Wrapping the Hands: Preparing for UFC 202’s Main Event

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UFC 202 will take place August 20th, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.  Fans are about to watch one of the most stacked cards in recent history.  The 200th anniversary event in July was advertised as the UFC’s biggest ever.  202 however, will likely deliver the punch 200 failed to do.  Each fight on this card is worthy of discussion.  But for now, here are some key areas Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor must focus on in their much anticipated main-event rematch:

Keys for Diaz

Stay Focused On The Fight.

Any die-hard purist of MMA will tell you they respect Diaz for his toughness and abilities in the octagon.  Despite his experience however, submitting Mcgregor at UFC 196 brings new found fame.  Diaz has never transcended the sport or headlined fights with this much publicity.  Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel weren’t hosting him before his first fight with McGregor.  Increased media obligations and the brighter spotlight can prove to be a distraction.  Ronda Rousey found this out found out the hard way in Austrailia.  How well Diaz can handle this new found attention, will be important to his repeated success.

This Is An MMA Fight, Not A Boxing Match.

While Diaz is very well rounded, one of his greatest strengths is found in his boxing.  But that’s not where he’s going to want to keep this fight.  Diaz is a black belt in jiu jitsu, while McGregor, prefers exclusively to stand up and strike.  Beyond his size advantage, Diaz can play on his strength and get this fight to the ground.   The temptation is there to stand and bang with McGregor, but the path to victory, is another submission.

Rely On Your Toughness.

Diaz is an octagon veteran who brings a 20-10 record to this fight.  Even more impressive than his experience, is the fact that he’s only been stopped twice. All of Diaz’s other losses have come via decision.  McGregor takes a lot of pride in his punching power.  Up until this fight, he famously claimed “nobody can handle that left shot and keep standing”.  Diaz, however, did.  Mainly because he has a tough chin and he can take a lot of punishment.  So for Diaz, weathering the early storm should pay dividends.

Keys for McGregor

Stay Focused On Your Strengths

McGregor claims he feels comfortable taking this fight to the mat despite losing there previously.  No one is claiming McGregor has self- esteem problems, but seeking Diaz on the ground to prove a point is a grave mistake.  McGregor has proudly posted on social media regarding his increased cardio preparation and mat work with the well respected Dillon Danis.  Four months of solid training in BJJ won’t to catch him up to the black belt level of Diaz.  McGregor needs to stay on his feet and hope for the lottery KO he couldn’t collect before.

This Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Shockwaves went through the MMA world with McGregor’s KO of Jose Aldo in 13 seconds at UFC 194.  But that wasn’t just an aberration, McGregor’s average fight time is 5:35.  McGregor will have to reinvent himself for this fight if he can’t score an early KO as he has done in all but one of his UFC victories.  The third round and beyond is territory McGregor isn’t that familiar with.  If he can be more patient and seek effective but balanced striking output, it should pay off.  For example, one area of success McGregor found in their previous fight was attacking Diaz’s front leg.  Diaz puts a lot of weight on that front leg when standing and striking.  Long term pay off strategies that lead to later rounds should be the goal.  This will leave enough gas in the tank for a late KO if the opportunity arises.

Rely On Your New Mantra, Not Your Confidence

McGregor has Muhammed Ali-like brashness and confidence in his abilities.  It has raised him to notoriety beyond the sport and given him fame few UFC fighters enjoy.  He has driven UFC ratings and pay per view buys to new levels as well.  However, that confidence led him astray in his previous endeavor against Diaz.  Conor has echoed his coach’s approach of “Win or Learn”.  He will have to do the latter, to achieve the former in this case.

Parting Thoughts

McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, recently stated that there will be no excuses if they lose again at UFC 202.  He added that his legacy as a coach depends on this fight.  UFC 202 might not be the fight to steak your reputation on however.  Diaz is a horrible matchup for McGregor.  And unlike many of McGregor’s previous opponents to date, he can’t defeat Diaz before the fight begins.

The most exciting thing about the UFC, is that on any given night, anyone can get their hand raised.  But for McGregor, avenging the previous loss requires a lot of things to go right.  Diaz’s path to victory isn’t nearly as difficult.  Vegas has McGregor as the favorite once again, but a second Diaz victory seems more likely.  McGregor has already claimed that this time around, he will KO Diaz inside of the 2nd round.  But Diaz, often a man of far fewer words than McGregor, has said, “We will see on August 20th at UFC 202.”

Yes we will Nate, yes we will.