UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor is all smiles ahead of UFC 196. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

Through a seemingly absurd sequence of events, the current UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor is now set for a welterweight bout against current No. 5 ranked lightweight and former contender Nate Diaz. No title on the line, just two very aggressive and confident fighters that are sure to trade leather with ill intentions — and that is still going to draw a crowd.

McGregor has enjoyed a sizable range advantage over prior opponents, and that suddenly won’t be the case here. And there are other interesting trends in the data for these two that will ensure that fans get their money worth Saturday at UFC 196.

 Betting Odds:

Favorite: Conor McGregor -455

Underdog: Nate Diaz +405

 Summary Stats:

Matchup Summary:

McGregor’s arsenal has picked apart opponents who have tried to flee his range, and Diaz likely won’t fall prey to that. Instead, these two will likely meet in the middle and selectively trade strikes and gauge each other’s responses before launching more-aggressive tactics. Neither is hesitant to engage, and both have very high accuracy in their strikes. But McGregor is more accurate with his power strikes, and more elusive in his head-strike defense. That means per exchange, McGregor should land more shots.

And there will definitely be plenty of exchanges.

But Diaz’s inability to dictate the location of the fight means his greatest weapon, his submission game, is unlikely to come into play if he can’t bait McGregor to the ground. If McGregor is wise, he will ignore his own proclamation that he’s willing to take this fight to the ground if necessary. Diaz, for his part, has poor offensive wrestling, and is best able to use his grappling only when opponents engage on the ground. McGregor should avoid that classic blunder, except with extreme care.

If the wrestling cancels out, we’re left with two very rangy Southpaws who are aggressive and highly precise. The edge in power and defense goes to McGregor, but perhaps not to the extent that the betting public believes, as McGregor will be out-ranged for the first time.

 What to Expect: 

Unstoppable forces and immovable objects make for explosive situations, but in the cage something’s got to give. This fight ends early, one way or the other.

McGregor’s game-planning is likely ahead of Diaz, who fights with plenty of heart but doesn’t often make in-fight adjustments. McGregor will have plenty of chances to unleash his striking on Diaz, and defensively, Diaz is more likely to absorb punishment even if he’s also dishing it out. If someone is going to fall, it’s more likely to be Diaz first, making the most likely scenario McGregor by TKO or “Inside the Distance.” But it also means the hedge on Diaz Inside the Distance is also a reasonable expectation compared to the market odds, given his proven history or choking or knocking out larger foes than McGregor.

In summary, expect the following:

  • A VIP audience in attendance including a wide array of celebrities.
  • A main event that will capture attention despite zero implications to future title fight matchups.
  • McGregor and Diaz to engage early and often.
  • Precise standup striking exchanges with plenty of ill will…
  • …and the fight to end before the judges get involved.