clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hindsight - UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz in retrospect

New, comments

*The world that you live in doesn't exist. Maybe it never did... out there in the real world. And it's got real borders and real fences, real laws and real trouble. And you either go by the rules or you lose.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Conor McGregor will make you believe some impossible things. It's in his nature. It's in the nature of all superbly confident people who are also very very good at what they do. We see it all the time in politicians, it's just the nature of the human animal. Give someone the ability to do things and the confidence to know they can do even more than that, and other's will believe in them. In combat sports it's almost necessary the game, but it can also be a dangerous thing. You have to believe that you can beat everybody. Maybe not every day, maybe not all at the same time, but if they're standing in a ring across from you, you can beat them. Only, sometimes you can't.

Disclaimer Time: I'm pretty proud of my picks on this card. I had some really solid ones. No, I didn't pick Nate to beat McGregor, but I picked Tate to beat Holm, Elkins to beat Skelly, Ishihara to beat Erosa. I went 8-4 and it was a good 8-4. Still I'm not here to gamble or try and tell you how to make money and pick winners, I'm here to understand why what I thought would happen did happen, or more importantly, why it didn't. I'm using fight odds as a way to judge the public sentiment and coupled with my own picks building a pre and post-fight narrative. I'm getting the numbers from OddsShark and taking the mode for each fighter. So, lets get to the fights...

Teruto Ishihara (+150) vs. Julian Erosa (-170) (I picked Ishihara, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Two things struck me here. The first was that I realized that there was a very very strong possibility that Ishihara could lose this fight and tank any longterm UFC expectations with it. Erosa isn't a top of the food chain kind of fighter, but he's big and grinding and he moves well. He's made a habit of winning decisions. The second was that I have no idea why Erosa was the betting favorite. saying a fighter can win it, isn't the same as expecting them to. Ishihara was the much, much better athlete and striker and Erosa's not exactly known as a quality wrestler. Ishihara by KO wasn't exactly a chance bet.
  • Fallout for Ishihara: Hopefully this resets the bar a little on what appear to have been very low expectations for him coming in. I realize Japanese fighter's aren't exactly the going thing in the UFC right now, but he's got a particularly UFC-ready style to his game and the athletic gifts to make it work. If he can keep improving his output and his defense he could go quite a ways.
  • Fallout for Erosa: He's probably got another UFC bout or two in him and I could see him getting an ugly win or two, but he's pretty low on the totem at 145. He really doesn't strike comfortably from range at all, and tall fighters that love to work in the clinch are an especially bad fit for MMA. Hard to see that changing for him.

Jason Saggo (-191) vs. Justin Salas (+165) (I picked Saggo, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Looking at how things played out and how I felt going in, it almost feels like these odds were really short on Saggo. But, that's forgetting that he was coming off a long injury. Hard to make a safe pick in that situation. Still, this was a perfect style matchup for Saggo to use his slick BJJ and wrestling games and given the first opportunity, he took Salas apart.
  • Fallout for Saggo: I don't know that this is quite the right win to give him hype, Justin Salas is pretty much a forgotten figure in the UFC landscape, but that might be for the best. Saggo has an interesting, crafty game, predicated on kicking, good wrestling, and slick BJJ. That's not something that's likely to make him an unbeatable force, but sort of like James Krause, it might turn him into a fun action fighter given enough time to sharpen his skills.
  • Fallout for Salas: At 34 and coming up on a decade since his MMA debut, it's fair to wonder how much longer the road of pro-MMA fighter is for Salas. He came back from a long injury layoff to take a bad loss, his second in a row. The UFC might cut him after that, and if they do, it's hard to see him working his way back. If they don't, then he's a coinflip at best for his next fight.

Diego Sanchez (+155) vs. Jim Miller (-185) (I picked Miller, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Never never never never never. That's how many times I would pick Diego Sanchez to beat Jim Miller in the UFC in 2016. It's not that I trust Jim Miller some improbable amount, I just don't trust Sanchez at all, especially not against another experienced, well rounded vet, who seemed like he was still relatively competitive near the top of 155. Consider me told.
  • Fallout for Sanchez: He'll get more fights, and more fights, and more... you get the idea. The big thing here though is that Sanchez didn't actually look amazing, Miller just looked really bad. Miller soundly outstruck Sanchez for two rounds, but Sanchez's dogged toughness and some wrestling chops brought him the win. That's not the ultra-aggressive, un-breakable Diego of old, it's just a new Jim Miller.
  • Fallout for Miller: Diego Sanchez isn't a bad fighter, but this was a terrible loss. Miller was totally swamped by Sanchez's wrestling in the first round, in a way that I found absolutely shocking. In the second, Miller pretty much beat Sanchez handily post to post, exactly as expected, but then shut down so badly in the third he pretty much gave it away on volume. It's as bad as Miller has ever looked and brings up serious questions about his competitive future.

Darren Elkins (+155) vs. Chas Skelly (-175) (I picked Elkins, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I'm not sure where the Chas Skelly hype came from. Maybe it was from that Kevin Souza win, but he was getting absolutely shit-kicked before jumping on a submission for a win, and easy to submit has never been an Elkins trademark. I picked Elkins to grind Skelly into next week and that's exactly what he did.
  • Fallout for Elkins: Y'all musta forgot just who Darren Elkins is in the UFC. I even saw some people thinking he would gas out in this fight. Elkins has essentially three traits as a fighter. Amazing toughness, non-stop aggression, and the ability to stay on guys round after round after round. The fact that he's a pretty decent wrestler to go with it makes him a ranked featherweight. To beat him, fighters have to be able to really outgun him in at least one area and be able to either outlast him or out-athlete him. That's the book.
  • Fallout for Skelly: Skelly may be headed toward a problem. He's not actually as young or inexperienced as his limited UFC run might lead fans to believe. In fact, he should be hitting his prime right now. This should be prime Chas Skelly. And prime Chas Skelly is a clinging wrestler, an aggressive grappler, but just not so great at anything that he can really take over a fight against a top level fighter. Against the top of the food chain, if he's not submitting guys, he's certainly not going to out-strike them, and most of the top 15 are pretty solid wrestlers to. Basically, his wins and losses are going to be very matchup dependent from here on out.

VItor Miranda (-285) vs. Marcelo Guimaraes (+235) (I picked Miranda, I was right)

  • The Expectation: Guimaraes has been far to willing to strike far too often to survive multiple rounds against Miranda. That was my diagnosis going in, and the reality was, that he mostly just wasn't a good enough wrestler. He didn't have many answers beyond grinding on failed takedowns and after a while Miranda figured out just how to make him pay for it.
  • Fallout for Miranda: Obviously he wasn't underrated here in the odds, but I get the feeling there could be something sleeper-ish about his presence at MW. I'm not saying he's any sort of future contender (or even top 10), but I wouldn't be surprised if he got at least one big win that really opened some eyes before he's UFC time is over.
  • Fallout for Guimaraes: BJJ guys who can't wrestle have a hell of a time of it in the UFC. Guimaraes just doesn't have the power in his shots or the technique to mix his approach to get fights to the ground. He's a powerful guy, but in a division filled with powerful guys that doesn't make him stand out. Hard to see him with a long term future, especially if his chin is crackable.

Nordine Taleb (+180) vs. Erick Silva (-225) (I picked Silva, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Okay, unlike Diego Sanchez above, I could absolutely envision Erick Silva losing and losing badly here. I thought he'd probably make the final bell (although that had more to do with Taleb than Silva), but it seemed reasonable that Silva would either win quick or lose slow. He kinda split the difference and jogged to a loss.
  • Fallout for Taleb: I don't know that Taleb "had" to win this fight, but given a run of less than compelling decision wins, back to back losses might have been a very bad thing for him. That said, he put on the best performance of his career so far, and finally looked like his style is really starting to click. His striking looked sharper and more consistent, his movement better. The kind of things that could make him a much more entertaining mid-card fighter rather than early prelim filler.
  • Fallout for Silva: If his UFC time isn't done then he's gotta be one fight away. Silva is a prime lesson in trying to scout MMA talent and prospects. And all things considered he had a pretty strong run in the UFC. But, by the time he got there, he was already a pretty complete fighter and he's never been able to evolve much since then. Now that he's not winning, it's hard to see the UFC maintaining interest in him much longer.

Siyar Bahadurzada (+275) vs. Brandon Thatch (-335) (I picked Thatch, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: This is one of those fights that 9 out of 10 times I would have picked Thatch to win it, but now having seen it I don't think I ever would. Much like Erick Silva, Thatch came to the UFC with more years under his belt than you'd think. Still as a powerful action striker he seemed poised to make an interesting run. Instead the holes in his game have just opened wider and wider until there's more hole than game.
  • Fallout for Bahadurzada: He got back into the swing of things with a big, meaningful win. He still looks a lot like the fighter he was (and that may not be great). His hands are fast and sharp, he doesn't do much "mixing" of strikes on the feet, and he's pretty relentless with his pressure. I'm not sure if he's got a wrestling game now as well, or if that's just a sign of how little ground game Thatch has. We'll have to wait for another fight to find that out.
  • Fallout for Thatch: Much like Silva, if he's not done now then the end of his UFC time is coming soon. Thatch is the definition of a fighter that has gotten "figured out" over his time in the UFC. As an unknown newcomer he could inspire fear with his power striking, but once fighters realized how few other aspects his game had, they've just worked around that to beat him. Since he isn't stopping that, it's tough to see him beating anyone he can't completely physically outclass.

Amanda Nunes (-115) vs. Valentina Shevchenko (-115) (I picked Nunes, I was right)

  • The Expectation: This wasn't an easy pick for me, but I do feel there was a lot more hype behind Shevchenko than made reasonable sense. She beat a worse athlete in an almost pure striking battle, that wasn't what a fight with Nunes was likely to look like at all. Nunes didn't do as well as I hoped in picking her, but she did just well enough to seal up the first two rounds of the fight.
  • Fallout for Nunes: Unfortunately for her, getting a lackluster win where you drop the 3rd round isn't exactly a great way to advertise yourself as a potential title contender. She's got the record to challenge for the belt, but other than people that just hate Ronda Rousey, there's not going to be a major call to see her in the title picture. Give her one more stoppage win though and that might change.
  • Fallout for Shevchenko: This isn't the worst thing in the world for her. She's a good, technical fighter and a good athlete, but she's not a finisher and her MMA game is far from complete. Given a little more time and consistent training to round her skills out she could have a meaningful crack at a belt. Right now she'd just be a name on a resume.

Corey Anderson (-260) vs. Tom Lawlor (+210) (I picked Anderson, I was right)

  • The Expectation: This felt like Anderson's fight to lose. Not only is he bigger and tougher than a lot of young light heavyweights, but he has great cardio, keeps an insane pace, and isn't at a severe disadvantage anywhere. It seemed reasonable to assume that over three rounds, Anderson would outwork Lawlor for the win. That said, Anderson made things really tough on himself early and still has a lot to learn about defending strikes.
  • Fallout for Anderson: The scoring may have been controversial, but this was a perfect prospect win for a young fighter on the rise. He battled through adversity, figured out how to change things up, stayed in the fight and worked his way to a nice decision. That bodes well for a fighter in a division where most guys are living and dying by the sword.
  • Fallout for Lawlor: It feels like he's becoming more and more of the action fighter that he may have always been. He's got power and he's got the willingness to sit on his strikes and throw hands. I'm not sure he has the gas tank to keep it up late or the well rounded game to beat guys he can't punch into oblivion, but there are a lot of fun/weird fights for him at 205. Hopefully he can find the right ones to get a nice winning streak going.

Ilir Latifi (-200) vs. Gian Villante (+160) (I picked Latifi, I was right)

  • The Expectation: I figured Villante would do just well enough to look like he was winning rounds (and maybe the fight) and then get punched through the mat by Latifi's doom fist. Instead he got scared off by Latifi's power enough, that he took a pretty tepid decision loss where he rarely got out of first gear and let Latifi do what he wanted, comfortably.
  • Fallout for Latifi: It's good to see him settling into a spot on the edges of the top ten. He's got the athleticism and style to be a ridiculously tough fight for a lot of his division and at this point in his career, he's more or less the fighter he's always going to be. He'll probably still take that totally freak Jan Blachowicz loss, just because his range game is so distinctly lacking, but there aren't that many LHW's who really like to stay outside as a strategy. And against most of the rest his insane power and wrestling give him a decent shot at an upset win.
  • Fallout for Gian Villante: I've seen Villante gas out and lose before. I've seen Villante just kind of forget to be cautious and get KO'd before, but his OSP fight is probably the closest I've seen to him just not being willing to test his opponent. Add all these possibilities of losing a fight together and you have a good picture of why a good athlete, with a decent enough chin, and a nice mix of skills just never seems to get over the hump even in a division as shallow as 205.

Miesha Tate (+240) vs. Holly Holm (-300) (I picked Tate, I was right)

  • The Expectation: So, I picked Miesha Tate. And even if I wasn't sure she was going to win, I was sure the odds on her here were a bit absurd. They're not way outside logic, but Holm got a ton of pop from KOing Rousey, and one KO does not a different fighter make. Before then she was a work-woman-like volume kickboxer who tended to be unable to put away opponents with any semblance of decent athleticism or defense. So I figured Tate would hang around, and I thought her more traditional wrestling and grappling approach could give Holm fits and give her a decision win. Basically I expected at least one more round that looked like Round 2. Instead we got a desperation round 5, but it still sealed the deal.
  • Fallout for Tate: She's the champ. For how long? Who can say, but she's got more bargaining power now than she's ever had in her career, and assuming she's smart, she'll leverage that for all it's worth. The UFC wants her to fight Ronda Rousey again ASAP, Tate should be looking to make them pay through the nose for that fight.
  • Fallout for Holm: Holm is in the totally unenviable position of not being a proven draw on her own, and of having a manager that seems to piss Dana White off. That means that getting the big fights she wants will probably come without the luxury of much negotiating power to work with. Essentially she's right where Tate was before she beat Holm. The only difference being that Holm's victory over Rousey means that fans want to see that fight again and if she keeps winning there's a reasonable expectation they'll book it.

Nate Diaz (+300) vs. Conor McGregor (-400) (I picked McGregor, I was wrong)

  • The Expectation: Well, the first round went to plan. The rest of the fight, not so much. Given McGregor's power, speed, and general striking talents, I figured he'd find a way to bust up an always somewhat hittable Nate and take him out. I realize Nate has a great chin, but it just felt right. Of course, looming in the background was the fear that McGregor's insane confidence in pressure punching would just walk him right into the classic Diaz trap, but he had to be too smart for that "predictable" foible, right? RIGHT?
  • Fallout for Diaz: He beat Conor McGregor and now, for some reason, we're probably going to watch him do it all over again. This is the grand moment his whole career has been leading to, that point where he's succeeded on a large enough, meaningful enough stage that the UFC has to go right back and put him in another big fight (the same fight as it turns out). Hopefully he can swing this all into some meaningful career paydays before it's all over.
  • Fallout for McGregor: Losing definitely sucks, and with this loss McGregor lost some nice options out in front of him. He was looking at Lawler and RDA and both those fights were torpedoed in the short term. But, maybe the quickest route to getting them back is trying to get this win back. If he loses again, then he's back to featherweight like he would have been anyway. If he wins, then he can probably at least make a claim to a fight with RDA if he wants it.

Those are my collected thoughts from UFC 196. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Next time out I'll be writing about why Mark Hunt blasting Frank Mir doesn't make him a contender and why Neil Magny looked so on point against Hector Lombard. Until then!

*This week's quote from the movie Lonely are the Brave.