All the hostility and hard feelings between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz were released marvelously Saturday in a classic, five-round battle won by McGregor's drive for revenge.
In a technical, rugged and smart performance that answered his disappointment from a March loss to the bigger, heavier Diaz, McGregor won a majority decision by scores of 48-47 (Jeff Mullen), 47-47 (Glenn Trowbridge), 48-47 (Derek Cleary).
McGregor (20-3) scored three knockdowns of Diaz in the first two rounds, survived a vicious Diaz rally in the third and did enough precise punching and clock management in the final two rounds to gain the UFC 202 victory at T-Mobile Arena.
"Surprise, surprise … the king is back," McGregor said after the decision was read, spinning Diaz's statement, "I'm not surprised," after his second-round submission triumph five months earlier.
This time, McGregor didn't allow Stockton's Diaz (20-11) to take him down until late in the fifth round.
And after showing he was capable of withstanding Diaz's best punches during a captivating slugfest that begs for a trilogy, McGregor was able to endure that pressure on the ground, too.
The pair, who cursed heavily at each other all week and engaged in an object-throwing incident to shorten their Wednesday news conference, hugged at the end.
Diaz lifted up the Irishman who possesses the UFC's featherweight belt, but was bold enough to accept a replacement fight against Diaz at 170 pounds (25 pounds above featherweight) in March.
While he paid the price for that decision — unable to take Diaz's best punches and tired by the extra weight — a fully fit, stronger McGregor proved his durability.
His own power punch dropped Diaz in the first round, and Diaz was cut near the right eye after the first five minutes.
In the second, McGregor floored Diaz twice more early on with hard punches from a left-handed stance.
McGregor masterfully backed from Diaz's punches when he wanted and then surprisingly rushed forward to catch the unsuspecting Californian with other strikes.
But Diaz reverted to his first-fight success in the third, landing hard punches and laughing at McGregor as if he was ready to duplicate the earlier shocker. But McGregor didn't fall to Diaz's hard combinations, and even a late knee.
Diaz was bleeding under the left eye in the fourth, which McGregor uncannily predicted before the bout, and he turned the momentum by landing a slew of punches to Diaz's head in the second half of the round, punctuated by Diaz missing a kick and slipping at the end.
"I whittled away, and then I caught my second wind," McGregor said.
McGregor made it a habit to look at the clock in the second half of the fight, intent to try to stay out of trouble as long as possible while seeking openings for his punches.
Diaz grew so antsy at one point that he gave McGregor the middle finger. But McGregor didn't cave to the boiling blood that preceded the bout and found his way to the finish, where the judges awarded him sweet redemption.
McGregor said he'd be fine to stage a trilogy, but wants it at the 155-pound lightweight limit, where Diaz is the division's No. 4 contender.
Earlier, light-heavyweight Anthony Johnson (22-5) stamped himself as the top contender to champion Daniel Cormier by ripping No. 2 Glover Teixeira under the chin with a punch, finishing him with a tomahawk slam on the mat and bringing a stop 13 seconds into the fight.
"I can fight going backwards. I can fight going forward. I can fight," Johnson said. "I've been busting my [rear] to get to the title."
Cormier watched the bout from next to the octagon and stood up to raise his arms, as if approving the bout.
"Daniel, you're the man," Johnson said.