When the news broke that Conor McGregor (19-3) would be staying at welterweight to rematch Nate Diaz (19-10) in the UFC 200 main event, the MMA world got confirmation of something they already knew. But now its official, on July 9th the Irishman will look to avenge his UFC 196 submission loss to Diaz.

In the first meeting, McGregor was successful early on with his striking. He opened up a cut on Nate but he never really had him in any danger. Diaz proved to be difficult to discourage as the Stockton, California native kept moving forward.  Eventually in the second round he caught McGregor with solid punches on the feet and stunned the 145lb champion.  It forced Conor to look for a takedown and that was the beginning of the end.  Diaz was able to lock in a rear-naked choke and finish the fight at 4:12 of the second round.

It seemed at the time that Conor McGregor’s next step would be to defend his UFC featherweight title and that was likely to happen at UFC 200. Well the loss must not be sitting well with “The Notorious” because he’s decided to leave that division behind for the time being.  Staying at welterweight will at least give him the opportunity to get used to the extra weight and be ready for a five round fight.  The first matchup was on 12 days’ notice, and McGregor had been preparing to fight at 155lbs.  It could be a much different fight the next time around, but we must keep in mind that Diaz will likely improve his gameplan as well.

Either way, it would appear that “The Notorious” Conor McGregor gets whatever he wants as long he keeps making the UFC boatloads of money and Nate Diaz is just along for the ride. Don’t miss this fight, July 9th, available on pay per view.  For more coverage on UFC 200 keep checking back with profightingfans.com.

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

After every UFC event we here at Pro Fighting Fans love to play matchmaker. In this column we’ll tell you who we think the winners and losers of each fight should face next.  So check back with Pro Fighting Fans after a UFC event to see what we think the next step is.

Amanda Nunes (12-4)

Who she should face next: Holly Holm (10-1) or Julianna Pena (7-2)

Amanda Nunes is a legitimate contender in the women’s bantamweight division, there is no doubt about that.  However, since she’s right near the top of the pack at 135lbs, her future really depends on who new champion Miesha Tate faces next.

Dana White made it clear that Ronda Rousey would be Miesha Tate’s title defense.  But, as we know all too well in MMA, plans don’t always work out the way we want.  Maybe Ronda gets injured or retires and Holly Holm gets a rematch with Tate.  If Holly Holm doesn’t get the rematch, instead of waiting around for the winner of Tate vs. Rousey, she should face Amanda Nunes for the number one contender spot.

Let’s say Ronda doesn’t fight Tate next, then Nunes’ best option is to face another ranked opponent.  I think putting her up against Julianna Pena would make for an incredible matchup.  Both women are strong on the ground and neither of them ever seems to back down from a challenge.  The options are plenty for Nunes and let’s hope her next fight is against one of these two women.

 

Corey Anderson (8-1)

Who he should face next: Ilir Latifi (12-4)

Although Corey Anderson wasn’t overly impressive in his victory over Tom Lawlor at UFC 196, he is still on a three fight winning streak.  That alone should earn him an opponent near the top ten in the light heavyweight division.  However, Anderson only has nine professional fights, so matchmakers will likely keep in that in mind when they are booking his next fight.

Another guy riding a three fight winning streak is Swedish fighter Ilir Latifi.  It just so happens that Latifi fought right after Anderson on Saturday night and picked up a decent win of his own when he earned a unanimous decision over Gian Villante.  Anderson and Latifi are both headed in the same direction and a fight between them would separate the middle of the pack fighter from the contender.

 

Ilir Latifi (12-4)

Who he should face next: See above

 

Miesha Tate (18-5)

Who she should face next: Ronda Rousey (12-1)

Miesha Tate picked up the biggest victory of her MMA career at UFC 196 when she captured the women’s bantamweight title in thrilling come from behind fashion against Holly Holm.  It was a once in a lifetime type of win and one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Dana White has already said Ronda Rousey will get the first shot at Tate and there is no reason to argue with that.  Unless of course Ronda isn’t able to fight, or doesn’t want to and in that case Tate should give Holly Holm a rematch.

As we all know Tate and Rousey have a rivalry that goes all the way back to their Strikeforce days.  They’ve fought once since they joined the UFC and Rousey won both fights by submission.  However things become different when the title is around the other person’s waist.  Tate is now a UFC champion and the mentality that comes along with it could be what she needs to beat Ronda Rousey once and for all.

 

Nate Diaz (19-10)

Who he should face next: Eddie Alvarez (27-4)

Not many people gave Nate Diaz a chance at beating Conor McGregor when he stepped in on short notice to face the cocky Irishman.  He had less than two weeks to prepare for the fight of his life.  Diaz once again proved that he and his brother are usually at their best when they are put in terrible positions.  Diaz took everything McGregor threw at him and kept moving forward until he hurt the featherweight champ then submitted him with a rear-naked choke.

Dana White suggested that Diaz might get a welterweight title shot after his win Saturday night.  But let’s be realistic about this.  Diaz is a lightweight who was fighting a featherweight, at welterweight on short notice.  He really has no business jumping the line and challenging for Robbie Lawler’s welterweight title.

However, Diaz does deserve a big (lightweight) fight the next time we see him in the octagon.  Eddie Alvarez would definitely be a suitable opponent for Nate and if he could earn a victory he might be next in line for a lightweight title fight.  Anthony Pettis is another good option but he’s currently scheduled to fight Edson Barboza next.  So Alvarez vs. Diaz should be the fight that the UFC makes and they may as well make it a number one contender fight.  Because everyone knows, especially after UFC 196, that Nate Diaz is the man!

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

 

 

 

Not many people thought Nate Diaz had a chance to knock off Conor McGregor on Saturday night at UFC 196. The Irishman was jumping up two weight classes and taking on a legitimate contender in Diaz, however it was expected that Conor’s quickness and accuracy would win him the fight.

In the opening frame McGregor looked great. He controlled the center of the octagon and was the aggressor for the majority of the round.  Conor was able to land some solid punches, he didn’t wobble Nate but he definitely gained the veteran’s attention.  That was also the case when McGregor opened up a cut over Nate’s right eye.

Unlike all of McGregor’s other UFC opponents Nate Diaz didn’t allow him to get into his head. Diaz stayed focused and got a late takedown to make the first round close but McGregor probably won it on the scorecards.

In the second Nate continued to pump a strong jab while blood ran down his face and his right eye was nearly swollen shut. Conor landed a few more decent punches but with just over two minutes left in the round all hell broke loose.

Diaz caught Conor with a right-left combination that stumbled him and right at that moment it became a matter of how and when Nate would win the fight. Conor never backed down and kept throwing shots of his own until he’d had enough and made a weak shot for a takedown which allowed Diaz to gain top control.  He is a BJJ blackbelt and McGregor isn’t, it was so obvious when the fight hit the mat.  Nate ran right through McGregor and with just a minute left in the second round he forced the featherweight champion to tapout with a rear-naked choke.

It wasn’t the outcome McGregor or most of the world had predicted and it sent shockwaves through the MMA community. With just eleven days worth of preparation Nate Diaz put on the performance of a lifetime and it likely earned him an even bigger payday the next time he steps into the octagon.  It was a great way to cap off a night of major upsets, including Miesha Tate winning the women’s bantamweight title when she came from behind to choke out Holly Holm in the fifth and final round.

For more coverage of UFC 196 continue to check back with Pro Fighting Fans.

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

This week we’ll take a good look at the UFC 196 main event between Conor Mcgregor and Nate Diaz. We know the history, we know the talk, now we just want to see the fight.  Will McGregor run right through Diaz?  Or will Diaz use his length and strong boxing skills to keep out of harm’s way?  Each guy has things he can do in the cage that will give him a distinct advantage over his opponent.  The winner will be the one who puts together all of the keys to victory.

Nate Diaz:

  • Use a strong jab

When he is on, Nate Diaz is capable of beating anyone the UFC puts in front of him. When he’s off, like he was against Rafael dos Anjos, it can get ugly.  Diaz is a great all around fighter, but one of his biggest strengths are his boxing skills.  He has a great jab and that was evident in his last fight with Michael Johnson.  That matchup was southpaw vs. southpaw, much like the one on Saturday night, and Nate was able to keep Johnson honest.  Obviously McGregor is a completely different striker than anyone Diaz has ever faced, but if Nate can keep the fight at his preferred distance he would have a good chance of  earning a decision victory.

  • Be willing to look for a takedown at the first sign of danger

Both Nate and his brother Nick love to go toe to toe with their opponents, they rarely take a backwards step inside the octagon. However, Conor McGregor is not the kind of guy you can stalk around the cage.  His kicking game is on another level and Nate Diaz will definitely get hit on Saturday night.  The outcome of the fight will be determined by what Diaz does after he gets hit.  He needs to remember that his Judo and BJJ skills likely give him an advantage in those areas of the fight.  He can’t be afraid to it to the ground and look for submissions, it is probably his best option to win the fight.

  • Find the balance between trash talking and following the gameplan.

To be effective at welterweight against Conor McGregor, Diaz has to do what he does best, talk some smack. He just needs to make sure that he’s also focused on what he needs to do to win the fight.  It will be hard to resist the temptation to talk when McGregor is also trash talking.  But when McGregor is talking is when Diaz needs to stay focused and pressure the Irishman to make a mistake.

 

Conor McGregor:

  • Keep doing what you are doing, it is working

Maybe it’s his mysterious movement coach or his incredible ability to back up his talk but Conor McGregor is definitely doing something right every time he steps in the octagon. It’s likely a combination of many things, regardless it’s working and McGregor is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

  • Kicks, kicks and more kicks

“The Notorious” Conor McGregor might be the most creative kicker we’ve ever seen in the cage. When he’s throwing a kick his body is so fluid, the movements so natural yet completely unpredictable to his opponents.  He uses kicks as a jab to setup other strikes and it’s a gameplan that would likely work well against Diaz.  Plus, Josh Thomson knocked out Nate Diaz with a head kick and surely Conor McGregor kicks as hard as if not harder than “The Punk”.  It could be an early night for Diaz.

  • Have fun out there

March 5th was supposed to be the night Conor McGregor attempted to become the first man to hold two UFC titles simultaneously.  Instead lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos dropped out of the fight with a broken foot and once again the UFC was scrambling to find someone willing to step in the cage with McGregor.  Surprisingly there were a lot of volunteers but it was Nate Diaz who got the short notice call.  Now McGregor is going to be fighting two weight classes up from 145lbs where he is the current champion, and it’s against a natural 155lb fighter.  The fight means nothing, so there really shouldn’t be any pressure on either one of them, especially McGregor.  He has nothing to lose and he needs to fight that way, if he’s going to win he may as well make it entertaining.

 

Brent Haugh

Pro Fighting Fans Editor/Writer

        

For a guy who has only 16 professional fights on his resume, it seems like Gray Maynard has been around the UFC forever. That’s because he almost has. His first fight was against Rob Emerson and infamously ended with Maynard KO-ing himself and Emerson with a huge slam. That fight was back in 2007. So Maynard has been in the UFC for over half a decade, but it seems as though he is now at a crossroads. He’s lost 3 of his last 4 fights (all finishes) and his only win was a head-scratcher against Clay Guida. Maynard has not looked dominant since his win over Kenny Florian back in 2010 (Before Florian dropped to featherweight). The most recent memories are of him being clubbed by Frankie Edgar, T.J. Grant and Nate Diaz this past weekend.

This being said, Maynard can still be a top lightweight. He’s got great wrestling and an excellent positional top game. But he doesn’t have very good technical striking. The power is there. He nearly finished Edgar multiple times, but couldn’t get just one more big shot to seal the deal. Winging punches and throwing with intentions to decapitate doesn’t work that often. It looks like his opponents are seeing that and taking full advantage of it. Diaz’s precision striking picked Maynard apart. Eventually, so did Edgar’s. For Maynard to stay relevant in the lightweight division, he needs to change his game up.

However, it’s going to be very hard to do that. Maynard is 34 years old, and as most fighters will tell you, their skills start to decrease a bit as they age. Luckily, Gray is usually in good shape for his fights and has gone five rounds before. But if he ever wants to get back to a fight that is billed for five rounds, he has to work on some technical striking. Using more strikes to set up his takedowns and clinch game would only benefit his all-around ability. Some people are writing Maynard off already, saying that his career is over and he should think about retirement. I disagree. MMA is a sport of adjustments. With just a few, Maynard can get back to the top of the ladder at 155.

Think for a second. If Gray made ONE slight shift in the second fight with Edgar, he would have been the lightweight champion. Who’s to say he can’t make it now and go on a big win streak? It astonishes me how the smallest instances have the biggest consequences and it is one of the reasons that I love following this sport. It’s just a shame that Maynard has been on the wrong side of so many.

 

Andrew Jerrick

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

On November 30th, Gray Maynard will step into the octagon to face Nate Diaz for a third time.  Their first meeting was a part of the Ultimate Fighter season 7, and it ended with Diaz submitting Maynard.  Next time around things went a bit differently, as Gray got the split decision victory at UFC Fight Night 20.  A lot of things have happened since Diaz and Maynard last fought, for instance, both men have competed for the UFC lightweight title.   Although they battled different champions, Maynard fought Frankie Edgar twice and Diaz met Benson Henderson, the point is, they were title contenders at one time in their careers.  Because of that, this is an important fight.  As with every fighter preparing to go to war, there are certain elements of success necessary to get a win, and it’s no different for Gray Maynard on Saturday night.

Elements of Success: Regain Championship Form

When Gray Maynard fought to a draw against then UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, he was a legitimate title contender.  When he faced Edgar again he was still ranked near the top of the UFC’s lightweight division.  So, what happened in Maynard’s last two fights?  He has looked nothing like the guy who was a few solid punches away from being a champion.  He won a decision over Clay Guida, in an absolutely terrible fight, where neither guy was very impressive.  Then in his next fight he was destroyed by Canadian TJ Grant and that put to rest any dreams Maynard may have had of getting another title shot in the near future.  In my opinion, Gray might not need to regain championship form to beat Nate Diaz.  However, he should strive to get back to where he once was and knocking out Diaz would do just that.

Elements of Success: Even Babe Ruth Hit for Singles

If you watch the fight against Guida, Maynard stalked him down, only looking to land the knockout shot.  It is a great strategy, if you can connect with your opponent’s jaw, but if you can’t, you just end up looking silly.  The best power punchers in UFC history knew when to throw a jab and when to go with the haymaker.  Maynard needs to accumulate landed strikes before he goes for the kill.  It is boxing 101, especially when you’re not even hitting your opponent.  In the pre-fight interviews Maynard has stated he wants to knock out Diaz, great, first make sure you can hit him at all.  You can bet that if the same Gray shows up who did against Clay Guida, Nate will have an answer for that and pick him apart with superior boxing.  Like the paragraph title says, even Babe Ruth hit for singles.

Elements of Success: Get Back to the Grind

Somewhere along the line Gray Maynard went from All-American wrestler to power hitter.  He seems to have forgotten that he has the ability to wrestle with the best of the best in the UFC.  I honestly think that if he wants to beat Nate Diaz, he should try and outwrestle him.  Wrestling has been Diaz’s Achilles heel, especially in his fights with Rory MacDonald and Benson Henderson.  Maynard may also have more success with his striking if he threatens with takedowns.  We must remember that to be a NCAA All-American wrestler, one must endure torturous training regimens; it really takes a special kind of individual.  Maynard is still that guy, and if he shows up ready to wrestle, he could get a very important win against Nate Diaz on Saturday night.

Conclusion: It’s quite simple; Gray Maynard must pick his shots wisely when the fight is standing, outwrestle Diaz when it hits the mat, and most importantly, regain that championship form.  If he can do all of that then he has all of the elements of success that will be necessary to beat Nate Diaz.

 

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

 

So another season of the Ultimate Fighter is approaching its end and I can’t help but have a sour taste in my mouth.  The season was supposed to be all about the female fighters, yet they were slightly overshadowed by the fact that the men couldn’t seem to make weight.  Oh well, maybe Saturday night’s finale will make up for a lackluster season, which included some great women’s fights and not much else.  Now, here come the predictions!

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Raquel Pennington

Modafferi has more experience than most of her castmates on TUF.  That being said she’s also lost five straight fights, although the losses have come against some stiff competition including Canadian Sarah Kaufman and Rosi Sexton, both are currently on the UFC roster.  She’ll be taking on Raquel Pennington, who made it to the semi-finals on the show before losing to finalist Jessica Rakoczy.  Pennington was also a part of a “fight of the season” candidate when she met Jessamyn Duke in an instant classic.  Yes, Modafferi has more experience, but I don’t think she’s any match for the toughness of Raquel Pennington.  I think Pennington will come in throwing heavy shots and she’ll catch the veteran early in the 2nd round.

Prediction: Raquel Pennington via TKO round 2

 

Jessamyn Duke vs. Peggy Morgan

I am super excited for this fight.  Two of the tallest female bantamweights on the planet will go to war when Jessamyn Duke meets Peggy Morgan.  Funny enough, they both sport perfect 2-0 records in their careers.  So whoever can establish their range first will likely win this one.  It’ll go the distance and come down to a split decision, where I think Jessamyn Duke will have done just enough to get the nod.  Consider yourself warned, this could be the fight of the night!

Prediction: Jessamyn Duke via Split Decision

 

Davey Grant vs. Chris Holdsworth

Now we have the first of the finals for season 18 of the Ultimate Fighter.  I’ve been impressed by both Holdsworth and Grant.  I think Holdsworth has the advantage on the mat, despite the fact that 7 of Grant’s 8 career wins have come by way of submission.  I’m only giving him the advantage because he trains with Team Alpha Male and those guys are all ground wizards.  If he can take Grant down and maintain dominant positioning Holdsworth should come away the big contract.  But, if he waits too long on his feet, Davey Grant has enough power to finish the fight standing.  It’s really a toss-up, heads I take Holdsworth, tails I’m going with Grant.  Tails it is!  I’ll take Davey Grant by 2nd round TKO.

Prediction: Davey Grant via 2nd round TKO

 

Jessica Rakoczy vs. Julianna Pena

I know Pena is the big favorite going into this fight, and really she should be.  She looked fantastic in all of her fights on this season of TUF.  But, there is one thing she doesn’t have that her opponent Jessica Rakoczy does and that is experience in high pressure situations.  As it was mentioned numerous times throughout the season, Rakoczy is a multiple time world champion in the sport of boxing.  That is the kind of thing that you can’t train for.  Pena might be the stronger woman in the cage on Saturday night.  However, I’m going against her in this one.  Not only is Rakoczy Canadian, she is also very focused and I think she pulls off the upset tomorrow night to be crowned the first ever female ultimate fighter.

Prediction: Jessica Rakoczy via Split Decision

 

Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard

This is an interesting fight because both Maynard and Diaz really need wins if they want another shot at UFC gold.  If Gray Maynard finds a way to mix up his wrestling with his boxing, he could find success.  Now, if Diaz can avoid the power punches from his opponent, I like his chances of jabbing his way to a decision victory.  As much as I’d like to see this fight go to the ground, it probably won’t.  If that’s the case, then I’m going with Diaz.  The only way Maynard wins this fight is he knocks him out on the feet or finishes it with ground and pound.  Diaz will get a unanimous decision and another high level opponent in his next fight.

Prediction: Nate Diaz via Unanimous Decision

 

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer

Nate Diaz’s UFC career has consisted of many peaks and valleys.  He was dominated by Rory MacDonald at welterweight and dropped to lightweight where he impressed critics in his victories over Takanori Gomi and Jim Miller.  Right now his career has hit another low, having lost two straight fights to Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson, respectively.  The loss to Thomson really stung, as it marked the first time Diaz had been defeated by TKO.  You can bet he’ll be ready to redeem himself when he faces Gray Maynard on November 30th.  Diaz and Maynard have fought twice in the past.  Once as part of The Ultimate Fighter 5, where Diaz won by submission and when they officially joined the UFC they met again and that time Maynard squeaked out a split decision win.  Needless to say, when the two stand across from each other on Saturday night, there will be no love lost between them.  There are several ways this fight could go and here are the elements of success that will be required for Nate Diaz to get the win.

Elements of Success: Regain Swagger

Nate is just like his older brother Nick, when they are on their game they are mean, nasty dudes and when they’re not, it’s not always pretty.  Who could forget Nate’s famous submission of Kurt Pellegrino, when he locked in the triangle and proceeded to “flip off” everyone in attendance that night.  It is that swagger that sets Nate apart from other top lightweight fighters.  If Diaz finds that swagger of old, he’ll be one tough challenge for Gray Maynard.  However, like his brother, Nate must find the fine line between over confident and swagger.  Then he must walk that line very carefully, because if Maynard catches him when he’s being cocky, this one could end in violent fashion.

Elements of Success: Technical boxing

The Diaz brothers are fantastic boxers, mixing accurate punches with quick footwork and head movement.  If you re-watch Nate’s 2011 fight with Donald Cerrone, you’ll see an expert boxer at the absolute top of his game.  He battered Cerrone for three straight rounds and ‘Cowboy’ never had an answer for Diaz’s crisp hands.  It was one of the best performances of his UFC career.  In his last two fights, both losses, there was something missing from Nate’s attack, as he kept getting beat to the punch against Henderson and Thomson.  When he meets Maynard, he’ll want to be sharp with his striking.  I don’t think he can knock Gray out, but I do think Nate’s technical boxing is one of the elements of success for him in this fight.

Elements of Success: Get the Jitz Going

Nate Diaz has 11 career submission victories, with 8 of those coming in the UFC.  He definitely has solid game when the fight gets to the mat, and against a wrestler like Maynard there is always a possibility of some ground fighting.  Diaz has to be careful though, because ending up on the bottom is not always the best of situations, and Maynard has vicious ground and pound.  No matter how the positions work out on the ground, Nate has got to be aggressive.  He can’t sleep on Maynard and he needs to use those long limbs of his to keep his opponent weary.  I really like Nate’s chances in the ground aspect of this fight, since he’s submitted Maynard once already, what’s stopping him from doing it a second time.

Conclusion:  What is there to say?  Nate Diaz is brash, unapologetic and sometimes just plain rude, but he’s always true to himself.  He needs a victory in his main event matchup with Gray Maynard; another loss could be devastating if he ever plans on fighting for a UFC title again.  So all the Diaz faithful should hope he shows up with mean swagger, technical boxing and sharp BJJ skills and he just might come out on top!

 

Brent Haugh

Profightingfans.com Staff Writer