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.
Miesha Tate also won the UFC bantamweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, finishing Holly Holm in a rear naked choke with 90 seconds left in the fifth round.
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."
Earlier, Tate (18-5) became the third 135-pound champion in UFC history by beating Holm (10-1), the woman who knocked out Ronda Rousey in November. Holm appeared to be unconscious 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."
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."
The penultimate fight at UFC 196 was a thrilling clash of styles, and Tate fought until the waning minutes before finally using her superior ground game to outstanding effect.
"I feel like we had a great game plan," Tate said. "I had to be patient. She’s very dangerous. She’s capable of catching anyone at any moment. She’s a very calculated fighter."
Holm appeared to be winning her first fight since she dethroned Rousey with a stunning head-kick knockout in one of the sport’s biggest upsets.
Although Tate controlled the second round on the ground, Holm picked apart Tate with punches for the other three rounds before the fifth. Tate knew her advantages were on the ground, so she tried multiple takedown attempts that were defended well by Holm.
Everything changed when Tate finally landed a desperate takedown attempt and got Holm’s back with 2 minutes left.
Holm fought desperately to get out, but the veteran wrestler sunk in a choke that eventually left Holm apparently unconscious. Tate let go when she felt Holm go limp.
Tate was overwhelmed after finally reaching her longtime goal. She lost twice to Rousey earlier in her career, but hasn’t lost a fight since 2013.
Holm reveled in a publicity tour and a rally of 20,000 fans in her native Albuquerque after her win over Rousey, but the new champ decided not to wait while mixed martial arts’ most famous fighter regrouped for their rematch. Holm agreed to take on Tate, the very definition of a dangerous matchup for less experienced fighters.
The UFC’s plans for an incredibly lucrative rematch between Holm and Rousey just got complicated.