ Dillashaw’s victory over the then bantamweight champ Renan Barao at UFC 173 goes down as the biggest shock. Dillashaw entered the contest at +765, recording a TKO in the fifth round. Barao had won his previous 33 fights.
Frankie Edgar (+725) defeated BJ Penn at UFC 112, ending the reign of the lightweight champion. ‘The Answer’ had too much for Penn, winning with a unanimous decision.
This goes to show that anything is possible in the UFC.
Diaz is a fighter who can take a punch, and has a proven track record of hanging in there.
If the fight goes to the ground, he will look to submit the Irishman. When McGregor was on the ground with Chad Mendes, the American did not try to get him to tap, but rather reigned elbows down upon him.
When the pair are on their feet, it will be a fascinating contest, with two of the pound for pound finest boxers in the sport squaring off.
Diaz is certainly tailored to challenge McGregor, who will concede a clear reach advantage for the first time in the UFC. Also, the fact that the fight will be welterweight brings the Notorious One into unchartered territory, and Diaz may benefit from the experience.
Nonetheless, in order to do what no man has done in the UFC, he will have to defeat McGregor early, it is believed, as the short training camp may hinder his stamina.
All in all, there is a case to be made for Diaz, especially at the price of 4/1.
Another area where McGregor may struggle is if he is overly cocky.
The importance of putting Diaz to bed early is paramount, and not playing mind games is key. We have seen in the past how being overly cocky can cost you dearly.
Of course, at 1/5, it is likely that McGregor will record a win on Saturday night. However, there are some who are backing Diaz at 4/1, and if history is anything to go by, this is by no means a foregone conclusion. Having the favourites tag counts for very little when that bell goes.
Ladbrokes are currently offering a new customer special for McGregor to win. It was 1/5, but you can get him at 10/1 here.
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