Conor McGregor will rematch Nate Diaz at UFC 200, and the reaction is overwhelmingly… “Why?”
Well, we know why. From the company’s perspective, their first fight headlined what was either the biggest Pay Per View in UFC history, or close to it. In addition, McGregor, their biggest star, wants this fight, to avenge his loss, and has a history of getting what he wants because of the drawing power he brings to the table. When an athlete who really believes in their ability loses, especially in that manner, the only thing they want is a chance to run it back and prove what they are absolutely sure of, that they can win. This is especially true in the case of Conor McGregor. The man really believes the superlatives he bestows on himself, or at least, some of them.
There are two main problems with this rematch. First, it’s not justified. The result was extremely clear, as Diaz both rocked McGregor on the feet and then choked him out on the ground. Second, it has potentially serious consequences for the UFC and McGregor’s career if he loses again. This isn’t the first time the company has scheduled fights like this, either; it’s not just McGregor. The UFC has a habit of booking unnecessary immediate rematches. What qualifies as unnecessary? Re-booking a fight without a reasonable explanation is patently unnecessary. There should be some justification for a rematch, preferably multiple reasons, and “if it makes money it makes sense” doesn’t count.
If the first fight was very close or controversial with high stakes, as well as being an action fight, such as Edgar-Maynard 2, that may be justification. If an all-time great champion was having success and lost in what could have been perceived as a fluke manner, that may be justification, like Silva-Weidman 1. However, the commercial success of that second Weidman-Silva fight seemed to trigger a spate of them. Interestingly, we have seen many of these planned rematches fall apart or not go as planned. Here are five examples of the dangers of the rematch, from simply tying up the division to derailing a fighter’s career.
Anderson Silva – Chris Weidman 2 was a commercial success, but ended in gruesome tragedy as Silva broke his leg after being unable to get any offense going. Weidman never really got the chance to prove his first victory was more than a fluke in the minds of casual fans, despite winning all four rounds of their fight decisively. Anderson Silva nearly lost a leg- a doctor said afterward, that if his skin had broken, amputation would have been necessary. Fortunately, Silva did make a comeback, but did it with some illegal help, and failing that drug test cast a pallor over his career. Weidman went on to defeat two of Silva’s countrymen before losing to Luke Rockhold. Now he is scheduled for a rematch that may leave him in the same divisional twilight zone he put Anderson in.
Cain Velasquez – Fabricio Werdum 2 was serendipitously and predictably undone by a Velasquez injury. This one was particularly awful in conception because the first bout had a very clear outcome. Velasquez’s injuries had already tied up the division for years, and the heavyweight division actually has a glut of potential challengers for once. The misgiving proved correct, as Cain’s body let him down with injury, yet again, and the entire PPV had to be jettisoned. Now, one of them, Stipe Miocic, will challenge Werdum for the title in a massive Brazil super-event in May, a far better prospect than a pointless rematch. Cain Velasquez is scheduled to fight Travis Browne in an excellent matchup at UFC 200.
Robbie Lawler – Johnny Hendricks 3, poor Johnny Hendricks. After winning top contender fight after contender fight, getting passed over for the likes of Nick Diaz, finally getting his shot, coming a coin toss round away from beating all-time great Georges St. Pierre, to finally winning the title only to lose it again in two excellent fights with Robbie Lawler, he was promised a third bout with Lawler and a chance to redeem himself. Yet, despite having nothing but exciting fights for years on end, the fans rebelled and told Dana White so emphatically that they wanted to see fresh blood, that the bout was scrapped. Rory got his due instead, and we the fans won, as Rory and Lawler engaged in the fight of 2015, an absolute bloodbath and an all-time classic fight. Hendricks then won a stay-busy fight with Matt Brown, but with Lawler still the champ, realized that no one wanted to see minutes 50-75 of that trilogy, and took a step down in competition against old rival Tyrone Woodley. When his body failed on the weight cut, Woodley claimed he was now the top contender by default. The shot, however, went to Carlos Condit, and the result was yet another barnburner of a welterweight title scrap. Hendricks, meanwhile, has seen his title hopes slip further and further away with a first-round KO loss to Stephen Thompson. With his Bigg Rigg restaurant also closing, one certainly feels for Johnny.
Ben Henderson – Frankie Edgar 2 was an unnecessary fight, but the fact that Edgar had to fight two immediate rematches of his own, against BJ Penn and against Gray Maynard in a heroic effort, made it seem deserved, if not regrettable. The string of rematches in the UFC’s deepest division had already tied up the belt for years on end. Henderson took an even closer decision than their first dance, and round-by-round analysis indicated he probably shouldn’t have gotten the nod. The luster he had as a fresh champion who put on exciting fights was lost within the controversy, and Henderson went on to beat the crap out of waiting Nate Diaz, before squeaking by Gilbert Melendez and then getting arm barred by Anthony Pettis. Edgar dropped to featherweight, where he lost a third consecutive title fight in a close decision, and after a five-fight win streak is only now getting another shot at UFC gold.
TJ Dillashaw – Renan Barao 2 is difficult to understand after Dillashaw demolished the Brazilian champion in a breakout performance. Barao had been beaten from pillar to post until Dillashaw finally put him away in the fifth. There was zero doubt about the result and little excuse the Barao could give. Nonetheless, the bantamweight division was thin at the time, so the UFC tried to give Renan a chance for redemption. Their scheduled rematch was part of a season of UFC cards decimated by injury, and Barao apparently slipped during a weight cut. Dillashaw had to fight late replacement Joe Soto, who he knocked out in the fifth round as well, and Barao, after winning a comeback fight, eventually did get in the cage with Dillashaw, proving what we already knew- Dillashaw had his number. This time, Dillashaw moved the time of knockout up to the fourth and put Barao to bed with a 27-punch combination straight out of Tekken. Dillashaw then went on to drop a really close decision to returning Dominic Cruz, while Barao vacated bantamweight altogether and is scheduled to fight Jeremy Stephens at featherweight.
Holly Holm – Ronda Rousey 2: Meisha Tate’s fifth-round comeback choke-out of Holly Holm was the best possible outcome for Ronda Rousey’s career. The idea of an immediate rematch with Holm was an obvious money grab, and an ill-advised one at that. Just like Dillashaw-Barao 1, this was a shellacking with a head kick ending. There was no doubt that Holm had Rousey’s number, and would likely win a rematch, especially given Rousey’s refusal to change coaches. Moreover, Rousey would have needed to overcome the psychological hurdle of returning after her first knockout loss, and her first time getting hurt in the Octagon in general, against the person most likely to repeat the experience. Knockouts, especially traumatic ones like that after being able to steamroll all her opponents, changes a fighter, just ask Georges St. Pierre. If Rousey lost to Holm a second time, it is unlikely she would ever return to fighting. She has a name, money, and a fledgling Hollywood career now, and she had already stated she wasn’t long for the sport. Yet, she is most likely lightyears ahead of everyone in her division aside from Holm. Now she gets a comeback against a fighter she has beaten twice, and unless her cardio fades or her chin is suddenly gone, she has a clear path to the title. The Holm rematch will still be there for her, but at least her career has been extended by at least one more big fight.