Conor McGregor: Rich, Brave, and Totally Screwed

Conor McGregor is a brave man. Conor McGregor is a smart man. Conor McGregor is going to get his ass whupped six ways to Saturday if and when he steps in the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena on August 26 to fight Floyd Mayweather.

That’s not a knock on Conor, the same way it isn’t insulting to say that I would probably lose in a sprint against Usain Bolt. It’s simply a fact of life. There are several reasons to believe that Conor is going to get outclassed in the ring come August 25, all of which stem from the fact that, as confirmed by UFC President Dana White, the upcoming match will be a pure boxing match. Boxing presents insurmountable disadvantages to Conor which will, in the end, allow Floyd to either make quick work of him, or cruise to a decision victory.
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The first of these disadvantages comes simply from the time spent practicing the sport. Regardless of whether Conor McGregor is a striker or not, his style has developed to defend kicks, elbows and takedowns as well as punches. His style does not even resemble that of a classic boxing stance, the sort which has proven to be the most fundamental of requirements in boxing. Instead, Conor’s usual stance, lacadasical, his feet held apart and arms held far out from his chin in a manner that reminds one of old bare knuckle boxers, is ill suited to the boxing ring, where heavy gloves and less space mean that one has more of an advantage in holding their hands closer to block incoming punches. This kind of a disadvantage is not exactly a damning fact, as one would imagine that Conor’s preparation would allow him to make the adjustments needed to settle into a more standard stance. It does, however, highlight just how out of his element McGregor will be in a boxing ring, and how lacking he is in traditional boxing experience.

What should cause McGregor some concern, however, is that one of his signature features as a fighter will also be rudely ripped from his arsenal during this bout, namely, his ability to pressure. While Conor’s reach allows him to punish lesser strikers from stepping in against him, Conor’s main tool to pressure opponents backwards has always come from his kicks. His front snap kick to the body, along with his round kicks and heel kicks allow him to force his opponents to either come towards him and get countered, or move backwards towards the cage. We saw the results of what happens when such pressure fails in both of Conor’s fights against Nate Diaz, whose inhuman chin and conditioning, combined with his longer reach allowed him to step in against McGregor. Against Floyd, McGregor will no longer be able to deploy his kicks, and will therefore be forced to pressure with his hands. Floyd’s reputation as a defensive genius also means that Conor might find himself in the uncomfortable and unfamiliar position of being the lead fighter, rather than being able to sit and wait for the counter. Therefore, when in the lead, Conor will be in unfamiliar territory with his main pressure weapons removed from his arsenal. Next, we will look at the fight on the counter.

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Conor McGregor’s best work has almost unfailingly happened on the counter. Just because his opponents were the ones with their backs to the cage, does not mean that McGregor initiated the majority of the exchanges. In both the Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez knockouts, Conor waited for his opponents to commit to their punches before catching them leaning in with his rocket of a left hand. Even before the UFC, as we can see from his fight with Ivan Buchinger, McGregor’s bread and butter involved pressuring opponents into the cage, before evading a few of their punches and then cracking them on the counter with his left. What makes McGregor good is not the complexity of his meta-game, but rather the simplicity of it, and his mastery over the skills needed to execute it. However, we have seen Conor wilt under pressure when he cannot execute this game. Nate Diaz put a hurting on Conor when he was able to deny McGregor his ability to pressure. Chad Mendes, before he wilted, was able to give Conor serious trouble by executing takedowns when he was pressured. Even in his second fight with Diaz, which McGregor won by a close decision, Conor found himself having to jog away from Diaz in order to avoid getting overwhelmed. Despite that, he was caught in a nasty position in the third round against the cage, where many foes of the elder Diaz brother, Nick, met their end. Had Nate Diaz been able to fix Conor in place, there is little doubt he could have pressured Conor for the finish.

In the ring with Floyd, Conor may find himself unable to pressure his opponent, given Floyd’s defensive prowess and Conor’s lack of kicking opportunity. This means that Floyd will have the opportunity to pressure Conor, and if he wins exchanges on the counter, the smaller ring offers far less of a chance for McGregor to keep his back off the ropes. Floyd will not make the same cage-cutting mistakes that Diaz did in his second fight, and could easily find himself with a timid Conor on the ropes in front of him. In this case, McGregor will be hard pressed to get himself off the cage and back into the fight.
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The x-factor, as it always is with McGregor, is KO power. However, the boxing glove, when compared to the UFC glove, is designed to cause less knockouts. Furthermore, Floyd has remained lucid through his last 49 fights, and I am unconvinced he is not going to start taking naps now.

All of these factors indicate that Conor McGregor has talked himself into the biggest, most valuable embarrassment of his life. This is going to be a freakshow fight, the likes of which are rarely seen out side of Japan (Rizin Fighting Federation once pitted a pro-wrestling grandma against giant female jiu jitsu practitioner Gabi Garcia). That said, everybody needs a freakshow once in a while, and Conor McGregor has dreamed into reality the biggest freakshow fight in the history of two people punching each other in the face. The real victory for both men is that it’s going to rain down dollars on ‘Money’ and ‘Notorious’, so we needn’t worry about the sport. This one’s about the spectacle, brought into being by the swaggering trash talk of a mad Irishman. So as much as I know Floyd Mayweather has every advantage going into that boxing ring, I will be rooting for Conor and I sure as hell will be tuning in to check out their $600 million dance on August 26.

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