UFC 202: Will Conor McGregor Suffer Stockton Slap — And Then Tap Again?

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, barring any last-minute disasters, will meet for the second time at UFC 202. How things have changed since the shocking upset delivered by Diaz at UFC 196. McGregor talked trash for days leading up to the event and entered the Octagon a heavy favorite. It’s not surprising; his opponent accepted the fight on roughly 11 days notice.

With so little time for preparation and no camp to speak of, few expected Nate Diaz to put up the fight that he did against the former featherweight champion — much less churn out a win via submission. But it happened.

Following the UFC fighter’s shocking win, Nate Diaz uttered a simple sentence that instantly made him an MMA icon.

“I’m not surprised, mother f****ers.”

For what can only be face-saving reasons, Conor McGregor demanded and was given a rematch. The pair were supposed to meet again at the landmark pay-per-view event, UFC 200. That fell through in glorious fashion when the volatile Irishman refused to fly to Las Vegas to promote the event, and then Nate Diaz followed him “on vacation.”

Although UFC 200 found other fights to fill the gap, BJPenn.com noted that the PPV event failed to earn as much as UFC 196, seemingly justifying Conor’s belief that he’s the biggest draw the UFC has right now.

Conor McGregor has been quick to remind his boss, UFC President Dana White, that he makes money for the MMA company. He even went as far as to take credit for the UFC’s multi-billion dollar valuation. But for all the talk and high social media visibility, Conor McGregor is harboring an open secret: This PPV matters more to his reputation and legacy than he lets on.

Nate and his older brother, Nick Diaz, whether they win or lose, are a staple of the UFC. Beloved or hated, the duo’s fearless, “anytime and anywhere” attitude speaks to the lowbrow and blood-soaked foundation of the sport. And for Nate Diaz, regardless of the fight’s outcome, his earnings will likely be much higher from this point on, making the UFC 202 match something of a win-win.

Should Nate Diaz lose, then there will be a third fight at some point, especially if it’s a close loss handed down by a judge’s score card. Meanwhile, nothing but utter dominance by Conor McGregor will erase the memory of those Stockton slaps, followed by his embarrassingly quick tap.

It’s worth noting, as others have done, that former women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm lost her belt on the UFC 196 card. She endured a submission for many seconds longer than Conor McGregor. Holm even appeared to lose consciousness rather than tap — earning her quite a bit of respect.

And so after all the theatrics, McGregor’s mission is a relatively simple one: prove the previous loss was a fluke, remobilize his “hype train,” and then move back down the featherweight to regain his title. However, should Conor McGregor lose — and lose badly, he will probably limp back down in weight with his fighting reputation in tatters.

Even if Nate Diaz makes no move to challenge for a belt, he will find himself in a unique position. Nate Diaz will probably become the new face of the UFC.

It would be a shockingly organic turn of events in recent history for the UFC, which has seen the heavy promotion of Dana White’s alleged favorites: Ronda Rousey, Sage Northcutt, Paige Vanzant, and Conor McGregor. One could mention on-again-off-again MMA darling, Brock Lesnar.

Some have raised an eyebrow at the decisively “WASPy” imagery of those getting the biggest push at UFC. Dana White’s decision to promote the overtly racist Donald Trump hasn’t done much to calm such concerns. However, the rise of Nate Diaz, a poor Latino from the streets of Stockton, California, could shatter that so-called glass ceiling in a big way.

In defeat, Nate Diaz still might have risen considerably among the ranks of fighters regarding visibility. Meaning we’ll very likely be seeing more of him in the future.

In addition to his increased visibility, Nate has, according to MMAMania, taken the opportunity to increase his pay in a big way.

“They better hope I don’t win this fight, because it’s going to be a lot of trouble for everybody, in terms of the business. This one coming up, they better hope I don’t win this one because the game is going to change. It already has. People will say, ‘I’ll fight anybody, I love to fight.’ You love to fight? F**k that.”

Things are going to be much different for both men following the outcome of UFC 202. Of the two of them, Conor McGregor is the one in a must-win situation. That builds pressure and self-doubt that not even the most expensive pair of shades can hide.

We’ll see how things shake out for Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202. Which man do you expect to emerge the winner and why? Share your thoughts below!

[ Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images]