We are just 10 days away from the rematch of year as Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor 2 closes in on UFC 202 in Las Vegas a week on Saturday, and although pressure will be on ‘The Notorious’ to claim his revenge he isn’t the only one from the SBG Ireland camp feeling the heat.
Head coach John Kavanagh shouldered much of the blame for not having McGregor prepared enough first time around and although the opponent change with Diaz replacing Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196 came on 11 days notice, Kavanagh believes a second defeat will leave the SBG team with no defence – and that includes his own standing in the MMA community.
“There can be no excuses here if we don’t get the result we’re pursuing,” offers Kavanagh. “The preparation has been flawless. But the reassuring thing from our point of view is that I know we won’t need any excuses because it’s not going to come to that.
“This is a very important fight for Conor, but I also feel that my own reputation as a coach is at stake. This contest can be a bit of a game-changer for us all. Some observers who are obsessed with weight classes and belts don’t see this as a very meaningful fight. They’re more interested in seeing Conor defend his featherweight belt and going after the lightweight strap, too.”
McGregor is known for making quick starts and in most cases gets early finishes. His 14-second knockout of José Aldo last December is a perfect example of that. For this Diaz rematch, however, Kavanagh believes he will need to take his time and predicts a finish in the later rounds.
“Patience will be essential for Conor in this fight,” Kavanagh adds. “I’m veering towards a fourth-round finish in his favor, following an opening three rounds which I expect him to dominate in the same manner he did in the first frame of the previous fight.
“We’re ready for 25 minutes but I do believe that the cumulative damage will have become too much by the fourth round, resulting in Nate’s corner stopping the fight if the referee doesn’t do it before that.”