Nate Diaz’s face is bleeding after an ordeal of a first round. Walking down the seemingly unstoppable force that is Conor McGregor, he finds success with a jab-cross combination that the Irishman scoffed at only five minutes before. Suddenly McGregor is moving backwards and Diaz is coming after him.
Pinning the Dubliner’s head against the fence, the Stockton slickster lets his opponent have it and when “The Notorious” manages to escape, in a vision that is rarer than hen’s teeth, he shoots for a takedown. Stuffing it, Diaz guides himself towards McGregor’s back as the captive audience growls in anticipation.
His arm slips under McGregor’s chin and the excitement in the MGM Grand Garden Arena nearly lifts the roof of the premises. McGregor’s tap concludes nearly three years of groundbreaking ascension, and with his defeat three titles come into play again, freed from the burden of speculation.
By press row, Tyron Woodley is singing and dancing. With Robbie Lawler being left on the shelf for a potential date with McGregor, and Stephen Thompson being matched with Rory MacDonald, it looks like the American Top Team man will finally get a crack at his teammate.
And earlier …
Traditional Irish music welcomes Holly Holm into the arena to the delight of the packed MGM Grand Garden Arena, which has yet to see the self-proclaimed ‘Irish King’ fall. As the co-main event gets under way, the audience takes turns chanting the names of the two fighters battling for the women’s bantamweight title.
Although it seems like Tate has let her chances of winning the bout fade away as the claxon ends her grappling assault in the second round, somehow, Tate locks up a rear naked choke in the dying embers of the fifth. As Holm loses consciousness, the crowd loses its mind as Tate finally declares herself at the top of the mountain.
With the same numbers not travelling in droves from Ireland this time, the vast majority of Irish flags carried on the night are from American fans. Not only has McGregor made the casuals trade their allegiance with their own countrymen, but he has also attracted a who’s who of celebrities to the venue.
Gordan Ramsey, Zac Brown, Nick Jonas, Reggie Bush and Gerard Butler file into their front row seats by the Octagon before the co-main event gets underway. Desperate to share in the excitement that saw the travelling Irish have a $200 million impact on Sin City in July, they are oblivious to the fact that they are about to witness two of the greatest upsets in the history of the UFC.
There will not be the same dancing up and down Las Vegas boulevard by the Green Army tonight, but should their champion call on their support again at UFC 200 in July, they are sure to give an emphatic answer that the world will witness when the UFC take its marquee show to the newly built T-Mobile Arena.
Peter Carroll is a longtime MMA journalist who writes for the Irish Mirror, FIGHTLAND and SevereMMA.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PetesyCarroll
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC