Just like every other sports blogger, I tuned into the UFC Fightpass app at midnight last night to watch Conor McGregor and then have the blog written for me based on his performance. Again, he didn’t disappoint, but this time we could see the effect on the whole press conference, his opponent and the other fighters on stage.
Starting with the event itself. The Irish where in full swing, supporting the King of Ireland. Loud as only the Irish are in a sporting arena and it got under the skin of 2 champions that where on stage.
Tyrone Woodley, welterweight champion and the man who vanquished the beast of the UFC in Robbie Lawler, was rattled by the Irish. Eddie Alvarez, the man who beat the unbeatable Dos Anjos was rattled by the Irish and the ringmaster was in the centre of it all.
Going straight to Conor. He was in fine form. It is only when he is sitting amongst other champions in the UFC that you truly appreciate the charisma, the verbal skill and the overall presentation that he has. He is the perfect mix of Dublin, pro wrestler and fighter. He has kept the quick wit of his home town, added some character taken from the older school of professional wrestling and added that the being a legitimate great in the sport of fighting. The first 2 can be dismissed by opponents or people who do not like him, but the latter is undeniable. And that is the part that frightens his opponents.
The press conference and Alvarez reactions reminded me of what Frank Shamrock said about fighting Nick Diaz (more on the elder Diaz later). He said that he couldn’t believe that Nick was talking so much trash (not using the bad word here) to him that it got into his head. Alvarez was exactly the same. He has never been in this position before. Main event on the biggest card in MMA history is brand new ground for him. He has never been talked to the way McGregor is talking to him. It will take some getting used to. You could see him being rattled at different points.
Now onto the fight itself.
People are talking about Alvarez gas tank, his wrestling and his strong boxing. Let’s take these one at a time. The gas tank? Where is this gas tank? Alvarez has only been 5 rounds twice. He has lost 1 of those fights. There is zero evidence of a gas tank being present. There is no evidence of Alvarez having a chin capable of taking big shots. He has never been in there wilting under pressure and come back. Conor has a chin; he has taken big shots from the biggest punchers and walked forward. He has been put under serious pressure, wilted and come back. He has just gone through 5 hard rounds against Nate. Gas tank goes to McGregor.
The wrestling edge does go to Alvarez. He has a pedigree. But is he a better wrestler than Chad Mendes? No! Yes he is bigger, but so is Conor. If Alvarez gets Conor to the ground, what will he do aside from trying to hold him there? Nothing. He has a weak submission game, so he is looking for ground and pound, a one trick pony.
The boxing is interesting. Both fighters are very good strikers. Alvarez has a 54% KO rate. Average at best. No 1 punch knockout power. McGregor has dynamite in hands, superior movement and an 85% KO rate. This is above average. The level of opponents has been higher for Conor too. Alvarez beat Dos Anjos, but USADA is now in charge. That explains that.
There are people making Alvarez the favourite. For the reasons outlined above I just don’t understand it. He has no clear advantage in any area and his mind is in the process of being battered by McGregor. But this is all dependant on Conor showing up in top shape, trained well, injury free, focused and ready to implement a game plan.
If he does, he will have 2 belts and will be an even bigger pain for the UFC.
I’ll finish with a joke: Did you hear that McGregor is now officially known by the medical industry in Brazil as a form of contraception? Every time a Brazilian signs to fight him, they pull out.