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UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz Sober Play by Play - Nate's Choke Work like Clock Work for Win

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Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz was everything we could have asked for in a prizefight. Lost in the haze of critics, and salty losers is a fight as complex as it was violent. Nate won with good range awareness, and the kind of brilliant grappling the Diaz brothers have been know for.

Photo by Eric Jamison/AP

Nate Diaz finished Conor McGregor with a rear naked choke that required a double tap from the brash Irishman. As such, there's been a Pride Before the Fall like reaction.

And that's not even counting the nonsense fighter reactions, like Jose Aldo's poorly regurgitated tweet. As usual, I like these sober play by plays to be dialogues about the fight itself. So ignore the language of politics, hubris, and theatrics. Let's talk the language of pugilism.

Round 1

McGregor starts the round by bouncing around a bit. He's stepping in and out, getting a sense of his own rhythm.

4:39 McGregor lands the first left hand of the fight. Because of Nate's reach, his left foot is off the ground. He's practically leaping, but it lands off the side of Nate's face. Conor quickly follows it up with a left wheelkick that doesn't land. A straight left misses, and they clinch.

4:32 Nothing happens in the clinch but Nate keeps Conor pressed up against the fence pretty good. Conor pivots out pretty swiftly to reset.

4:11 Upon resetting Conor throws a left, then a right hook (completely off balance), then ducks and sifts an overhand left that grazes the top of Nate's head.

4:05 Conor with a jab to the body. He then throws a check hook. They reset and Nate lands a perfunctory but stiff jab that allows Conor to miss with his straight left.

3:55 Oblique kick by Conor. Whenever Conor's right foot is parallel with Nate's right foot, Conor chambers that right jab straight left combination. It hits Nate pretty good, but again Nate is able to modestly roll with the punch.

3:34 Another good example of Conor's superb footwork. Again he steps parallel with Nate's foot, and uncorks an overhand left that lands. Again, however, the punches are grazing Nate.

3:33 Right hand jab, overhand left, right, left uppercut combination mostly misses or is blocked. Contrary to "popular belief", and by that I mean contrary to the belief of Conor's apologists, he isn't destroying Nate in the pocket. Nate adjusts after the early shots, and begins doing a much better job of reading Conor's footwork, stepping back when he feels like McGregor's right foot is too close.

3:19 A good example of what I'm talking about as Conor swings wildly and misses from the rafters. Why? Because Nate sees the step in, and adjusts.

3:02 This is another timestamp documenting Conor's struggle with Nate's reach, and strategy. McGregor with a massive overhand left that Nate easily anticipates. Except this time, Nate slips in a right jab.

2: 53 Nate anticipating Conor's foot inching forward to trigger to the overhand left. Nate steps back and checks him with a right hook that gets blocked.

2:48 Conor starts adjusting and lands a left leg kick to Nate's right thigh. Then seconds later lands a pinpoint uppercut.

2:15 McGregor gets back to bouncing around a bit with swift head movement and footwork. With Nate feeling a bit too comfortable-

2:12 Hard counter left by Conor. He begins to stalk Nate, and momentum quickly shifts in Conor's favor. Nate tries to come in with a jab to the body. McGregor stuffs him with a short left uppercut. Then he lands an overhand left, followed by a right hand that grazes Nate's nose.

1:55 Another solid overhand left by Nate who is losing control at midrange.

1:48 Good counter right hook by Nate as Conor lunges in with a left. Conor still lands his left. They reset and Conor misses with a big left, again sapping his energy.

1:08 Another crisp overhand left by McGregor that lands flush. He follows it up with an overhand left that misses.

0:41 Conor throws a kick, Nate catches it, and on to the ground we go!

First off, despite what transpires at the end, McGregor displays some defensive craft here against an offensive wizard. With Nate standing over him, Conor immediately snatches Nate's left ankle. It puts Conor in this dramatic looking butterfly guard. By swiveling counterclockwise, and maintaining his grip, he's able to shift and essentially sweep Nate, which puts him in top control.  Nothing much happens, however, and the round ends.

Notes and Observations: On "Efficiency with Energy"

The first round is such a wonderful display of exchanging strategies. There's a mountain of nuance to each man's game that gets lost in the worthless fluff of Jose Aldo calling a McGregor a piece of labia or whatever. Nate started out slow, but didn't begin taking damage until Conor felt like Nate was getting aggressive. It was McGregor's counter attack, not his pressure, that really stirred momentum in his favor that began from the 2:48 mark of the first round to the 1:08 mark.

Until then it's Conor pressuring, but it's really just the illusion of rhythm at this point, as Nate is doing a good job of staying defensive without being inert. Conor's success comes down to his eccentric version of kitchen sink offense. As Connor noted in his breakdown of how McGregor turns the "puncher's chance" from gamble to utiltiy:

McGregor has a tendency to fall into his left hand, meaning that he throws his weight forward, expecting the obstacle of his opponent's jaw to catch him before he flies off-balance. His vulnerability during this movement is made clear when is opponent is savvy enough to slip or avoid the left-

This tendency eventually catches up to him...

Round 2

4:45 Conor throws an overhand left almost off balance from the get go. Nate checks him with a very Diazian slap hook.

4:23 Fantastic left to the body from McGregor.

At this point Conor is trying to enter the pocket, but Nate is going back to the defensive instincts that served him well in the first when he was only getting caught with the tailend of Conor's punches, stepping away from Conor everytime McGregor's foot gains 'the zone'.

Fatigue should not be a factor for either ffighter...

Notes the eventually wrong, Mike Goldberg.

3: 24 McGregor has landed a few overhand lefts, but his power has noticeably depreciated at this point. He tries to enter, and Nate sticks him with a jab.

3:21 Excellent stutter step by McGregor. He gets Nate to flinch, allowing him to step in with a delayed fuse of a straight left. Nate gets off a right hook, but it only grazes Conor, who renters the pocket with a searing left uppercut. Conor keeps the pressure with a straight right, delays, and comes in with a short left uppercut. It's a great sequence by McGregor, but in retrospect seems like a combo of desperation because as John Nash notes:

3:11 Nate enters the pocket with a right that misses and begins the 209 assault.

3:04 Solid one-two by Nate, though the left kind of grazes Conor.

2:55 Stiff right jab that straightens Conor up. McGregor tries to answer but his overhand left misses completely.

2:23 This happens:

Nate immediately follows it up with a right hand noodle left combination (I say "noodle" because Nate's arm just kind of flops off Conor's head).

2:03 Another massive slap hook with Nate's right hand. Nate isn't landing much at this point, but his activity, unlike Conor, isn't waning in power in each punch.

Nate corners McGregor into the fence and lands a thudding knee to Conor's solar plexus. It's the knee Nate claims provoked McGregor into a death rattle gasp. Funnily enough, you can actually hear the comic book BIFF at the 1:50 mark when it lands. It's downright painful sounding, and a good example of the Diaz brothers opting for percussion over precision.

Diaz pours it on in the clinch, throwing knees, dirty boxing like Randy.

1:28 They separate and Conor gives it another valiant attempt, throwing a combination, resetting, and then landing a solid overhand left. Nate counters with a right, and then pressures with his own right left combination. Conor goes for the takedown.

1:13 This fight's got everything. Conor goes for a double leg and Nate sprawls. This exchange just goes to show you how high level the Diaz brothers are on the ground.

Conor has both hands clasped around Nate's thighs but as soon as he drops his right hand, Nate slips in his left around Conor's neck as quick as a hummingbird's wings.

McGregor actually does the right thing here. He quickly steps over so that he's got Nate cradled a bit. This helps take the pressure off for a second, but Nate deliberately lets go of his right hand. Conor, thinking the coast is clear, swivels counterclockwise. He's out of the submission, but not the position. Now Nate has his upper body locked up in high side control, which allows him step over into mount with ease.

Nate immediately gets leverage on Conor and lands some massive punches from the top. It's academic at this point. Nate shifts his right arm over. He doesn't squeeze, but instead lands a thudding punch. Then he slips his right forearm underneath Conor's chin, and the rest is 209 history.

Notes and Observations: Stance Favors the Prepared Unkind

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz will inspire all sorts of bizarre hot takes. Already The Guardian had this to say:

In those moments after his loss he appeared to be analyzing his disaster, realizing that in his zeal to be more outrageous and outlandish, he had lost what originally made him great.

I take aim at this not because I'm jealous that someone gets to write for a prestigious paper only to speak with a Skip Bayless microphone, but because the article does what many articles do, which is replace actual analysis with flimsy psychoanalysis. Conor didn't lose because his persona has some goofy mercurial connection to his defeat. He lost because Nate Diaz displayed brilliant technique on the ground when conditioning became critical, and even Conor's intelligent adjustments on the feet couldn't match his opponent's midrange awareness.

The deviating grace of mixed martial arts was the story. That and how awesome Nate Diaz is.