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Retro Robbery Review: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 2

UFC 202 Photos
Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.

UFC 202 marked Conor McGregor’s most-watched triumph as he earned a decision over Nate Diaz to avenge the first, humbling loss of his UFC career. It was a rematch that McGregor demanded and by beating his rival, he restored much of the hype that had been dented by Diaz.

Recently as part of ESPN’s “UFC Day,” the network ran a flashback feature on the Aug. 20, 2016, bout as opposed to showing it in its entirety, so it falls upon us at Retro Robbery Review headquarters to properly look over the footage and ask whether McGregor truly did enough to even the score with Diaz that day.

What was the official result?

Conor McGregor def. Nate Diaz via majority decision.

How did the fight go?

Much better than the first one did for McGregor, that’s for sure.

There would be no second-round submission this time, whether it was due to McGregor being more efficient with his energy or respecting Diaz’s toughness more. He’s still in Diaz’s face, but he’s not headhunting. He’s dodging in and out, light on his feet, wary of Diaz’s length. About 90 seconds in, McGregor lands that signature left and moments later, another one that causes Diaz to stumble. It’s worth noting that Diaz throws plenty in round one himself, but the knockdown as well as several more emphatic head shots appear to make this an easy frame to score for McGregor.

The same could be said in the second as McGregor scores another clear knockdown less than 30 seconds in. Diaz gets dropped again moments later. If he’s trying to trick McGregor into jumping into his guard, he’s sacrificing the opening rounds to do so. If he’s looking for McGregor to tire himself out again, well, he might have something there. Diaz comes on strong in the final two minutes and he is peppering McGregor against the fence. It’s at this point you start to wonder if we could see Diaz get the finish again, just one round later this time.

A visibly tiring McGregor does his best to match Diaz’s aggression in the third, but Diaz is starting to wear him down in the clinch. McGregor fights his way out of it and lands some hard shots up top that back Diaz up again. Still, Diaz is all smiles and soon we find out why. Diaz ties McGregor up again and pushes him to the fence. McGregor doesn’t power out this time, rather he leisurely strolls away from Diaz. Diaz walks him down and he’s landing cleanly now, brushing off McGregor’s shots. In the last 45 seconds, Diaz unloads on McGregor, battering his head and body against the cage until the buzzer sounds.

The pace has slowed for both men, but McGregor is still scoring. Now it looks like it’s Diaz who’s conserving his energy for a big finish. McGregor refuses to be bullied in the clinch and he sneaks in a few power shots as Diaz continues to land with volume. This is the toughest round to score so far.

McGregor is again in retreat mode early in the fifth, looking to conserve his energy. When he throws, he’s connecting, but the same could be said of Diaz. McGregor gazes upwards to check the clock on multiple occasions. Tired as McGregor is, he stops a deep Diaz takedown attempt. He walks away with his hands on his hips, drawing the ire of the crowd. It’s here you can start to see the argument for Diaz being the better man in the fight. He buries McGregor against the cage for much of the round and scores a takedown in the closing seconds. A clear fifth round for Diaz.

What did the judges say?

Derek Cleary scored it 48-47 McGregor.

Jeff Mullen scored it 48-47 McGregor.

Glenn Trowbridge scored it a 47-47 draw.

Not much controversy here as all three judges scored the rounds the same as far as who won them, with McGregor taking rounds one, two, and four, and Diaz winning rounds three and five.

Where judge Trowbridge differed was in his scoring of the third frame. He felt that Diaz’s sustained offense—and one could argue, near-finish—of McGregor in that round was enough for Diaz to be awarded a 10-8.

What did the numbers say?

(Statistics per UFC Stats)

If you want to understand why the Diaz army feels it has a case for its boy to have claimed a win over McGregor, there are threads to pull on when you look at the stats.

In total strikes, Diaz blew McGregor out of the water by a margin of 252-197. Diaz not only out-landed McGregor in the third and fifth, he actually beat McGregor 51-36 in the second round; however, in that same round, McGregor was credited with two knockdowns, which all but guaranteed the judges would score it in his favor. McGregor also scored a knockdown in round one, a five-minute stretch that was McGregor’s best in the fight as he out-struck Diaz 34-25 (the total and significant strike stats were identical in round one).

Diaz’s monster third round saw him lap McGregor in total strikes 79-37.

Just counting significant strikes, the fight is much closer on paper. Diaz still has the edge, but it’s almost non-existent at 166-164. Going round-by-round only muddies the waters further as Diaz had a significant strike advantage in rounds two and three, but McGregor actually won the other three including the last round. According to the numbers, Diaz had more total strikes in round five (49-34) but McGregor had more significant strikes (24-19).

With that said, you can see how McGregor fans are comfortable supporting the actual result as well.

What did the media say?

(Data derived from MMA Decisions)

Of the 19 outlets tallied on MMA Decisions, 14 scored the fight for McGregor, one for Diaz, and four called it a draw.

What did the people say?

Per MMA Decisions, 46.8 percent of voters saw this contest in favor of McGregor by a score of 48-47. The next highest results were 13.5 percent in favor of Diaz (48-47) and 10.2 percent leaning towards a draw (47-47).

In an on-screen graphic shown on the UFC 202 broadcast before the cards were read, 65 percent of viewers thought McGregor was the winner.

How did I score it?

48-47 McGregor.

Look, I get that it’s tempting to take that dominant Diaz third and project it onto the remainder of the fight, especially when you consider the lackluster way in which McGregor ran out the clock in the fifth, but in the moment I still remember being shocked by the second wind that McGregor found for the championship rounds after it looked like Diaz had him dead to rights.

The first two rounds are indisputable due to the knockdowns, even given Diaz’s toughness and the fact that at no point did he stop pushing the pace. The eye test doesn’t do Diaz any favors here as he’s never worn fights well from a superficial standpoint and McGregor’s accurate punches really seem to stagger him. Of course, only Diaz knows for sure how damaging those shots were, but I’m still convinced that McGregor was the more effective striker on that night.

Was it a robbery?

Re-watching the fight, my thoughts were pretty much the same as the first time around. It wasn’t until I looked at the striking stats that I thought twice about the results. In terms of sheer volume, Diaz really was the busier fighter and the numbers reflect that. There are also strong optics in his favor given the way round three ended and McGregor’s self-conscious jogging and glancing at the clock in the later stages of the fight.

But three knockdowns are hard to ignore, even if you don’t believe that Diaz was in any serious danger. If you want to say Diaz was close to finishing McGregor in round three, then McGregor was arguably just as close in round two. Either way, there isn’t much of a case for a Diaz win on the cards and only a slightly better one for a draw.

The final verdict

Not a robbery.


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