Irish vs. American: UFC 196 Preview

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Champion vs. Champion. Veteran vs. Veteran. Welterweight vs. Featherweight. This is the second UFC pay-per-view in the promotion’s history where the headlining fight is between fighters belonging to two different weight classes. UFC Welterweight Nate Diaz is set to square off against reigning UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor this Saturday at UFC 196.

UFC Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos was scheduled to fight McGregor in a champion vs. champion bout, but was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a broken foot.

This sudden announcement threatens McGregor’s plan to win the Lightweight championship and potentially fight UFC Welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 200 in July.

After several fighters turned down the offer to fight McGregor including former welterweight champion BJ Penn, Diaz accepted the offer to headline UFC 196.

UFC President Dana White announced Diaz’s participation on SportsCenter the following day.

“We figured this would be the most exciting fight,” said White. “It’s the fight that Conor really wanted. A lot of people wanted to fight Conor McGregor, but Diaz wanted the fight and we figured this was the fight to make and the fight that the fans wanted to see.”

Diaz called out McGregor in a vicious post-fight diatribe on Dec. 19, when he referred to McGregor’s previous opponents as “punks.”

“You know what’s the real fight? What’s the real money fight is me,” Diaz told the crowd at UFC on Fox: dos Anjos v Cerrone. “You want the real [expletive]? [I’m] right here.”

On the other side of the fence, McGregor had respectful words to say about Diaz at the UFC 197 Press Conference on Jan. 20.

“I like the way Nate came in his last fight,” said McGregor, referring to the December match. “The previous fight before that he came in sloppy and out of shape. In this game you step up and fight.”

McGregor added, “Who brings it? Nate brings it.”

Diaz’s main skills in the octagon are his impressive punches, thanks to his extensive training in boxing. He also uses some impactful ground and pound techniques, where he is able to throw off his opponents. Diaz in his last fight showcased this aspect of his fighting style in his match against Michael Johnson.

McGregor, on the other hand, is especially dangerous as a stand-up striker. His last five fights have either ended in knockout or technical knockout. He ended his last fight in an astonishing 13 seconds, with a quick left hook that knocked out Jose Aldo to win the featherweight championship. His grappling skills are gradually improving as well, as he constantly switches stances.

The highly anticipated co-main event of the pay-per-view is UFC Women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm, defending her championship against Miesha Tate. This is Holm’s first title defense after defeating superstar Ronda Rousey.

Tate and Holm both have a mutual respect for one another, but Tate expects a solid fight from her friend and wants the crowd to know it won’t be a tedious and uneventful fight.

“There is definitely going to be no holding back,” Tate said at the UFC 197 press conference. “There is not going to be any pulling of punches.”

“So, for the people thinking that, ‘oh, they like each other and it’s going to be a nice fight and boring,’” Tate continued. “Think again. I am coming for that belt, and I don’t care how much I like someone. It is not going to affect the way I take the belt.”

Tate is an accomplished fighter in her own right, as a previous champion in the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion. Tate’s takedown techniques, including her infamous double leg takedowns, are moves a strike-based fighter like Holm should fear. Tate also undefeated in her last four fights.

Holm’s is going to have a lot to fight against, although the new champion defensive techniques in the octagon are nothing to dismiss. “The Preacher’s Daughter” defended herself against Rousey’s strong ground and pound style, and has the ability to strike quickly and ruthlessly. Her second round knockout against Rousey will be something Tate will have to study.

With a last-minute replacement in the main event, McGregor will look to prove if he truly is the best pound-for-pound fighter.

Meanwhile Holm is looking to see if she can prove herself as a worthy champion and not just as the “woman who knocked out Rousey.” UFC 196 is shaping up to be an exciting card.