Conor, Diaz put on UFC event for the ages, as fans await trilogy

August 23, 2016 3:05 AM
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Trilogy is what everyone who watched the rematch between Nate Diaz (20-11) and Conor McGregor (20-3) this past Saturday night was already talking about even before the final bell.

The bout went five full rounds and while the judges’ scorecards were being tallied up, a rubber-match was already warranted. Granted if Diaz had been awarded the decision, he would be 2-0 versus McGregor and a third fight wouldn’t be automatic. But after a hard fought battle by both men, it was McGregor who got his arm raised via a majority decision.

Though Diaz supporters disagreed with the decision, they weren’t despondent for long, as both fighters immediately vowed that a deciding third bout in the near future was assured.

In fact, Diaz was quick to remind those in attendance, the fans watching on pay-per-view, and the victor McGregor that he had given his opponent an immediate rematch after he came out on top in their first fight. That comment was met with a loud cheer from everyone inside the T-Mobile Arena, regardless of which fighter they sided with.

McGregor did his part to satisfy fans by announcing, “All I know is that it’s 1-1. I came up to 170 to test the bigger man, face adversity. I want the trilogy, but it’s on my terms. Come back to 155. Let’s do it.”

According to fight statistics Nate landed 166 strikes to Conor’s 164, but a closer look shows it was McGregor who was able to land more in three of the five rounds. Though Diaz threw more volume, McGregor connected at a higher percentage of strikes in four of the five rounds, with one a tie. Having covered the fight game for a long time now, I’ve learned judging a bout is a subjective exercise, and when it’s as competitive as this one was, a different opinion as to who won is to be expected.

Simply put, it would be difficult to find anyone who could argue that the rematch hadn’t lived up to the hype. Fight fans of both boxing and MMA have been let down countless times in the past as few bouts are ever able to deliver on the pre-fight build up. The promotion behind a bout of this magnitude is masterful and the narrative is almost always the same – that the fight promises to be epic and therefore should not be missed. Yet very few end up meeting these expectations.

Every once in a while, though, we are treated to a fight that does. On the rarest of occasions one even exceeds the promotional forecast. Diaz versus McGregor 2 did exactly that.

According to bookmakers here in Las Vegas, the handle for the rematch exceeded all expectations, too. The betting line reflected more money was bet on McGregor, as it climbed as high as -150 at some shops before coming back down some.

Bookmakers on the Strip confirmed that to be the case but speaking to other “local” books back on the east coast and off-shore, they claimed it was Diaz who left them exposed due to public backing, while sharp bettors were on the favorite and the reason the odds went up.

Regardless, rest assured, with the type of volume the fight attracted coupled with the built-in hold for sportsbooks, they all did just fine and will welcome the third installment with open arms.

Finally, the outcome was a best case scenario for the UFC as not only did the fight surpass all expectations, but it also helped preserve the legacy of one of the promotion’s biggest draws in McGregor. If there’s one thing we’ve learned throughout the ascent of the mixed martial arts and in particular the UFC, is that no fighter is bigger than the sport or the promotion.

Though that’s a proven fact, McGregor being victorious is still a huge plus all the way around. Personally, as a bettor who backed McGregor in last week’s column and at the window, I couldn’t be happier with the final result. But also as someone who loves this sport, I’m extremely appreciative of all the coverage and positive light the rematch brought.

I can’t wait for Diaz vs. McGregor part 3.

Twitter: @Greek_Gambler