UFC 196 Aftermath: What’s Next For Diaz, Tate, Holm, and McGregor

Playing Joe Silva

 

UFC 196 will go down as a night of upsets as betting underdogs Nate Diaz and Miesha Tate finish Irish sensation Conor McGregor and UFC bantamweight champ Holly Holm. After a great night of fights, we look at the likely opponents our four pugilists would face next.

Nate Diaz

Let’s get things straight: Nate Diaz did not shake the MMA world. 2015’s Conor McGregor did. When he destroyed long-time champion and then pound-for-pound king Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds, and then announced that he’s going after lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos next, that f*cked up the sport of MMA good. Suddenly, rankings did not matter anymore, because the UFC started to agree with Conor that pound-for-pound, he is “number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and maybe Jon is 9, and ‘Mighty Mouse’ is 10.”

Last night, Diaz simply restored the natural order of things. Just like Georges St-Pierre driving BJ Penn back to the lightweight division in UFC 94, Diaz did what was supposed to be Dos Anjos’ job of putting McGregor in his place. And, two-week notice or not, he did a masterful job by rocking, then submitting Conor in the second round of their main event fight.

While the Irishman posited that Nate should fight for the lightweight strap next, with so many contenders ahead of him, it is highly unlikely that Conor’s influence would once again move the UFC to do just that. Seated at No. 5 in the lightweight rankings prior to his UFC 196 performance, Eddie Alvarez, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Anthony Pettis, and ‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson would literally flip if Nate bypasses them for disposing of a featherweight import.

That said, Diaz absolutely deserves to fight a top 4 guy, possibly for the No. 1 contendership status. While a fight between Nate and a scrappy El Cucuy would be an absolute barn-burner, Ferguson is slated to fight a returning Nurmagomedov this April 16. Pettis, who recently lost to Alvarez, is in need of a career resurgence after back-to-back losses and will be facing Edson Barboza on April 23.

That leaves us with Eddie Alvarez who, while currently seated at the No. 1 spot, is coming off two split decision victories over Melendez and Pettis, and needs to put in an impressive performance after the bore fest that was his last fight to get fans interested on the prospect of a lightweight championship bout.

eddie alvarez

Alvarez’s last performance was effective, but not as impressive.

Let’s face it: UFC fans are into the pre-fight hoopla as much as they are for a great night of fights, and Nate Diaz has proven that he can deliver on both ends, while both Dos Anjos and Alvarez still need some work on their pre-fight antics. Having Diaz vs. Alvarez while RDA heals his foot might be the best recourse to keeping the lightweight division busy and talked about while at the same time painting a compelling storyline for the division’s next title fight.

Miesha Tate

Miesha ‘Cupcake’ Tate is finally a UFC champion!

Securing a rear-naked choke at 3:30 of the 5th round, Tate vanquished kickboxing elite Holly Holm in the co-main event of UFC 196.

Her next opponent is a no-brainer: The rivalry between Tate and former female alpha Ronda Rousey runs deep and is a storyline that would sell, even though Rousey has taken Tate’s arm home in their previous two meetings.

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Bad blood between Rousey and Tate runs deep.

The only question is when this would happen. UFC president (and Rousey advocate) Dana White has stated that ‘Rowdy’ will return in the latter part of 2016 after satisfying her filming obligations. However, the two films she’s supposed to star in have yet to begin production, so Ronda could return sooner should the films be cancelled (unlikely) or later if filming is just delayed. But, this is Miesha Tate we’re talking about and, based on Rousey and Dana’s exchanges after Tate won, the former champion seemed to be much more motivated to return to the Octagon after hearing of the news.

Holly Holm

Man, ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ seriously needs to work on her ground game.

Holm’s sprawl was on point for many of the (sloppy) takedown attempts Tate went for, but in two of the takedowns that did materialize, Holm paid dearly for the dullness of her bottom game. Tate literally owned Holly in the second round of their fight, the champion offering little resistance as the challenger transitioned from half guard to mount to taking Holm’s back, then coming so close to finishing the fight with her first series of RNC attempts. Then in round 5, Tate went for a “bum rush” to take Holly’s back – and she actually got it. From there, Miesha didn’t let go of Holly’s neck, choking the Preacher’s Daughter unconscious.

The UFC will have to choose Holm’s next opponent gingerly, depending on what they want to do with her UFC career. Without a doubt, she has to work on her BJJ. And that takes time.

If the UFC has any plan of mounting a Rousey vs. Holm 2 in the near future, pairing Holly up with an opponent who would more likely strike with her would be the safer bet, allowing Holm to show her genius on the feet whilst giving her time to continue to better her BJJ. Here, Cat Zingano and Amanda Nunez come to mind. On the other hand, grappling-savvy Julianna Pena and Sarah McMann would be absolute stylistic nightmares for Holm at this point in her development as a fighter. Personally, Zingano looks to be a sensible choice, as ‘Alpha’ has had a history with both Rousey and Tate to sell either fight should she win.

Cat_Zingano2

Zingano’s scrappy style is an interesting contrast to Holm’s disciplined striking.

Whichever of the four women the UFC decides to go with, I have a feeling all of them would try to exploit Holm’s weakness on the ground. In other words, Holly’s success as a fighter following this setback at UFC 196 is still very much dependent on her. After all, unless Rousey bullishly wants to prove a point, I don’t think she’ll stand and bang with Holly should they meet again.

Conor McGregor

Let’s get things straight, again: Conor McGregor did not move up two weight classes for UFC 196. He moved up one weight class to face Rafael Dos Anjos, sh*t happened, then he and late replacement Nate Diaz (who fights at lightweight) decided to not cut weight for their main event bout. I have to say, hats off to Conor for not being a prima donna; a camp-less Diaz who still needs to go through weight cut would be at too much of a disadvantage.

McGregor took a risk, and he paid the price.

Yes, he’s $1M richer, but the aura of invincibility that made his trash talking relevant has been breached. Nate Diaz rocked McGregor, then he reversed him to punish him some more, then when McGregor gave his back, Nate sunk in a rear-naked choke that made Conor tap in a sliver of time. Fighting a bigger, rangier opponent in Nate Diaz revealed that Conor McGregor is after all human, and the physical limitations that led to fighters being segregated into weight classes govern him as much as any prize fighter.

What we know for sure is that Conor will be moving back to featherweight for his next fight. Whether it will be a rematch against Aldo or a long-earned title opportunity for Edgar is still up in the air. The truth is, both matches make absolute sense.

Jose Aldo was at the top of not only the featherweight division, but the pound-for-pound rankings before McGregor toppled him in seconds. Many justify that if one Ronda Rousey deserves an immediate rematch after the beatdown she received from Holm, what more Aldo who lost due to a “lucky punch” that simply landed flush.

And then there’s Frankie, beating Swanson and Mendes as part of his 5-fight win streak at featherweight, a run that leaves him with no other logical opponent than the current champion or Jose Aldo, but we all know we can’t have both.

Jose Aldo’s last win was in October 2014 against Chad Mendes, a barn-burner that went the whole five rounds. He was supposed to face McGregor in UFC 189, but pulled out because of a last-minute injury. Then he lost his title in just 13 seconds to McGregor last December. He promised to be ready for a rematch “anytime, anywhere,” but when the UFC called up for UFC 196, his camp said that he wasn’t ready. Conor and the UFC are targeting UFC 200 in July for the featherweight title fight. By that time, it will be 623 days since Aldo’s last win.

Frankie’s last win was one night before UFC 194, clocking out Chad Mendes with a wicked left hook. He was promised a title shot because of that performance, but was overlooked after Conor decided to go after RDA. He’s been clamoring ever since, going crazy on Twitter and asking for the fight whenever he could. Then he suffered a groin tear, making him miss the opportunity on UFC 196. He will only be 7 months inactive should he be given the nod for UFC 200.

Edgar Mendes

Oh, let’s not forget was Edgar did to Mendes in TUF 22 Finale.

Here’s the thing: If the UFC goes with Aldo, they’re effectively putting Frankie’s career on hold (and Frankie isn’t getting any younger) just to give Aldo a rematch – someone who lost a lot of followers to his cause when he said that he wasn’t fight-ready to face Conor in 196. It would make a whole lot more sense to give Frankie the title shot as many pundits claim his style to be problematic for Conor – and Conor has some redeeming to do as well – while giving Aldo Mendes or Holloway to regain his momentum (for himself as much as with his fans), and should he win face the winner of McGregor vs. Edgar.

There you have it. Our predictions for the next steps for the main and co-main event pugilists of UFC 196. What are your thoughts on this?

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John Hudson Go is the Editor-in-Chief of MMA Philippines.

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