Thursday, 23 July 2015 09:47
The Conor McGregor whirlwind has swept over the mixed martial arts world. He has gone from being a relatively unknown fighter (internationally at least) to global superstar. His latter, title-winning performances for Cage Warriors saw people take notice, but it wasn't until he stepped into the Octagon that his stature and aura grew.
Though he's had a supporting cast of SBG Dublin team-mates, McGregor has put Irish MMA on the map and within six bouts under the UFC banner had become champion, interim champion at least. If Jose Aldo had never pulled out, he could well be wearing the real thing.
Here's the point, though. Coming into their originally scheduled UFC featherweight title fight, it was the reigning Brazilian champion who had the edge. However, now that McGregor has a second round TKO over Chad Mendes to his credit, the odds have moved in his favour, with betfair having the charismatic Dubliner 4/7 on at the time of writing. That leaves the champion as the underdog.
It's quite a rare situation where the man holding the world title is seen at longer odds. Is it justified? Was Conor's performance against Mendes enough to justify it?
The answer is yes. And no. Yes, he did put away the next best featherweight in the world, crushing him with a straight left just seconds from the end of round two. Yes, he had a great first round and looked able to tag Mendes almost at will. But he did show vulnerability. Mendes was able to take McGregor down and control him for the vast majority of the second stanza.
People looked to Mendes' lack of preparation and his gas tank as an issue. If you look to Aldo, the same issues around longevity are there and questions have been asked about his ability to push the pace for longer durations. He has noticeably slowed down in the championship rounds in several fights now, leaving areas to exploit. McGregor is as powerful as they come at 145lbs and if you leave gaps he will find them.
That said, McGregor has never done five rounds (and with his KO rate he doesn't really have to). Aldo has done six, and in each of them he successfully defended his title. In that time frame he has beaten all comers, unbeaten in nearly ten years, and undisputed world champion six. He may have had some tough bouts of late but try not to forget how special he is.
McGregor is also a once-in-an-era type fighter, with the look, the mouth and the skills. He could ring in an exciting new dawn for the featherweight division. Should he be favourite over the champion? We're not decided on that just yet.