The Underground King vs. The Notorious; A Storied Breakdown
In sports, you ever-so-often come across that polarizing figure. Someone who revolutionizes the sport for which they compete in. A ‘once in a lifetime’ athlete, as you might call it. Michael Jordan did that for the NBA by becoming the most recognizable, and household name in all of basketball. Wayne Gretzky competed in 20 years of the NHL, and has been called the greatest hockey player to ever grace the cold surface. Muhammad Ali became one of the most influential athletes, both in & outside the squared circle, and for that, and his personal accomplishments, he is known quite simply as one of the greatest professional boxers of all time.
It appears that we have found yet another athlete in this generation to become a storied athlete, if you will, like the ones mentioned above – and he hails from Dublin, Ireland.
Conor McGregor, in his prime, at 28 years old, has the chance to make UFC history later this year. He will meet current UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, as he attempts to become the first fighter inside the UFC to hold two titles at the same time.
As for his opponent Eddie Alvarez, he is no stranger to big fights with gold on the line. He knows exactly what’s about to come in front of him,in the Irishman, and what he possesses. Alvarez has a chance to break through to that next level by beating the star, to become a star; much like Nate Diaz did when he defeated McGregor earlier this year, with a shocking submission victory at UFC 196.
Analyzing: Conor McGregor (20-3)
Conor McGregor comes from a humbling background. He began training kickboxing and boxing at the young age of 12. Even training under the tutelage of Phil Sutcliffe, a two-time Olympian. McGregor became an All-Ireland boxing champion in the youth category, so it’s not hard to tell where he picked up his precision boxing from. ‘The Notorious’ made his mixed-martial-arts amateur debut on February 17, 2007 for the “Ring of Truth,” an Irish MMA promotion in Dublin. Much like a lot of his other wins that came to be, his debut was by (T)KO inside the very first round. It was after this win, that McGregor turned pro, and started training at the Straight Blast Gym (SBG Ireland) in Dublin, under coach John Kavanagh.
McGregor began building his own resume whilst in Ireland for various different promotions. One of which, was Cage Warriors (CWFC), where he became not one, but a two-weight division world champion. Holding both the Cage Warriors lightweight, and featherweight, world titles simultaneously. It was not long after, that McGregor was then signed by the UFC, and it was then that McGregor was sure to be promoted as the next big star in MMA. Holding an eight-fight win streak, McGregor would go on to add to that. Knocking out some of the promotions toughest acquisitions, including Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes, and then long time featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
As a skill set, McGregor poses great threats from all of his limbs. He utilizes dangerous spin kicks and head kicks efficiently. Not to mention, his gruesome left hand, which has became his go-to weapon his entire career, and has made him very successful. On top of that, McGregor has been known to be so very calculated, calm, and precise in both his training and in his fights. Using excellent technique in his boxing, and perfect timing on his counters. If there is anything McGregor has holes in, that we have seen, it is indeed his ground game. It was exposed in the Chad Mendes fight, and later taken advantage of by Nate Diaz in McGregor’s first loss in the promotion. While McGregor began working extensively on his grappling, he more than makes up for it in the stand-up aspect of the game. Aside from the work he puts in with training & fighting, McGregor has worked hard to promote himself, making him the biggest star in the promotion, and quite possibly, the whole entire sport. It’s the reason why he labels himself “The $4.2 Billion Dollar Man.”
Analyzing: Eddie Alvarez (28-4)
Being of Irish and Puerto Rico descent, Eddie Alvarez was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And much like his opponent, he has not only come from a humbling background, but he has also made a successful career for himself, in various other promotions outside of the UFC.
Alvarez became a world champion in just his third professional mixed-martial-arts bout, by winning the inaugural, Reality Fighting Welterweight Championship, in the very first round. By his ninth fight, he won the Bodog Welterweight Title, by defeating Aaron Riley via knockout in the first round. Alvarez made an early living from competing against competition much larger than himself physically. By competing in the welterweight division, coupled with Alvarez’s smaller frame, it was sure to bring him trouble eventually. And that it did, when he lost the Bodog Championship to Nick Thompson, Alvarez’s first professional loss. From there, Alvarez looked to have found his home competing for Bellator Fighting Championship. By becoming the ‘Season One’ Lightweight Winner, and winning the title not once, but on two separate occasions. In addition to, putting on ‘Fight of the Year’ candidates, with then-champion Michael Chandler. After defeating Chandler in their infamous rematch, Alvarez was signed by the UFC. Unfortunately, Eddie lost his debut fight for the promotion to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. But, he then rebounded by defeating Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, and knocking out UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos, in the first round of their fight, to add another title to his already many career accomplishments.
Alvarez’s skill-set, which has made him successful everywhere he’s gone, isn’t exactly anything that we haven’t seen before. He loves to use his wrestling, and the overhand right, like many other wrestling-based fighters. However, Alvarez is as tough as they come, when it comes to the world of professional fighting. He thrives in dog fights, where he bites down on his mouthpiece, and swings leather, until someone goes unconscious. Usually, it’s his opponents, but he’s not afraid to go out on his shield. It’s like his bread and butter, and Alvarez doesn’t really have to worry, due to how tough he is, and being able to take so much punishment without his brain shutting off. His wrestling, pressure, and cardio, all connect well together, since he can go five hard rounds, if need be. All while breaking his opponents’ will, minute-by-minute, which we witnessed in his fight with Anthony Pettis. Alvarez is definitely going to use the same gameplan, for the first defense of his newly won UFC Lightweight Title.
While it already seems like everyone is picking McGregor to come out victorious, I don’t think this will be a cakewalk of any sorts. McGregor will need to weather the storm, both early in the fight, and later on, if the fight goes to deep water. Either McGregor will pressure Alvarez early with kicks and straight lefts, or he’s going to be circling around & defending takedowns, and clinch work, from the pressured-wrestler in Alvarez. I also think Alvarez can have early success with the grappling, as he is clearly the much better fighter in that aspect.
Looking at the spreadsheet above, which displays the actual numbers for each fighters’ offensive & defensive skill-set’s, we can see McGregor does have a 5″ reach advantage over Alvarez. That reach advantage is a key component for McGregor, coupled with a 6.02 significant strikes landed per minute advantage, opposite of Alvarez’s 3.64; He holds a 5% advantage in the accuracy of his significant strikes, as well, with a total of 48%. If there is one area where Alvarez will shine, it should be his takedowns. Holding nearly a 4-1 advantage in attempted takedowns over McGregor, but with just a 41% accuracy rating. Though Alvarez has faced many talented wrestlers throughout his career, McGregor isn’t one of them.
This is a fantastic matchup for the historic event of UFC 205 in New York City, at the legendary Madison Square Garden. And I believe it’s only suitable to have McGregor headlining it, since he is the clear-cut superstar of the organization. As for my prediction, Alvarez should be able to have some early success with takedowns and clinch work. I’m not entirely sold on him being able to avoid all of the dangerous strikes that Conor has, and the power he holds behind each one. I’m certain McGregor eventually finds that precision shot, to seriously hurt Alvarez, either in the later half of round one, or somewhere in round two. Sort of how the Chad Mendes fight played out, where Mendes used his wrestling early on, but took a ton of damage, and shots to the body, which caused him to wilt towards the end of round two. When that happens, it will be the beginning of the end for Alvarez. Eddie has absorbed incredible amounts of punishment throughout his long career, and has been in many wars. So, I’m picking McGregor to get the job done with the left hand, and add yet another belt to his collection.
Official Early Prediction: Conor McGregor defeats Eddie Alvarez by (T)KO in round two.