Masterful competition from men’s, women’s fights electrifies UFC 196 crowd
LAS VEGAS (MMS) – The UFC 196 action on Feb. 5 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was one of those nights where any fighter can win on any given night. That’s what happened Saturday as bantamweight Miesha Tate choked out Holly Holm into submission to claim the women’s bantamweight belt, and welterweight Nate Diaz submitted brilliant bombastic warrior Conor McGregor by administering a rear-naked choke in the second round, causing him to reconsider his brash 25-pound rise from featherweight to welterweight.
McGregor, the popular Irish featherweight 145-pound champion who opted to move up to 170 pounds to fight replacement for Diaz because of an injury to lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos, went head-to-head with Diaz but was rocked by hard Diaz punches early in the second round.
Diaz (20-10), a former UFC lightweight title challenger, was cut pretty badly above the right eye by the hard-hitting McGregor, but eventually got the better of the shorter fighter in the stand-up phase with stinging left-right combinations.
Diaz, equally proficient in jiu-jitsu, quickly took control of McGregor when the fight went to the ground, gripping the Irishman in a rear-naked choke that forced McGregor (19-3) to tap out 4 minutes 12 seconds into the round.
When the fight went to the canvas, “I knew I had it,” said Diaz. “My jiu-jitsu’s always there when I hit the ground. I’m a warrior. There’s a new king, right here.”
Moving up 25 pounds in weight appeared to tire McGregor as the fight went late into the second round. “I felt good in the first round, but I was inefficient,” McGregor said. “He was efficient, I wasn’t.”
McGregor can now choose to fight Dos Anjos (at 155 pounds) in July or return to defend his featherweight belt.
“I took a chance,” moving up in weight, McGregor said. “It didn’t work out. I’ll come back.”
Another improbable victory
In the other Ultimate Fighting Championship upset, Holly Holm, in her first title defense since taking the bantamweight crown from Ronda Rousey, fought masterfully through most of the fight with her rapt kick-boxing skills, keeping Miesha Tate at bay with punches and straight kicks.
But in the final round with 1:30 to go, Tate shot through Holm’s defenses, took her to the mat and applied a tight choke that spelled the end for the champion.
Tate had praise for Holm, who took the belt from Rousey last November with a spectacular boxing display punctuated by a devastating KO by a round-house kick to the neck.
In the fourth round, Holm squashed two takedown attempts by Tate, a 3-1 underdog, and appeared to have victory in sight with crisp left-right combinations, but the challenger stuck to a game plan of patience.
“[Holly] has a lot of heart,” Tate said. “[But] we had a great game plan. I knew I had to find the perfect moment.”