Diaz, McGregor rematch could break records for UFC

August 16, 2016 3:03 AM
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Initially scheduled for the UFC 200 card back in July, the rematch between Nate Diaz (20-10) and Conor McGregor (19-3) is now only days away. The T-Mobile Arena here in Las Vegas is set to host UFC 202 this Saturday night, and though it’s a stacked card, the main event is one of the most highly anticipated bouts in UFC history.

McGregor has undoubtedly emerged as the promotion’s brightest star and biggest draw. That claim is supported by pay-per-view buys and revenue for his past bouts, and rest assured UFC 202 will challenge their success. Couple McGregor’s meteoric rise with his opponent Diaz’s recent accent, and we have the perfect storm for what should be one of the most celebrated night’s in the promotion’s history.

Oddsmaker’s initially listed McGregor as a slight favorite at -125, with the take back on Diaz +105. And though that price is still reflective of the market average as of today, currently here in Las Vegas the Westgate Superbook has the fight at -110 either way. Simply put, neither man is much of a favorite or underdog for the rematch.

That’s a huge contrast when compared to the odds for their initial confrontation back at UFC 196 in March, where McGregor had opened as high as a -575 betting favorite. The line did drop leading up to the night of the fight, but McGregor still entered the Octagon at -400. Diaz rewarded his supporters by cashing at +300 (3 to 1) or better. So it’s obvious the perception of the betting market has changed significantly in the five months that have passed.

To capture his second straight win against McGregor, Diaz will again have to weather the early storm and use his excellent gas tank to take the fight into deeper waters. He needs to turn this into another dog fight rather than try to outclass McGregor.

For Conor, it was evident in the first bout that his strikes didn’t have the same impact at 170 pounds that they did at 155 pounds. Rather than aim for a one punch knock-out, he’ll need to employ an accumulation of punishment to finish Diaz.

McGregor has shown to be the better technician of the two, so he shouldn’t allow himself to be drawn into a brawl or try to prove his manhood against the bigger man. He had a lot of success when moving forward, backing Diaz up against the cage.

McGregor has avoided 59% of opponent’s strikes and 61% of take-down attempts. More importantly, he’s been successful on 71% of his attempts to take opponent’s down, and though Diaz is the more accomplished bjj practitioner, McGregor shouldn’t avoid putting Diaz on his back. Again, to win this rematch he’ll need to be willing to systematically break Nate down rather than look for a fight ending shot to land.

Finally, as impressed as I was of Diaz in the first fight, the table is set up much better for McGregor this time around. His legacy is on the line and we’ve seen what an extremely focused and driven Conor McGregor is capable of. I’m not saying he overlooked Diaz back in March, but I don’t think he gave his opponent the type of respect he has for the rematch.

Besides the handicap, there’s also the “line value” that’s difficult to pass up on McGregor. I’ll be backing my opinion with cash, that a “trilogy” between McGregor and Diaz is a lot more probable than 2-0 sweep.

PICK: McGregor

Vegas-Runner is a professional sports bettor & handicapper in Las Vegas. He’s been featured in NY Times Magazine, ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo Sports, and more. VR was also in CNBC’s Crime Inc. on Sports Betting and in the documentary The Best of It. You can follow VR on Twitter @Greek_Gambler