Floyd Mayweather - Conor McGregor: The ultimate fight?
Named by many the most anticipated and “biggest money fight in history,” some have also labelled it overhyped and underwhelming. Most agree that it will change the history of combat sports no matter the outcome. In my opinion, this contest has become more interesting in the past few weeks for a number of reasons. Perhaps this is because of the overwhelming and effective promotional machine? It’s been an impressive effort from the conglomerate of parties involved. In any case, I’ll be watching on the night for a number of reasons. The amount of pre-fight analysis and preview material from my friends and colleagues in the industry has been impressive. This vast array of media at least partly demonstrates how successful the bout has been in capturing the minds and collective imagination of fans – both casual, hardcore and even new. We’ll see this week whether it can deliver. Before I provide my own opinions on the spectacle, I’d like to share a few of the reads and watches commenting on it that I’ve recently enjoyed. As far as technical striking breakdowns, Jack Slack is one of the finest guys in the analysis business full stop. His VICE article today detailed some important issues regarding the nuances of the southpaw versus orthodox matchup, and is well worth a read and a watch. Journalist Jim Edwards provided some great analysis a few days ago on why it is a good thing that May-Mac is not already sold out. I love how he challenged some of the assumptions from pundits about how lucrative this fight can be – you can read how here. Dean Amasinger, Ultimate Fighter cast member and outstanding (and in my opinion underrated) MMA coach, wrote one of the more unique takes on the event. Although I didn’t agree with everything he said, Dean did a fantastic job of taking a very holistic approach on breaking down the fight. I particularly enjoyed reading his perspective on the psychological aspects of the matchup. Check it out and read more here. Finally, I enjoyed watching the always candid Paddy Holohan break down some of his thoughts on the contest earlier this month. The former UFC athlete is of course Conor’s teammate and a SBG member/coach. However, his developed explanations and forward thinking approach to analysis is emblematic of what has made the SBG crew so successful in martial arts. Well worth a view here.
Now moving on to my thoughts. Before I continue, I should note that I am also going to revisit this prognosis of the fight a week or so after it happens and try and break things down a bit further. In the interim, here we go… What will the game plan be? This is the obvious one, for both guys. On one hand, Mayweather is easily the finest defense first boxer in the history of the sport. He is one of the greatest if not the number one guy ever put on the gloves in the squared circle for a reason. He statistically doesn’t get hit, and has faced plenty of power punchers and survived. Part of me believes Bob Arum said it best when he predicts that Mayweather will do what he does best in these circumstances: “take the money and run.” Will we see a repeat of the Pacquio performance? I am curious whether we will witness the typical ‘Philly shell’ or ‘Michigan defense’ posture from Mayweather (a style also used notably by James Tony and Roy Jones Jr.). This could also be complimented by a particularly patient, low output performance and ardent use of the jab.
Mayweather's signature defense when fighting Canelo Alvarez.
The big thing to watch out for in my mind is how long Mayweather will use this defensive style and – if at all – at what point will we see the Floyd from the ‘pretty boy’ days come forward and look for a finish after weathering the early storm. Depending on how you view the Victor Ortiz fight, Mayweather hasn’t secured a proper stoppage since his 2007 win against Ricky Hatton. But don’t let this statistic make you think he doesn’t still have the tools to finish the fight on August 26. The Conor gamplan is an intriguing one to me. Of course many of the obvious things have been said already – his size, reach, differences in approach to striking that may be able to confuse Mayweather by not sticking to the prototypical boxing template. Contrary to what some have said, I do think Conor can box with Floyd. And I think we are going to see that on the night. One of the biggest questions is if we will see him try and make it a physical fight early and immediately go for single power shots, seeking a come forward hard stoppage. Or whether he will, like Mayweather is likely to be, stay patient and conserve his energy to look for openings as they arise after the early rounds. This might be a smarter strategy – to get a feel for the patterns of footwork, hand position, and movement that Floyd deploys on the night. You can study all the tape you want before a contest, but there is no substitute for having an excellent fight IQ and being able to read the situation as it develops in the ring – this is something the SBG boys are excellent at and have drilled into their fighters in all aspects of MMA. I think McGregor will demonstrate this application in the art that is the ‘sweet science’ come Saturday in Vegas. Of course, his nemesis is extremely adept at game planning on the go as well, so this is by no means a trump card. I would be unsurprised if Mac does not try and take advantage through the use of his clinch skills. We already heard from Pauli Malignaggi that Mac was a ‘dirty fighter’ in sparing and was pushing him around in the ring. I’m reading between the lines that this was both frustrating and effective. I believe that Mac will use the clinch to attempt to punish and hang on Mayweather, but try and box intelligently in and out of the position and set it up without forcing it and being too predictable. How exactly will this play out? I still don’t know, but that is going to be an enticing aspect of this pay per view blockbuster. There are several other things to watch out for on the evening. The open stance matchup will be key: southpaw versus orthodox. Mayweather chiefly stands left foot forward, while McGregor will normally opt to stand right foot forward. This is a compelling thing to watch out for in any striking engagement, as there are a myriad of things that can happen when fighters stand this way. A battle for lead foot position, the rear hand down the center as a power shot, lots of hand fighting with the lead glove – I expect all of the above. Mac will have the rear uppercut, rear cross, and lead hook and lead uppercut as good penetrating shots depending on positioning. I predict that Mayweather will have that right to the body and that safety jab as key shots as well.
Hand fighting in an open stance match up. Both men have a number of options in these circumstances, which could prove interesting.
Several other things that will be key are conditioning and mental preparation. Mayweather may be in his twilight years, but I believe he will show off world class conditioning on the night. He is incredibly physically gifted as an individual, and I do not expect him to have issues. Mac does have a reputation for tiring himself out at times with his style, but I also fully expect him to have addressed the concerns of having to potentially fight thirty six minutes in the ring over twelve rounds. Nevertheless, it could come down to who is more efficient in fighting the other’s techniques – particularly with parrying, trapping, footwork, and other defensive/countering skills to try and break each other’s rhythm. The mental aspect is a fun one. Who hasn’t enjoyed some of the highlights of the press tour? Both guys are incredibly strong in this department in my assessment. I know most of conor’s teammates and coaches. The self-belief and psychological fortitude these guys possess is incredible, and they put in the hard work with fight IQ to back it up. Conor’s meteoric rise has been no accident. Mayweather’s reputation speaks for itself. He has been on the top of the sport for many years, and his accolades in the amateur and professional ranks are unrivaled. An Olympian, undefeated professional, and multiple weight class champion like his counterpart – this guy has the mental game dialed in after decades of competition. This will be repetition and routine for him, in familiar settings. I cannot wait to see – and hear afterwards at the press conference – how this aspect plays out when the two collide. Stay tuned for my post fight analysis, I will post a link at the end of this article when it is up. Until then, enjoy the show! Regardless of what happens, I really think this is a great occasion for both boxing and MMA that will push both sports forward into the future.