UFC 205: Five Keys To Victory For Conor McGregor

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Conor McGregor may be able to a win a fight in many ways, but here are the five things he needs to do at UFC 205 to walk out the winner.

Current UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor possesses a lot of tools in his arsenal that can end a fight in a split-second.

If ‘The Notorious’ one doesn’t manage to use his knees, fists, elbows or kicks to knock you out, he may just submit you. Yes, I said it. He could submit you. While he is known as a knockout artist the Irishman does have an ever improving ground game, but is certainly no Joe Lauzon or Nate Diaz…. yet.

Eddie Alvarez presents some issues for McGregor that he has yet to see in this capacity. Alvarez is a fearsome striker that is more than capable of wrestling if need be. McGregor struggled against the wrestling of Chad Mendes (albeit with a bum knee), but was able to absorb plenty of heavy shots from the hard-hitting featherweight prior to the second round TKO.

Alvarez is larger than Mendes, and arguably more powerful on the feet. McGregor dealt with Mendes with a heavy dose of body kicks to drain his cardio. Will he employ a similar strategy against the current lightweight champion?

There are things that McGregor has to do and do well against Eddie Alvarez in Saturday’s main event inside Madison Square Garden to ensure he walks away a two-division champion, and those things are simple.

It all starts with size:

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

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The Reach

Going into the fight on Saturday McGregor will be the bigger, longer fighter enjoying a five-inch reach advantage over Alvarez. With such an advantage, Conor has to immediately jump into action and keep Alvarez at distance so as to not be on the receiving end of any of the lightweight champ’s power.

The power in both the kicks and punches that McGregor throws has been evident throughout his career. Against Alvarez, he has to remain calm and not go for the one-punch knockout like we saw him do in the first meeting with Nate Diaz. Instead, he must keep Alvarez at distance and pick him off with his crisp boxing skills.

If anything Conor should take a page out of Diaz’s book. Nate is a master at using his jab and one-two combination to keep his opponents at bay and at the rage in which he wants the fight to remain at.

We saw McGregor utilize kicks against Nate Diaz in both fights and this seemed to work very well for the Irishman. However, he has to be careful kicking a strong wrestler like Eddie. One caught kick could spell disaster and end any hopes of winning the 155-pound title in New York.

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

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Cardio

Leading up to the first fight with Nate Diaz a question about McGregor’s cardio had never been asked because he was going out and stopping his opponents well before the judges rendered their decision. The one time that never happened was against Max Holloway and even in that decision win McGregor never looked to be in any kind of trouble conditioning wise.

Then suddenly, he gasses out against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 and the world starts to question if he is able to get into these all-out wars and have the physical conditioning to not only overcome adversity, but swim out of the deep water and do so a winner.

A main focus for McGregor since the first Diaz fight has seemingly been working on his gas tank. In his training and behind the scenes footage there is always at least one mention or one look at the cardio work he is or has been doing in preparation for a fight.

McGregor has to fight at his own pace and make sure to not let Alvarez drag him into the wild and crazy high-intensity fights we have seen him get into before. Pace is key in this fight and McGregor has to be the dictator.

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

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Leg Kicks

The game plan that we saw McGregor use in the second fight with his bitter rival Nate Diaz worked extremely well. A mix of crisp boxing techniques and hard fast leg-kicks kept Nate away from McGregor pretty much the whole fight and were the major factor in his series tying victory over the Stockton native. A technique he should use more of in my opinion.

Doing this against Alvarez would be both beneficial and extremely dangerous. If Conor can damage the powerful legs early in the fight it would throw both Alvarez’s striking and hinder the takedown ability he has. A prime example would be when Jose Aldo destroyed Urijah Faber’s legs back at WEC 48 in 2010. Aldo kicked the life out Faber during that fight and in doing so broke his will to engage, for Conor this is a key tactic to employ.

This is a dangerous tactic for McGregor though as if Alvarez manages to catch some kicks and take him down it could be a very short night for the Irish superstar. Chad Mendes managed to take him down almost at will and while McGregor survived that test, Alvarez brings a whole new type of danger to the table.

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

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Remain Technical

Everyone including myself loves a good old-fashioned bar-room brawl where two fighters throw any and all caution to the wind, going toe-to-toe until someone goes to sleep. This is the type of fight that McGregor has to stay far, far away from.

Both men are world-class boxers who can end the fight with one shot, but McGregor is the more technical of the two. Using his angles and feints to set up combinations that have devastating effect he must not let Alvarez make this a dog fight. It could cost him a place in history.

In every one of Conor’s UFC fights so far we have seen that he loves the striking. He wants to engage his opponents and he wants to put them to sleep in the most beautifully devastating way possible. In the lead up to this fight he did promise another first round KO but he has to remain his cool, calm, technical self.

Like I said above, Alvarez is known for his toughness and thanks to that he has been in some of the greatest and craziest fights in mixed martial arts history. If Conor gets into a crazy brawl, he may just regret it come Sunday morning.

UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Protect His Chin

We have not really seen McGregor take any real big shots or any significant damage in his previous fights. Chad Mendes landed a few good shots but never really had him in any danger. The only time we saw the chin questioned was against Nate Diaz at UFC 196.

McGregor has fought some dangerous strikers like Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier and Jose Aldo in previous outings but neither of them managed to test the chin in any kind of fashion. Aldo and Poirier lasted a combined 1 minute and 59 seconds with ‘Mystic Mac’ while Holloway went a full 15-minutes.

Diaz survived a tough round one and came out in the second on fire. He cracked McGregor with a beautiful one-two that staggered Conor eventually leading to the submission. Now did Conor only get wobbled because he was already so tired or did Diaz unknowingly uncover a weakness never before seen in McGregor’s game? Saturday night, we will get our answer.

McGregor has to remain respectful of the power that Eddie Alvarez has in his hands. The former Bellator champion has knocked out some of the world’s best and should McGregor decide to let his chin go unprotected it could be a short night for the 145-pound champ.

All the things that are needed for Conor McGregor to become a two division champion are pretty basic. There is nothing special or out of this world needed for him to walk out of New York with another record and another UFC title.

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