UFC 196 Recap and Analysis

UFC 196 went off without a hitch, and as a whole, stands to be one of the most unusual—and financially damaging—UFC pay-per-view events of all time.

The main event saw featherweight champion and Irish superstar Conor McGregor fall to the talented Stockton-based fighter Nate Diaz, while the co-main event saw the formerly undefeated women’s bantamweight champion Holly Holm, who is most widely known for her ferocious knockout of Ronda Rousey, fall to Miesha Tate via rear-naked choke as well.

As if this weren’t odd enough—two of the UFC’s biggest and most financially valuable stars falling via the same submission on the same night, as heavy favorites—the rest of the main card fights ended via unanimous decision and were generally uneventful. Undoubtedly, many of the casual fans who were watching were put-off by these contests and their relative inactivity.

Still, the main and co-main events, as well as some of the prelims, more than made up for a few uneventful fights on the card. Let’s take a closer look at the results of the main and co-main events, as well as a few of UFC 196’s other notable fights!

Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz

This outstanding two-round war was far from a walk in the park for Diaz.

In the first stanza of the contest, Diaz utilized his excellent boxing and movement in an attempt to keep McGregor at bay. Although Diaz was partially successful in doing so, landing some stiff shots of his own, McGregor did what he does best and landed a number of hard and punishing blows—none of which rocked or wobbled Diaz. To be clear, the punches that Nate Diaz walked through in the first round of this fight would have stopped the vast majority of other competitors.

As would the strikes that he absorbed to start the second, before landing a stiff straight shot to the chin of McGregor, which clearly wobbled him. Then, utilizing his pinpoint accuracy and excellent cardio (even without a full camp, evidently) Diaz landed a series of additional, powerful strikes, and forced McGregor to shoot in for a takedown. This was a clear sign of the Irishman’s desperation, and after reversing the position and assuming mount, Diaz landed a plethora of solid strikes and, as McGregor gave his back, sunk in the rear-naked choke for the finish.

This was an incredible win for one of the most durable and skilled fighters in the world in Diaz. Moreover, the win demonstrated the type of fighter that McGregor himself is: a live by the sword and die by the sword athlete. He didn’t have to take the fight on such short notice, nor did he have to move up weight divisions in the first place. Furthermore, he certainly didn’t have to stand in the pocket and trade as wildly as he did with Diaz.

It’s relatively hard to say what’s next for each man, but given the caliber of the win, Diaz should get a crack at the welterweight or lightweight belt, should he prefer to (with a bias towards welterweight, given that this contest took place at 170, and that the divisional landscape of the weight class is relatively barren). All eyes are on him, and although he has always been a top-level fighter, this win did well to demonstrate the culmination of years and years of his training and experience.

For McGregor, the time is now to move back to his own division and defend the belt against Jose Aldo or Frankie Edgar. Objectively speaking, both of these contests are incredibly difficult for him and anyone else on the planet, and his victory—even over Aldo, once again—is far from guaranteed. But, it goes without saying that all superfights are off of the table for now and the foreseeable future, until McGregor reestablishes his dominance, at least.

Miesha Tate vs Holly Holm

This incredible women’s bantamweight championship fight was far and away the second biggest financial detriment that the UFC suffered on the night, as a Holm-Rousey rematch now carries significantly less weight, given that Holm has been defeated.

The first round was relatively slow and even, and although most outlets scored the striking-based stanza for Holm, it’s important to note that it was very close, and that Tate landed two of the hardest punches of the five-minute period. This round was once again closer than many believe, but regardless of its scoring, did well to demonstrate that fans had a competitive and exciting fight on their hands.

The second round was all Tate. After securing a takedown and slamming Holm to the mat, “Cupcake” would eventually take her opponent’s back, and come close to finishing the fight via rear-naked choke. This was most likely a 10-8 round, given the sheer dominance of Tate.

But Holm bounced back strong in the third, using her distance and movement to largely keep Tate at-bay, and peppered her with relatively solid strikes. Nothing fight-ending landed by any means, but Holm stuffed the takedown attempts of her opponent and clearly took the slow-paced round.

More of the same was found in round four, and at this point, it appeared as though Holm was going to cruise to a decision victory or a draw. Her movement and range were simply too much, and although she once again didn’t land anything particularly vicious, she clearly commanded the action.

Dramatically, in the fifth and final round, Tate did what veterans of the sport do best: she found a way to win. After timing a takedown perfectly, it appeared as though Holm would quickly rise to her feet, but Tate maintained a tight and powerful grip. Then she placed the hooks in, and in an act of desperation while her opponent attempted the rear-naked choke, Holm flipped Tate, but that only made the choke progress to a tighter state. Now under the chin, Tate put Holm to sleep, as she refused to tap, to become the new bantamweight champion of the world.

This was a spirited affair that did well to demonstrate just how talented Miesha Tate truly is. Where she goes from here is tough to say, but given the crazy and unpredictable divisional landscape of women’s 135, perhaps the best move would be to let everyone fight as they please. Let Tate defend her title as she wants, Holm fight again or wait for the Rousey rematch, and see where the cards fall and go from there.

Erick Silva vs Nordine Taleb

In what may very well have been the most impressive finish of the night, in terms of pure appearance, Tristar MMA-product Nordine Taleb viciously KOed Erick Silva as a massive underdog in the second round of their welterweight contest.

The first round was probably owned by Taleb, as he landed the more effective and damaging overall strikes. Throughout this round and of course the entire fight, it appeared as though Silva had a general disrespect for and disregard of the skills of his opponent.

But this disrespect would cost him badly in the second round. After Silva threw yet another lazy kick to the midsection of Taleb, the talented Canadian saw the movement coming and caught the technique, and then proceeded to throw a vicious straight right hand that connected to Silva’s temple and put him out cold immediately.

The win was a massive one for the underdog Taleb, and did well to reaffirm his position as a high-level fighter. Although Taleb is thirty-four years old and frankly won’t take a shot at UFC gold in his career, there are still a ton of awesome matches for him in the promotion, and he could very well propel himself close to the top fifteen. A big win here deserves a big match next time around, and accordingly, Taleb should be booked against Tarec Saffiedine next.

For Silva, it has become abundantly clear that major changes must be made in his MMA career. Once one of the most highly touted prospects in the sport, Silva has displayed flashes of brilliance inside the Octagon, but has always come up-short whenever it appears as though some sort of success or momentum is being achieved. The fights that he is taking at welterweight aren’t coming close to ending favorably, and as such, a move to the middleweight division is a great idea for Silva.

He is probably too big to compete comfortably at welterweight, especially with the new IV-ban rules in place, and at middleweight, Silva could very well possess the speed advantage and the ability to make use of his power and explosiveness, without becoming fatigued or lethargic. His next fight should be against Joe Riggs in a loser-leaves-town contest.

Siyar Bahadurzada vs Brandon Thatch

This fight’s result was a sizable upset as a result of the incredible performance of Bahadurzada who, in his first Octagon appearance since 2013, defeated the highly touted Brandon Thatch via third-round arm-triangle choke.

The first two rounds of the contest, where Thatch is usually fresh and dominant, went the way of Bahadurzada, who landed the better strikes and made use of impressive reversals and sweeps to command top control and land solid punches. The second round was more dominant than the first, as Thatch began to fade and Siyar simply refused to let up.

The third round saw an exhausted and demoralized Thatch be brought to the ground once again, with relative ease. After landing some hard shots but not doing enough to please the ref, Bahadurzada was stood up, until he secured another easy takedown.

Then, with less than one minute left in the contest, “The Great” commanded an impressive arm-triangle choke which quickly elicited a tap from his opponent.

This was an outstanding way for Siyar Bahadurzada to make his long-awaited return to the Octagon, and with such a quality triumph over a well-respected opponent, Bahadurzada should receive a sensible step-up in competition, in the form of a match with either Mike Pyle or Ryan LaFlare.

As for Thatch, it’s clear that something needs to change in his career. Like Erick Silva, he was once one of the most highly touted young prospects in the sport. Now, however, the skilled Thatch has lost his last three via submission, albeit against elite competition (at least in the cases of Henderson and Nelson, for as good as Bahadurzada is, he still isn’t ready to be regarded with the best of the upper-echelon of the division). These losses are further amplified by the way that he performed against his opponent at UFC 196; Thatch simply didn’t look very good overall.

Perhaps this was due to the weight cut, in which case he should certainly make the jump to middleweight. Thatch has a very large frame, and most definitely possesses the power required to find success in the next division up. Let him battle Kevin Casey in another loser-leaves-town battle in his divisional debut.

As was said, UFC 196 truly was a card to remember. It was unique and exciting for a number of reasons obviously related to its main and co-main events, and more broadly, the general nature of its fights as a whole.

Perhaps most telling of the card was how much fans of the sport of MMA have to appreciate. For all of the criticism directed towards the UFC and Bellator for a number of reasons, the reality is that the combat-sports nightmare that was the result of the politics and corruption within boxing—between protected fighters, fixed bouts, and everything in-between—is a complete non-factor in the world of MMA.

Evidence of this point in all of its glory are the results of 196’s fights. The UFC lost millions in an important rematch between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm, as Holm recorded her first professional loss, and more notably, lost millions and millions more as featherweight champion Conor McGregor was defeated by Nate Diaz. The promotion didn’t protect these fighters or any others on the roster.

In short, MMA is a fun and exciting sport that is greatly benefitted and enhanced by a corruption-free set of leading promotions that are committed to providing fans with the best possible action between the world’ greatest fighters. UFC 196 was awesome, and hopefully the events of the future will be just as enjoyable!


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