The best fight the best

Many fans of the Ultimate Fighting Championships cite the fact that the best are forced to fight the best and, as such, you never really know what might happen as reasons why they prefer it to boxing. At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, UFC 196 hammered those points home as Conor McGregor and Holly Holm, fresh off of devastating victories over two of the best fighters in the fledgling sport’s history, were themselves defeated in fights they were expected to win.

How Conor McGregor lost

The Conor McGregor hype train was spectacularly derailed when Nate Diaz, a late stand in, rocked McGregor with straight punches before taking the Irishman’s back and submitting him with a rear naked choke in the second of five scheduled rounds. McGregor, as he always does, took the fight to the taller, rangier Diaz in the first, snapping back the American’s head with punches and cutting him badly above the right eye.

As he came out for the second, Diaz’s face was a mask of blood and perhaps sensing the danger, he started throwing more straight punches at the advancing McGregor. The Notorious was stopped in his tracks and for the first time in the UFC McGregor really looked in danger. As Diaz started to unload, McGregor gamely stood his ground and fired back but his punches seemed to lack conviction and Nate’s shots continued to rattle him. In an uncharacteristic move, McGregor shot for a weak takedown attempt and Diaz, the superior Jiu Jitsu technician, took his back, landed some punches and then sunk in a rear naked choke. A tap out later and McGregor will surely be heading back down the weight divisions.

How Holly Holm lost

In the co main event, Holly Holm suffered a similar fate to McGregor, also losing by rear naked choke to Misha Tate.

Against Ronda Rousey, Holm had fought on the back foot against the uber aggressive come forward Rousey, picking her off with fists and feet to take the title and shock the world. Challenger Misha Tate had clearly studied that fight and instead of chasing Holm down, she made the counter punching preacher’s daughter the aggressor.

To Holly Holm’s credit, she was still able to control large portions of the fight on the front foot, using a wide variety of kicks as well as her trademark boxing skills. Misha Tate’s tactics were to try and time Holm’s straight shots, duck underneath and shoot for the takedown. In the first four rounds, Holly Holm stuffed every takedown attempt bar one in the second round. When Tate did get Holm to the floor in the second, she showed good ground control and dominated the champion but couldn’t quite force a finish, with Holm slipping out of a choke attempt.

However Misha Tate’s patience paid off. With a couple of minutes remaining of the fifth and final round Tate would have known she needed a stoppage to win and the fighter known as cupcake duly iced the champion Holm. Again countering a Holm attack, Tate shot for the legs and would not let go, doggedly clinging on, taking Holm’s back and applying the rear naked choke. Holly Holm showed a true champion’s heart and did everything to fight Tate off, attempting to throw her to the mat. Yet Tate would not be denied and Holm, refusing to tap, was left unconscious on the mat.

The results at UFC 196 once again underline the exciting and unpredictable nature of mixed martial arts. Bring on Jon Jones against Daniel Cormier!