It’s finally here.
Like it or not the circus has come to town. In this case Sin City and one could not pick a better locale than this for the most outrageous display of all the seven deadly sins – chief among them
However, we steal ourselves away to partake and enjoy the spectacle – be it lifting our sweaty mugs off a table dusted with coke and spilled beer or in suburbia with brats on the grill and dad passed out, snoring and farting in the recliner.
Hyperbole aside I feel obliged to try to lend some serious scholarship and analysis to a one of kind fight and it was a rather coarse argument on an internet forum that in fact motivated me to do so.
Many in the cult of boxing believe Conor to be an utter novice devoid of any technique or ability a man who does not belong in the ring with the best boxer of his generation.
Still others, fervent disciples in the Church of Conor Almighty believe that the Irishman can slay dragons and piss lightening –
Conor will Kayo ‘im in da foorst round, Floyd’ll doo nootin’
They say aping McGregor’s Dublin brogue.
In medio stat veritas. The truth is in the middle my friends.
Just the Facts
Conor McGregor is in the top 10 pound-for-pound combat sports athletes in the world.
McGregor’s current record in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) stands at 21W-3L. He has 18 wins via KO or TKO. This is a man who can wrestle, yes. Kick box, yes. Grapple, yes.
Ultimately Conor McGregor is a boxer who has been successful in MMA. All his stoppage wins minus one has come from his fists. That is a fact. It does not mean that Conor is the next middleweight or super middleweight champion of the world, I don’t truly believe Gennady Golovkin has anything to fear, however to believe that Conor has no skill whatsoever is absurd on its face.
Just looking around at the current champions in each weight division in MMA illustrates why Conor’s legitimacy as a current elite P4P combat sports athlete is unassailable.
Demetrius Johnson, 31 years old. UFC Flyweight (125 lbs) champion. His record is 26W-2L-1D, 5KO & 10 submission victories. Often referred to as the real P4P GOAT at this moment in time among many MMA purists and to be fair his run is unprecedented. As of this writing Johnson is chasing the record for most successful title defenses by a UFC fighter (12) held by future hall of fame fighter Anderson Silva. However, Johnson is the champion of a division that did not exist before he got there. He is the first and only UFC Flyweight champion and at present is the weakest male division in the UFC. Moreover, Johnson entered the UFC as a bantamweight (135 lbs) and lost to Dominick Cruz a real Bantamweight.
Then there is the sad case of Jon “Bones” Jones. 30 years old. 23W-1L. 16 wins via KO or submission. The lone loss is a disputed DQ for elbow strikes. So Jon is essentially undefeated. Jon entered the UFC light heavyweight division in 2008 and immediately dominated.
After winning the division title in March 2011 Jones retained the title for over four years setting a record for consecutive defenses.
It all came crashing down that spring of 2015 where a series of shocking revelations from infidelity to his partner and mother of his children, binge drinking, cocaine and marijuana addiction, a hit and run and accusations of performance enhancing drug use lead to two lengthy absences away from the octagon.
Then after some two years the dust finally settled and Jones had at last seemed to right the ship. He had come back only a month ago, reclaimed his title with a dominate 3rd round stoppage of bitter rival Daniel Cormier only to run aground again.
As of this writing this week it was announced that Jones had tested positive again for banned substance.
Jones is looking at a possible minimum four-year suspension from MMA. Having his title stripped again and likely his entire legacy being tainted or at least an asterisk next to every win as rumors swirled for years that Jones was a cheater.
Then we come back to Conor McGregor.
A fighter who has never turned down a fight. Accepted last minute opponent changes when they occurred.
First claimed the UFC Interim Featherweight (145 lbs) title a year and a half ago with a memorable TKO win over aggressive wrestler Chad Mendes. Conor became the full champion with a shocking 13 second – one – punch KO of Jose Aldo, a living legend who had gone 10 years undefeated.
Next came a rivalry with Nate Diaz, coincidentally known for his boxing and typically fought at lightweight (155 lbs) a full division above Conor. Conor lost the first fight via strangulation however was winning most of the fight on his feet with his boxing. Diaz was badly cut and Conor’s punches were more compact and accurate.
Conor obsessed over the rematch and won the highly entertaining fight one year ago by majority decision, once again on the strength of more accurate punching.
Then just three months later Conor made history with the New York state debut of the UFC at Madison Square Garden last November. His opponent, was newly minted lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. A complete savage. A veteran of over 30 pro MMA bouts.
Conor annihilated him with perfect counter punching, scoring a 2nd round TKO.
Conor was now the only simultaneous two weight world champion in UFC history.
Though he would be stripped of the Featherweight title, however Conor’s mark on MMA is now indelible.
He’s a combat art savant and perhaps more importantly a legitimate PPV draw which has become the UFC’s primary business model and is the chief platform for selling Mayweather vs. McGregor. Consider that Conor’s last five fights going back to his landmark win over Chad Mendes for the interim Featherweight title two years ago have generated a combined 6,475,000 PPV buys.
Floyd can say what he wants and believe what he wants however there are two “A” sides in this fight.
To be clear I still believe Floyd will and should win convincingly. If what we know to be true about the way the universe works – laws of gravity etc – even a forty-year-old Floyd – coming off a two-year layoff is still one of the best P4P boxers currently alive!
However, one of the main arguments that Conor supporters have used is the size difference.
To be fair it’s considerable.
Conor is listed at 5’9” with a 74” reach. In MMA Conor has fought at featherweight and lightweight. Though in MMA that means Conor has come down from his natural walk around weight in the high 160s to -170 pounds range.
Floyd is billed as standing 5’8” with a 72” reach and his natural walk around weight is seldom higher than the 150 pounds.
Now it could be argued that Floyd’s prime, often referred to as The Pretty Boy Era was at Super Featherweight, or 130 pounds. That’s 15 pounds lighter than Conor has been as a UFC featherweight according to their weight division scheme.
Floyd later in his career, often referred to as The Money Mayweather Era fought several fights at welterweight and junior middleweight 147-152 pounds respectively. Again, size advantage clearly lies with Conor and it’s likely Conor could way as much as 170+ pounds in the ring this Saturday while at best Floyd will weigh in the neighborhood of 155 pounds.
Why is this relevant?
Floyd does not get the credit he deserves for taking on bigger men throughout his career with few exceptions. The biggest being Saul Canelo Alvarez.
It was this opponent that I believe is the most constructive analog for how Floyd can and will dismantle Conor McGregor.
At the time the young, powerful, hungry Canelo Alvarez was the heir apparent to Oscar de la Hoya even Floyd himself. The fight was a made at a catch weight of 152 pounds, however the Associated Press reported that Canelo weighed at least 164 ½ pounds in the ring.
Floyd entered the ring, 36 years old. Canelo just 23.
Floyd used his amazing defensive minded footwork to manage distance. Canelo was never able to land anything solid and was countered brilliantly in the traps that Floyd set for the young lion.
The tide truly turned in the 6th round. Canelo was tiring, it was Floyd, not the younger man who set a pace that wore down the Mexican.
Canelo tried to lay on the ropes inviting Floyd in for a gun fight however Floyd wisely and coolly remained on the outside landing shots breaking the young man’s will.
Much like that fight Conor is being forced to make weight. Lighter than the 155 pounds according to the UFC lightweight division.
Fatigue could play a role and Conor has shown signs of fatiguing early in past fights.
And of course technically Conor is no Canelo Alvarez. Though they have youth on their side, both men are in their physical primes, both have power and fighting acumen that makes them elite combat sports athletes.
The Art of War
Recently I wrote a piece focusing on the jab.
I believe it will be Floyd’s ability as one of the best exponents of the jab ever in boxing in my opinion to systematically break Conor down. Here Floyd’s match against another physically larger, stronger and powerful puncher Diego Chico Corrales is instructive and I go into detail in my article of how Floyd managed that victory.
Floyd will as always use his first line of defense – his feet to protect himself and be assured that Conor is never able to sit down on anything of substance. Floyd has paid lip service to the necessity for the sake of boxing to fight Conor to send a message but this is all bravado to sell tickets.
Floyd will never, ever abandon his defensive mind set and risk scrambling his brain to entertain anyone.
Moreover, if he wants to stop Conor and I believe he does and can he’ll have to drag Conor into deep water where his youth, exuberance, and size/strength advantage can be negated. And his inexperience exploited.
Conor too has no lack of skill or understanding distance. He masterfully walks opponents onto his best punch – the straight left hand and has KO’d or TKO’d nearly all his opponents with it. However, Conor is a natural counterpuncher.
He wants his opponent to pressure him so he slips or pull counter against his opponent.
The highlight reel KO of Jose Aldo is proof of that.
Once Conor takes your measure he will walk you down and pick you apart like he did to Chad Mendes and Eddie Alvarez.
The difference is Floyd will be able to force Conor to lead and here is where, over the first 4-6 rounds Floyd will slowly sap the younger man’s strength.
Mixed in will be the piston like body jab that Floyd has used to great effect. He can feint Conor, get him to reach, as he tends to do with his left straight, that Sunday Punch. Conor also tends to stand with an exaggeratedly bladed stance as a southpaw, his right hip pointing nearly straight at his opponent and as a south paw this puts the liver right in Floyd’s cross hairs.
Floyd will break Conor down and to avoid the embarrassment and damage of a KO or TKO will likely retire on his stool between rounds 8-10.
I expect the first 4-5 rounds could be quite tactical perhaps boring to those in attendance as well as those who purchased the PPV. Anyone who would boo or jeer has likely never thrown a punch in anger themselves let alone against another trained fighter.
Conor is dangerous. To suggest otherwise is fallacy. He’s arguably the best fighter P4P in the UFC currently and an argument could be made he’s already top 10 all time due to holding two championships simultaneously in separate divisions, come to think of it – Floyd Mayweather did the exact same thing. Floyd simultaneously held the welterweight and junior middleweight titles before retiring
Once again, the bout between Floyd Mayweather and Canelo is instructive.
After Floyd took the young man to school Canelo has risen to the very top of boxing, he’s positioned himself into being one of the biggest draws in the sport and technically learned an immense amount from the defeat.
Conor will likely come through this fight with Floyd proud that he made history and will only grow in popularity and fighting skill in either boxing should he chose to linger or will become the de facto best striker in the UFC should he return to the octagon.
Many boxing purists have laughed this match off and they have some legitimate arguments, I feel most of those complaints center around the money involved, but this is the fight business. It will never change. Ever.
My sincere hope is that people enjoy the show for what it is – a rare spectacle.
And finally, that Floyd Mayweather the boxer gets the credit he deserves for his dedication to the sport and his nearly unequaled mastery of it.
Conor wants to usurp Floyd as the king of PPV, the richest athlete in sports and the P4P best fighting man on the planet…
He’ll have to fight for it.