UFC 202 promised the rematch of the year between Nick Diaz and Conor McGregor, two opponents who established the hottest rivalry in mixed martial arts at UFC 196. Diaz defeated the Irish superstar in their first confrontation after stepping in on short notice to replace former lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, and he did so in spectacular fashion, sealing the deal with a second round rear naked choke. This set the stage for the rematch, a five round war that serves as a defining moment in the careers of both men. In the co-main, Glover Teixeira became the latest to fall to the terrible mass of flesh and destruction that is Anthony Johnson. Here’s a look at the big stories stemming from the major fights from last night.
McGregor Defeats Diaz, Declares ‘The King is Back’
McGregor quickly capitalized on the signature Diaz weakness and chewed up Diaz’s front leg with hard kicks. He scored round winning knockdowns in the first and second, though Diaz began to establish his offense late in the second. Diaz came alive in the third and began to string together combinations while McGregor began showing signs of exhaustion. By the fourth, McGregor was walking away from Diaz and taking long, deep breaths, though he managed to regain control and picked enough shots to win the round. The fifth round was close, but a takedown from Diaz near the end tipped it in his favor. A bloodied Diaz and battered McGregor congratulated each other briefly in a moment of sportsmanship after the final bell. At the end of the day, one judge ruled the contest a draw and the other two ruled it for McGregor, granting him the majority decision victory.
It has already been established that win or lose, McGregor will be returning to 145 pounds to defend the featherweight belt against interim champ Jose Aldo, and Aldo took to twitter to call out his rival. In his post-fight interview, Diaz claimed that he gave McGregor his rematch and that he wanted one as well. It’s likely that Diaz will fight again before this happens, and he has a world of options in a busy 155 pound division, though none will come with a two million dollar price tag.
Anthony Johnson KOs Teixeira in 13 Seconds
Anthony Johnson got his 7th career finish in under a minute at UFC 202, a stat that is every bit as horrifying as it is awesome. As Glover pressed forward, a short uppercut snapped his head around
and he slumped to the canvas. Johnson cemented another title shot with the win, he’ll be facing Daniel Cormier later this year. Teixeira has beaten most of his opponents outside of the top five of the division and he’ll likely take a step back down in competition until things change shape. Right now the most enticing matchup for the Brazilian is against fellow title challenger Alexander Gustafsson, though this likely won’t materialize anytime in 2016.
Cerrone Calls Out Eddie Alvarez
Donald Cerrone's striking was on display in the welterweight division against UFC vet Rick Story. He sealed the deal in the second round with a nasty four piece combo, a jab to a right body shot, then back over the top with a left hook, and finished with a head kick that staggered Story. From there he was able to finish his dazed opponent with strikes. He has been impressive at welterweight, so far going 3-0 in the division. He seems to have shaken the issues with slow starts that he used to have at 155, but after finishing his opponent he expressed that he wanted his next move to be a return to lightweight to challenge for the belt.
Though it isn’t unprecedented for a fighter to do this, the lightweight division has a number of competitors knocking at that door. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been on the cusp for most of his UFC career, and though he’s coming off of a loss, a solid win for Nate Diaz at 155 would put him in position for a title shot given his current star power.
Cerrone should continue to seek fights at 170. There are a number of solid opponents that could create unique matches for Cowboy and elevate his status in that arena. Brown, Nelson, and Kim would all provide some fun fights. Lorenz Larkin, who also got a win at UFC 202, would also be a great striking challenge.
Cody Garbrandt KOs Mizugaki, Wants Cruz Next
Garbrandt moved to 10-0 with his 48 second KO over Takeya Mizugaki. Garbrandt earned his 9th finish from the win and set his sights on UFC gold. He had some choice words for bantamweight king Dominick Cruz.
"Dominick Cruz, I'm going to break your jaw," said Garbrandt. "I'm going to show you who your daddy is for real." Cruz, as always, responded in the most amazingly condescending way during his Fox analysis.
"Garbrandt's been running his mouth for a long time. After I got done fighting Faber, he was right there already jawing, talking about me polishing the belt and whatnot. And it's like, "Man, alright. Now you've disrespected me before I even knew who you were." I didn't even say one word to this man. I didn't even know who he was! No clue! I just thought he was an up-and-comer with crazy tattoos. I thought he was CM Punk for a second, and then he got it together and I was like, "Oh, shoot - that's not. That's the CM Punk of the 135 pound division, he's got all the hype behind him." So maybe I should just go in there, take the wind from his sails, and then move on and keep beating everybody else." - Dominick Cruz
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