LAS VEGAS (AP) – With a pair of rear naked chokes that finished two celebrated champions, Nate Diaz and Miesha Tate both accomplished the improbable in a pair of sport-shaking victories at UFC 196.
Diaz forced Conor McGregor to tap out with 48 seconds left in the second round Saturday night, ending the Irish superstar’s 15-fight winning streak in a non-title bout.
Tate won the UFC bantamweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, locking Holly Holm in a choke that rendered the champ apparently unconscious with 90 seconds left in the fifth round.
The dual upsets stunned a sellout crowd and one of the biggest pay-per-view audiences in the history of mixed martial arts.
They also threw two potential wrenches into the UFC’s plans for the upcoming year: McGregor was widely expected to fight in the main event at UFC 200 in July, while Holm’s next fight was supposed to be her rematch with Ronda Rousey, whose title reign ended with Holm’s knockout win in November.
Diaz and Tate had plans of their own.
“After 16 years in this business, the one thing you don’t ever do is think you know what’s going to happen,” thrilled UFC President Dana White said. “Because you don’t.”
Diaz (20-10) was battered and bloodied for the first 1 1/2 rounds by McGregor (19-3), the UFC 145-pound featherweight champ and pay-per-view star fighting at 170 pounds on short notice.
Diaz, who took the fight less than two weeks ago, abruptly changed the bout with an electric series of punches that wobbled the previously unshakable McGregor. When McGregor tried a takedown, Diaz quickly forced him to tap out on the ground.
“I knew I was the superior boxer, with superior kickboxing, with superior jiu-jitsu,” said Diaz, who had lost five of his previous 10 fights. “Nothing surprised me except for that I got hit at all. I think with a full camp, I would have been flawless.”
Earlier, Tate (18-5) became the third 135-pound champion in UFC history by beating Holm (10-1), the woman who knocked out Rousey in November. Holm appeared to be out cold when Tate finally released her from the choke to celebrate.
“Not many people wouldn’t tap out,” Tate said. “She went out like a champion. … She’s tougher than nails. She really pulled the most out of me and made me a better fighter tonight.”
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, but his size and power abruptly finished McGregor, who had boasted of his plans to hold championships in multiple weight classes.