ON Saturday night Conor McGregor returned to the octagon for the first time since his career-defining title win against Jose Aldo in December, but he suffered a shock second round defeat to UFC veteran Nate Diaz.
Following an injury to his scheduled foe, Rafael dos Anjos, McGregor elected to take a fight at 170lbs, some 25lbs more than his usual weight, against the savvy Diaz.
The Irish faithful have made a habit of flying out in their droves to Las Vegas for McGregor fights and that was once again the case here. The MGM Grand was a sea of green and choruses of “Olé, Olé, Olé” echoed throughout the sold-out arena, but the atmosphere would soon turn sour for the Irish fans in attendance.
During fight week media obligations, McGregor seemed his usual boisterous self, but one thing was noticeably different. Diaz seemed unaffected by McGregor’s notorious psychological warfare.
The American had seen his career somewhat stagnate over the last three years and, when the cage door closed, it seemed like business as usual for McGregor.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) March 6, 2016
Over the course of the first five-minute round, McGregor looked sharp and landed a variety of powerful strikes, including a number of left hands, which are his most feared weapon.
As the opening stanza came to a halt, Diaz was already bloody and battered and it seemed like a McGregor victory was a foregone conclusion.
As McGregor began to show-boat and pursue a knock-out in the second round, Diaz landed a simply sublime two-punch combination which wobbled the Irishman. The shift in momentum in the cage was palpable, McGregor’s eyes rolled back and Diaz smelt blood.
Diaz pursued the wounded McGregor like a lion stalking a gazelle, putting on an exhaustive striking display which left the Dubliner badly hurt. In a final move of desperation, McGregor looked to take Diaz to the ground, it was at this moment that Diaz, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt, expertly reversed the position and choked out his opponent with a rear-naked choke.
While McGregor will be disappointed by his defeat, the Irishman is expected to return to the cage in July to defend his featherweight title.