Count Brian Stann among those who feel the UFC made the correct call in giving Nate Diaz the replacement nod against Conor McGregor.
There were several option to replace injured lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos against the featherweight champion on Saturday at UFC 196 in Las Vegas, But the way Stann, the popular FOX analyst and former WEC light heavyweight champion, saw it, the people wanted Diaz and the UFC catered to what the people wanted.
"As much as I'd be intrigued for Donald Cerrone, who was in shape to sell the fight, there was more noise from the fans who wanted to see the Nate Diaz fight," Stann said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "And they spend more money to see Nate Diaz. I think Donald Cerrone was willing to fight him, but they spent money to make the fight the fans wanted to see."
When you add all the factors together, Diaz simply made the most sense, Stann says.
"Nate Diaz did a lot for himself going on FOX and having an expletive-filled post-fight speech calling out Conor McGregor," Stann said. "And that's just a fact, these Diaz brothers have a massive following and they deserve it. They've fought for a long time and they've won an awful lot of fights, and again, different than Michael Bisping does. They find a way to make every fight personal, they make people want to see them fight. I think they made the right decision, while I would like to see other guys get a shot at him, I think Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor sells the most."
The bout, of course, will be contested at lightweight, a concession to the fact Diaz accepted the fight on two weeks' notice. While McGregor is jumping two weight classes to accept the fight, Stann isn't too concerned. While Diaz has competed at 170 pounds in the past, he's a natural lightweight.
"Nate Diaz tried a run at 170 pounds," Stann said. He was not a natural 170 pounder. ... Nate Diaz is most effective at 155 pounds, which is not a big jump for Conor. It's a more natural weight for Conor than 145 is. This is not a mistake for Conor. If Conor tries to jump up and fight someone like Stephen ‘Wonderboy' Thompson, that's a mistake. That's a big guy at 170 pounds who is a legitimate 170 pounder, that's a big weight jump. Nate Diaz is fighting at 170 because he doesn't have to the time to cut to 155 pounds and be effective."
Still, this doesn't mean the fight is without potential peril for McGregor. For one thing, he won't have his usual reach advantage, leaving him a puzzle to solve.
"This is the first time Conor McGregor is going to fight someone who is longer than him," Stann said. "Most peoples natural inclination when you're punching them is to lean back and leave the body open. Nate Diaz's legs get chopped up repeatedly. I think over time Conor will stay inside, and Conor isn't used to always being the quicker guy. Conor is exceptional in many ways. He's got power, he's got balance, he's got flexibility. Those are a lot of gifts you don't always see fighters have all of them. In this fight he'll be the quicker athlete."
That speed advantage could be Conor's key to solving Diaz's forward-moving style.
"Nate Diaz tends to, when he extends on his punches, he's very long and there's a lot of volume, but because he stands so heavy on his legs he takes awhile to retract on his punches," Stann said. "And Conor is going to look to counter a little more, if Nate puts that jab out ther,e he's going to try to follow that jab with his left hand, arch it with an overhand, and beat that hand back to the chin."
If you're Diaz, and you're trying to figure out how to solve McGregor on short notice, you can always go to your bread and butter. Diaz has one of the sneakiest jiu-jitsu games in MMA.
"The real key for Nate is he has to use his reach, he has to maximize it," Stann said. "Even if he misses early, he's got to keep his range where Conor can't collapse in on him and hit him, and tag him at the end of his punches. Force McGregor to get more frustrated, get desperate to grab him, get desperate to reach him. When he does that? Grab him, overhook him, lift him, try to wrap him around your head, anything to try to create a scramble, because Nate has very sneaky chokes in transition. That's where Nate will get you, in the transition."
One potential wild card? The psychological game. Stann heard something come out of Diaz's mouth at last week's wild press conference which Stann believes suggest Diaz has already let the idea of defeat enter his mind.
"For him to say "it's kill or be killed in this fight," that tells you right there he's already put in his mind, I'm willing to get knocked out to put on a show," Stann said. "You don't hear that from Nate Diaz when he's confident and fully prepared and bringing all of his weapons. This is a Nate Diaz who in my mind is either playing possum, or is thinking I'm not at my best, I've got to work with what I've got to make the big money in this fight."