When i see the often repeated phrase of the great Bruce Lee “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own” i would like to think if he were here today he would point to Conor McGregor as an example (at least in terms of striking) and say “that’s the vision i had in mind”.
Every now and then a figure emerges in each sport that manages to mesh both the fluent execution of technical skills whilst performing and an adoring relationship with the media when not performing, Conor McGregor for MMA is that poster boy. Whilst the internet is filled with articles on the subject of his crossover appeal i would like to magnify the skills that have got him to the position he finds himself today.
The UFC 205 main event is being contested at 155lbs, Eddie Alvarez in terms of height and reach is a similar size to a few of the orthodox featherweight’s McGregor faced on the run up to the title fight with Jose Aldo. This means Alvarez will have to negotiate the same problems the featherweight opponents faced.
McGregor is a master of judging distance and when he owns a reach advantage which he will against Eddie Alvarez he manages to place himself in a position where he can hit his target but his opponent is often out of range to return the favour.
In Choosing to strike from the outside shorter fighters have a chasm to try and close, they must rely mostly on an error of judgement from McGregor in order to have success striking from the outside.
In instances where McGregor does misjudge the distance the gap is still sufficient enough that an opponent only has enough time to get single strikes off before Conor adjusts, the distance the punches travel also give Conor just enough time to lean away or slide back slightly taking some power off the shot limiting its damage.
When you think about McGregor’s strengths the first thing that comes to mind is his left cross which seems to be his go to finishing move, the conundrum for his foes is trying to work out when he’s going to throw it.
McGregor throws a variety of different kicks from multiple ranges to keep you guessing he goes high and low, mixes spinning techniques and not only is it beautiful to watch it’s extremely difficult to work out a rhythm or pattern in his striking.
Talking about the left hand, McGregor carries devastating power in that particular strike and as of this moment for me its the single best weapon in all of MMA.
From the very first round McGregor has a sixth sense with his range on the left hand which was evident in his thirteen second ko of Jose Aldo. What i find unique about the way he throws the shot is the extension he gets without any obvious wind up or tell but still manages to deliver it with power.
As an orthodox stance fighter you’re taught to keep your lead foot outside a southpaw’s lead foot and if you accomplish this you will find yourself in a superior position from which the Southpaw’s left comes from a longer distance. The angle created from this position makes it difficult for the southpaw to score.
A couple of examples.
What makes McGregor such an anomaly is the fact that he’s managed to establish a way to land his left hand across himself when he’s in what is technically seen as the inferior foot position, which i myself have rarely seen in either in Boxing or MMA.
Eddie Alvarez’s flaws
What Eddie Alvarez should be looking to do in order to win is get inside of McGregor’s reach by making him miss, similar to how McGregor got inside of a longer adversary in Nate Diaz,
The issue i see for Alvarez is up to now although he moves his feet reasonably well his head doesn’t follow suit, both when he’s on the back foot defending punches or pushing forward attempting to land punches his head is very upright and central. That being the case it’s going to be a mammoth task trying to get at McGregor’s chin without taking irreparable damage.
In his most recent fight with Rafael Dos Anjos who is a southpaw like McGregor although style wise very different, Alvarez did manage a win by TKO.
If you examine the few exchanges prior to the right hand that shook RDA, Eddie Alvarez still isn’t displaying the sort of intelligent defence required to get inside of McGregors reach
What he did do well was exit the correct way under attack to make that difficult acute angle for RDA to land his power hand, against any other southpaw opponent this would work great but the problem Eddie is going to have is McGregor can land from the same positions that RDA is missing from in the clips above.
Rafael Dos Anjos’s eagerness to land a power left caused him to get a little too close instead of what he should of done which is work to cut Alvarez off from exiting. To Alvarez’s credit he noticed this and didn’t hesitate, using the left hook to conceal the step outside of RDA’s lead foot therefore acquiring the optimal position to land the right hand around RDA’s guard.
Alvarez will no doubt try to mix up takedowns whilst striking, the amount of risk he will have to take in order to close the distance will be a huge factor along with the fact that Alvarez at least in the UFC hasn’t done much damage after landing a takedown.
Leading up to this fight Eddie Alvarez has said that McGregor is only effective for eight minutes which tells me he’s looking to take the fight into the latter rounds. I can’t overlook the fact that Nate Diaz took some heavy damage in both fights for the first eight minutes, which i can’t see a smaller man like Alvarez enduring.
McGregor lands 6.02 significant strikes per minute (Fightmetric) so Conor wont wait around saving energy & that means Alvarez will need to deal with that ferocious output and survive a storm before he can even think about the last three rounds. For my money there’s much tougher match ups in the 155lb weight division than Alvarez & i foresee after two hard fights with Diaz a throwback to the early finishes McGregor produced on the road to winning the featherweight title. A memorable night will be capped by a golden moment when
McGregor wins by TKO