Cardio the focus for McGregor ahead of UFC 202 rematch with Diaz

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One of the biggest critiques of Conor McGregor after his defeat to Nate Diaz at UFC 196 back in March was that he ran out of energy late on in the second round of the bout.

The featherweight champion was certainly quick out of the blocks, employing the same forceful tactics that he regularly utilises in his typical weight class, despite this contest being two weights higher at welterweight.

McGregor was much the smaller man conceding height and reach, but he retained presence and landed some hefty left hands over the top, one of which opened a cut above his opponent’s left eyebrow.

However, he was having to consistently work hard throughout the opening five minutes, with Diaz regularly throwing out accurate jabs. Not only was McGregor frequently weaving, dipping and pulling away in an attempt to avoid contact, some were getting through to wear him down further.

Because of his shorter reach too, the Irishman found himself working harder to get into range, especially with Diaz proving adept at stepping back, while simultaneously counter punching.

Ultimately, this all led to McGregor’s demise, but cardio is certainly something he appears to have been working on ahead of his rematch with Diaz at UFC 202, where he will again step into the Octagon at welterweight.

Round four hundred and twelve. Against middleweights. They'll study this camp. #UFC202

A photo posted by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

It’s worth pointing out that McGregor wasn’t able to prepare in the same way for the initial fight, with Diaz stepping in as a late replacement for then UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.

The whispers coming out of the McGregor camp is that he will not switch gameplan for this rematch and will again rely on the strategy that has proved so successful against fighters who are not only his own weight, but also box in an orthodox stance.

Like McGregor, Diaz is a southpaw, which poses some issues in terms of the punching lines that have traditionally been reliable for the Irishman.

If McGregor can continue stepping through Diaz’s constant jabbing and counter punching he will be able to remain on the front foot for longer, but stamina is arguably the strongest asset of his opponent, who is a regular triathlon competitor.

However, even if 412 rounds of sparring have been completed, keeping pace with Diaz’s tempo over the duration of the fight will not be easy.

Meanwhile, with Diaz being the superior athlete if the fight goes to the ground, if McGregor does tire again, it may well lead to a similar conclusion.

The betting is much closer this time, although it is McGregor who is favourite again at 5/6.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.