Conor McGregor has gone from a shot at history to an ultra-risky grudge match at UFC 196, where he will face Nate Diaz at welterweight at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
Diaz stepped up on less than two weeks’ notice after McGregor’s original opponent, lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, withdrew due to a broken foot.
While featherweight champ McGregor has been denied the chance to become the first fighter to hold two UFC belts at once, there is still an enormous amount at stake – including the opportunity to earn a different slice of history. Here is our ultimate guide to UFC 196: McGregor v Diaz, which will happen on Sunday, March 6 (NZ time).
WHAT TIME DOES UFC 196: MCGREGOR v DIAZ START IN NEW ZEALAND?
Expect McGregor v Diaz from 6pm onwards, dependent on the other main card fights, which start at 4pm on pay-per-view.
HOW/WHERE CAN I WATCH THE FIGHT?
WHAT IS THE FULL CARD FOR UFC 196?
MAIN CARD (from 4pm NZ – Sky Arena PPV)
Conor McGregor (19-2-0) v Nate Diaz (19-10-0) – welterweight
Holly Holm (10-0-0) v Miesha Tate (17-5-0) – bantamweight title
Gian Villante (14-6-0) v Ilir Latifi (12-4-0, 1 NC) – light-heavyweight
Corey Anderson (8-1-0) v Tom Lawlor – light-heavyweight
Amanda Nunes (11-4-0) v Valentina Shevchenko (12-1-0) – bantamweight
PRELIMINARIES ( from 2pm NZ – Sky Arena Free)
Brandon Thatch (11-3-0) v Siyar Bahadurzada (21-6-1) – welterweight
Erick Silva (18-6-0, 1 NC) v Nordine Taleb (10-3-0) – welterweight
Vitor Miranda (12-4-0) v Marcelo Guimaraes (9-1-1) – middleweight
Darren Elkins (20-5-0) v Chas Skelly (15-1-0) – featherweight
EARLY PRELIMS (from 12.30pm NZ)
Diego Sanchez (27-8-0) v Jim Miller (25-6-0, 1 NC) – lightweight
Jason Saggo (10-2-0) v Justin Salas (12-6-0) – lightweight
Julian Erosa (15-3-0) v Teruto Ishihara (8-2-2) – featherweight
WHAT RECORDS MIGHT MCGREGOR BREAK, HOW BIG A PURSE?
While the chance to become the first dual champion is off the table for McGregor, he still has a shot at one particular piece of history: The highest PPV for a non-title fight.
In order to take that mantle, he would need to top the 1,050,000 buys for Rampage Jackson v Rashad Evans at UFC 114 in 2010 (won by Evans), which according to Tapology is the equal fifth-highest PPV of all time. McGregor and Diaz’s explosive build-up, plus their strong fan followings, will surely put that figure well within their reach.
McGregor may even top the estimated 1.2 million buys he reaped for his stunning 13-second KO of Jose Aldo at UFC 194, the second-highest PPV ever. It seems a stretch, with no title belt on the line, to think he will get to the fabled 1.6 million buys of No.1-ranked UFC 100 (Lesnar v Mir, heavyweight championship unification).
While a concrete figure won’t be known, McGregor may also earn the biggest purse ever seen for a UFC fighter.
At UFC 194, he earned a $US500,000 salary plus $90,000 in performance and sponsorship bonuses. According to Forbes, he also earned up to $5 per PPV buy – which would have equated to $6 million. All up, that’s $6,590,000 – about $507,000 per second.
After the fight, UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta declared that McGregor was on track to become the organisation’s first $100 million earner.
WHAT IS AT STAKE FOR MCGREGOR?
Though his shot at the lightweight title is gone, an enormous amount is riding on McGregor’s first foray into a higher weight class.
Should he win, the world is his oyster. He will almost certainly be the main event for UFC 200 on July 10 (NZtime), which has been promised as the biggest event in promotion history, and three title fights would be in the frame: against Robbie Lawler for the welterweight belt, against dos Anjos for the lightweight belt, or against Frankie Edgar defending his featherweight belt. The first two fights would give him the historic shot at holding two concurrent belts, sending him straight to Hall of Fame status, with the Lawler bout a true battle of superstars that would smash the all-time PPV record.
McGregor has reportedly had enough of fighting at featherweight, where he has to make a brutal weight cut to 65kg. To get off to a flying start in higher weight classes, victory over Diaz is essential.Many of McGregor’s megafight options would vanish should he be beaten by the No.5 ranked lightweight contender.
HOW DO MCGREGOR & DIAZ MATCH UP?
Verbally, the fight pits the organisation’s two biggest trash-talkers together – andDiaz kicked things off with bizarre steroid allegations against McGregor. These slurs were then backed up by Diaz’s long-time boxing trainer Richard Perez.
In the Octagon, it will be an intriguing battle between two rangy strikers. McGregor, 27, holds an edge in stand-up, while Diaz, 30, is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt that the Irishman will not want to go to ground with.
McGregor’s professional record is stunning, with just one win by decision – 17 have come via knockout, with a lone submission. That’s a knockout rate of 81 per cent. He has won his last five fights by knockout (punches, all of which earned performance of the knight) and is undefeated in the UFC from seven fights. His two losses (pre UFC) have come by submission (kneebar, arm-triangle choke).
Of Diaz’s 18 professional wins, four have come by knockout, 11 by submission and three by decision. He has been knocked out and submitted just once each, by Josh Thomson (head kick and punches) and Hermes Franca (armbar) respectively.
The tale of the tape gives the edge to Diaz, who holds an 8cm height advantage and 5cm greater reach. McGregor has a 5cm longer leg reach.
WHAT DO THE BOOKIES SAY?
McGregor has been the firm favourite with Las Vegas bookies and TAB odds have followed suit. TAB has McGregor $1.22 favourite to Diaz at $4.40.
HOW IS HOLM’S FIRST TITLE DEFENCE EXPECTED TO GO?
Holm is fighting long-time Ronda Rousey nemesis Tate in the first defence of the belt she won via a stunning KO in Melbourne at UFC 193. She is certainly expected to win.
Cepeda’s prediction from FOX Sports US is as follows: “Tate is a dogged beast and is never out of a fight until it is completely over. She’ll have her chances in this fight, over five rounds, to get her hands on Holm and making it a rough and tumble grappling contest.
“With that said, Holm has to be considered the heavy favourite, here. She has the length, striking skill, footwork and strength to keep things at a distance, or work her way out of close quarters if need be.
“Holm also has the one-strike power advantage here, so she’s the better pick to end the bout. It should be a good one, and I’m betting a cautious Tate can make this much more competitive than Holm’s win over Rousey, but I’ve got to go with the defending champion.”