LAS VEGAS — Nate Diaz beat Conor McGregor by submission with 48 seconds left in the second round Saturday night for the second spectacular upset of UFC 196.
Diaz (20-10) was battered and bloodied for the first 1 1/2 rounds by McGregor (19-3), the UFC 145-pound featherweight champion and pay-per-view star fighting at 170 pounds.
Diaz, who took the fight on less than two weeks’ notice, abruptly changed the bout with an electric series of punches before forcing McGregor to tap out on the ground.
“I thought I landed with some good punches that got him off (his game),” Diaz said in one of his few post-fight comments not punctuated by exuberant profanity. “I started off slow, but I’m faster than anyone later on. My jiu-jitsu is always there for me.”
The main event was the greatest moment in the career of Diaz, a pugnacious veteran from a notorious fighting family in Stockton, California. Diaz had lost three of his past five fights and was just 5-5 since 2010, but his size and power abruptly finished McGregor, who had boasted of his plans to hold championships in multiple weight classes.
The loss ended McGregor’s 15-fight winning streak since November 2010 and put a blemish on the loquacious Irish face of the UFC.
“These things happen,” McGregor said. “I learn, I grow. I’ll face it like a man, like a champion.”
McGregor is still the UFC’s 145-pound champion, but he agreed to fight Diaz at the welterweight limit less than two weeks ago when 155-pound lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos dropped out of his matchup with McGregor due to a foot injury.
McGregor set a new UFC record with his $1 million disclosed purse for this fight, but that’s only a portion of the wealth bestowed on a champion who gets a percentage of pay-per-view sales and other undisclosed bonuses. He expected a comfortable win over Diaz, comparing the veteran to a gazelle about to be eaten by a lion.
Instead, McGregor got bit.
“I felt good in the first round, but I was inefficient,” McGregor said. “He was efficient. I wasn’t. I took a chance. It didn’t work out.”