It's no secret that Conor McGregor will have to be a different fighter later tonight (Sat., Aug. 20, 2016) opposite Nate Diaz at UFC 202, which takes place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight kingpin is making another run at Diaz after losing to the Stockton slapper via second-round submission back at UFC 196.
For all intents and purposes, this is McGregor's biggest UFC fight to date. It's even bigger than his championship tilts opposite Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. While a reboot with Diaz doesn't involve a shiny belt or divisional bragging rights, it will ultimately allow McGregor to put his lessons to the test and try to debunk an opponent he lost to just five months ago. Diaz is the only fighter to truly challenge McGregor inside of the Octagon so it's important that the Irishman rights his glaring wrong.
When McGregor steps foot inside of the cage later this evening in the fight capital of the world, he'll be competing in front of millions of eyes. As the biggest star in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, the 145-pound champion commands incredible attention. But when a fighter of his caliber loses in dramatic fashion and attempts to regain an aura of invincibility that is usually when the spotlight burns brightest. After all, McGregor looked borderline unstoppable before his short-notice bout with Diaz back in March.
On paper, people still consider McGregor the betting favorite. McGregor is faster than Diaz, more athletic than Diaz, sports heavier shots than Diaz, is more versatile on the feet than Diaz -- he is the reigning Featherweight king of the world for a reason. Unfortunately for McGregor, these strengths aren't going to necessarily translate into victory at UFC 202. Instead, "Notorious" must develop a more strategic gameplan in attacking the bigger, longer and presumably stronger Diaz.
In their first meeting, McGregor failed to account for the massive energy dump he would experience in his first contest at 170 pounds. Having agreed to fight Diaz on less than two weeks notice at UFC 196, the Irish superstar didn't have time to train for a rangy southpaw. McGregor has been known to train the same way each fight and leave specifics out of his camps, but he won't be able to survive on that mentality this time around. So in many ways, UFC 202 will be the first time we see McGregor take on an opponent he specifically trained for. His previous habits have worked so well that maybe that isn't the best course of action for his skill set and abilities, but we're going to find out one way or another.
UFC 202 not only represents a massive mental challenge for McGregor and his team, but it marks another fight in which McGregor is competing outside of the 145-pound class. Another devastating loss would surely hurt his overall promotional stock moving forward, but a rebound victory over Diaz means McGregor is back on top and the undisputed king of the MMA world.