One of the more memorable chapters in UFC history was written over the weekend, as two of the sport's biggest stars suffered upset defeats at the hands of two of its grittiest fighters.
Nate Diaz put Stockton, California, on the map once again, by submitting Conor McGregor in the second round of a non-title welterweight fight that headlined UFC 196. Shortly before that, Miesha Tate shook the female bantamweight division again by pulling off a come-from-behind win over champion Holly Holm.
Here's what mattered most from last weekend in mixed martial arts:
The line between ambitious and crazy is as fine as it comes
Days before McGregor's first UFC loss, his coach, John Kavanagh, told me that one motto the SBG Ireland gym lives by is "win or learn."
Within minutes of the Diaz loss, it was evident McGregor had already began the learning process. Standing in the Octagon with UFC commentator Joe Rogan beside him, McGregor didn't hang his head and utter some cliche like "back to the drawing board." Instead he addressed what he felt went wrong -- he had been inefficient with his stamina and was probably naive of the reduced effect his potent left hand would have on bigger opponents.
The wheels were already turning. It's a safe bet McGregor will learn from Saturday -- but what a costly lesson. True, there's still UFC gold around his waist. He didn't forfeit his featherweight belt. But a shot at history, a matchup against lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos that, had McGregor won, would have made him the first to ever simultaneously hold belts in multiple weight classes? That's gone for now.
Which is fine, as far as McGregor is concerned. It was pretty evident his unique self-belief wasn't shaken by Saturday's result. He's 27 years young and believes he has a strong handle on what exactly went wrong against Diaz. Again, win or learn.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, McGregor said, "I will never apologize for taking a shot." Even though fighting Diaz at 170 pounds on short notice burned him, I don't think it will be the final risk McGregor takes.
And that will be the line he walks -- biting off more than he can chew and either gulping it down or choking on it. From the first time he started calling out everyone in the featherweight division, there was a sense the latter would happen eventually. Guess it's not the worst thing that it happened against a resilient Diaz, who, by the way, used the opportunity to restructure his contract and make the most money of his career.
Final note: In a response to Jose Aldo, who seemed to revel a bit in McGregor's loss on social media, McGregor responded, "When the history books are written, I showed up. You showed up on Twitter." That is damn hard to argue. McGregor did show up -- possibly ill-advisedly so. He did lose. And it was one of the best nights of MMA in years.
Saturday was good for Miesha Tate -- and Ronda Rousey
Tate's fifth-round submission win over Holm has to be considered the best win of her decorated career and the gritty, down-to-the-wire feel of it is true to her identity. Her offense sputtered at times, but the fact she spent most of the evening standing with Holm and looked relatively unscathed at the press conference speaks to the improvement of her striking. A titleholder in UFC and Strikeforce, Tate has cemented herself as one of the best of her era.
UFC president Dana White told SportsCenter Rousey will be next. Rousey's coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, texted ESPN.com they would "be ready for Miesha." Tarverdyan did not offer any ideas on a date.
Regardless of the date, Saturday's result can't be anything but a good thing for Rousey's confidence. Tate, a rival she has already beaten twice, now holds the title. Holm, the woman she lost badly to in November, has been proven beatable. Whether Rousey comes back sooner than expected to fight Tate or opts to sit out, as planned, until late in the year, her comeback feels closer after this weekend.
And don't mourn the death of the Holm-Rousey rematch too much. It's still a good bet to happen. Tate has just added another layer to the competition, which isn't a bad thing.