Conor McGregor will try to do something no other UFC fighter has done before when he attempts to become a simultaneous two-weight champion Saturday at UFC 205. McGregor faces a tough opponent in Eddie Alvarez, but here are five reasons McGregor will handle his business under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
He’s too powerful
Conor McGregor hits harder than everyone else on the UFC 205 fight card competing for a title, outside of welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. That is, according to a punch test given by the UFC and posted to social media that shows McGregor slightly behind Woodley and Alvarez behind McGregor, Woodley and Stephen Thompson.
But, really, we don’t need arbitrary numbers to tell us McGregor hits hard. The Irishman has flatlined all but two of his opponents and managed to drop Nate Diaz three times (regardless of how sketchy a couple of them were).
McGregor is one of the hardest hitting men in both the UFC featherweight and lightweight divisions, and if Alvarez chooses to brawl with him, it could be an early night.
Getty ImagesRey Del Rio
He’ll keep the fight standing
McGregor’s ground game hasn’t been tested much for two reasons. One, he hasn’t faced many wrestlers, instead taking on strikers willing to stand-and-trade with him. And two, because he’s gotten that much better at defending takedowns.
“Notorious” has stuffed 70 percent of the takedowns thrown his way and only Chad Mendes and Nate Diaz have been able to take him to the canvas. At UFC 202, Diaz completed just one of seven takedown attempts, so either Conor has gotten really good at stuffing takedowns, or Diaz wasn’t trying hard enough.
Either way, we’ll find out on Saturday against Alvarez. If he can fend off the takedowns which are sure to come, he will likely walk away victorious.
He’s improved his cardio
When a gassed Conor McGregor shot for a takedown against submission specialist Nate Diaz at UFC 196, it was a big red flag to everyone. McGregor obviously had issues managing his energy and that had been masked by his string of early finishes.
After that fight, McGregor took a page out of Diaz’s book and started putting in real work on his cardio. It resulted in him being able to go five rounds with Diaz will putting on some of his best work in the crucial fourth round.
McGregor posted a picture of himself on a stationary bike and boasted on his preparation for this fight. He’s assured all his fans that cardio will not be an issue this time around.
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He’s in his head
Eddie Alvarez has been doing a great job at firing back at Conor McGregor whenever “Notorious” said anything disparaging about him. Today at the press conference, however, there was one moment where I thought McGregor had finally broken him. After Alvarez managed to get his belt back from McGregor, who snatched it while Alvarez was backstage, the crowd began to chant, “(Expletive) you, Eddie!” over and over again. And while Alvarez was getting himself re-situated on stage, he had a look in his eyes …
Now, I'm no body language expert, but I’ve seen that look before -- he was heated. Alvarez was able to hold his own for the rest of the press conference, but I think the seed has been planted.
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His striking is too dynamic
Not only is McGregor crazy powerful, but he’s got a full array of strikes that he can unleash on fight night. Because of his “energy mismanagement” at UFC 196, McGregor didn’t throw many of the shots he has in his arsenal. The Irishman focused on crisp, accurate boxing and generic leg kicks to get the job done in his last fight, but some may have forgotten just what helped him get fans’ attention in the first place.
McGregor really can hit his opponents from just about anywhere, and he has exceptional long reach -- 74 inches -- for his size. That’s one reason why, unless your name is Nate Diaz, you don’t get into a striking war with McGregor … because it can turn into a showcase.