Unless you’ve been hiding in a nuclear bunker for the past few months, anybody with any remote interest in combat sports knows that Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor challenges Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather in Las Vegas on August 26. Even those with no interest in boxing or MMA have been sucked into the hype machine, which pits the respective sport’s biggest stars against one another.
The craziest part of the whole showcase is that McGregor comes in with prestige as a UFC champion, but no bouts to his credit. He is a novice in experience terms, fighting the best pugilist of our generation. 0-0 meets 49-0. Under any other circumstances, it’s unlikely it would even get sanctioned, but because of McGregor’s champion status in a crossover – albeit still very different – sport, it has been allowed to go ahead.
Money could also be a factor in that decision, as this is going to make a lot of money for a lot of people. The buzz behind the matchup hasn’t stopped since it was announced. In fact, it has only been compounded by the media tour, sparring controversies, and much more.
Both camps know they’re set to clear over a hundred million dollars. It’ll make already rich men even richer, and the more eyeballs they can get on this spectacle, the more money they’ll make. Getting eyes on potentially uninspiring fights is something both men have been masters of, and they’ve employed all this experience to build things to a crescendo ahead of the scheduled twelve rounder.
But what are the realistic chances of it being competitive? How can Conor, a newcomer to the world of professional boxing, beat a man who has repeatedly taken on the best in the world and won?
He’s not a boxer
It’s what many pundits are basing their case against the two-weight UFC champion on, but it could actually be the ace up his sleeve. Mayweather has almost 150 bouts to his credit, through his amateur and professional career, which includes winning a medal in the Olympics and being a five-weight world champion as a professional. He has fought many, many boxers. He has fought nobody with McGregor’s background. Boxers he has beaten have differed in style but they all come from the same base and work off the same fundamentals.
McGregor started his martial arts journey in a boxing gym, but he has taken elements from Muay Thai, kickboxing, tae kwon do, and even grappling arts like wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This means that he won’t move in a way Mayweather is used to. His set-ups won’t the same ones he’s used to defending, and his angles and timing will have different nuances.
This doesn’t mean he will have found a recipe for success outside the sphere or boxing, but it does mean that Mayweather will have to acclimatise in the early running of the fight to get a feel for his opponent. The Irishman has been sparring day in, day out with ‘true’ boxers, whereas Mayweather’s sparring partners won’t have been able to emulate the style that McGregor brings.
It’s not just his striking assets that will be different. The grappling facet could also play a big role. The UFC’s Jimi Manuwa suggested this would be his best chance. “It’s key that Conor gets on the inside and really bullies him,” offered the London-based light-heavyweight, who knows Conor’s wrestling training will allow him to dictate things when they are wrapped up.
Constantly holding or working to free himself means Mayweather will have to stress himself in ways he’s not used to during the 12 rounds.
He has power
Granted this is not a new revelation to ‘Money’, as he has taken on many big punchers and come out unscathed, but if ‘The Notorious’ can land on an ageing Floyd, he does have the shots that turn out the lights. The American has made a career out of evading these shots and has shown a great chin in some legendary encounters, but it only takes one. Crazy upsets have happened when one shot can change the entire course of a fight.
In his 21 professional MMA wins, Conor has stopped 18 of those by T/KO. His straight left can cover an abnormal amount of distance, and when it lands people do fall. Regardless of boxer or MMA fighter, a human has the same anatomy and if the right switch is hit, then knockouts happen.
Size and strength
Following on from the previous point, the power in McGregor’s shots will no doubt be coming from a frame that will be carrying significantly more weight on the night. McGregor’s weight cuts are notable and he has fought as high as 170lbs, whilst Mayweather’s highest category has been 154lbs – and even then against Oscar de la Hoya, he came in at just 150lbs.
Their regular weight classes of 145 and 147 are similar, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The rapid dehydration techniques McGregor uses to make weight aren’t as prevalent in boxing, so the weight he makes on the scales will be a lot different to what he enters the ring. Mayweather is unlikely to bulk up as much from the scales to the fight. We have weight classes for a reason, as a bigger man’s punches are more likely to do damage. Of course, they have to land, but every pound matters when it does land.
Not only does it make a difference in the punching power, but if we refer back to the first point, McGregor’s size and strength advantage when working in the clinch will undoubtedly help to tire Floyd and wear him down in a way he’s not used to. The close contact and inside hustle element will force ‘Money’ to bear the weight of his adversary, especially if he is forced against the ropes and into corners.
11 minutes rest
This could go either way. Team McGregor will have left no stone unturned when it comes to conditioning, especially when he has looked to slow down in the past, particularly against Nate Diaz. However, five-minutes rounds and one-minute rests mean McGregor gets just 4 minutes rest in 25 minutes of fighting. In 36 – which is significantly longer, he has a better rest ratio of 11 minutes, with the rounds just three minutes long.
He’ll have worked relentlessly on pushing the pace for this timescale, and will have more rest than he’s used to. He’s also more than a decade younger than Floyd, and Father Time isn’t always that kind on the conditioning. The caveat here is that Mayweather has done 12 rounds time after time. He knows he has the stamina. In his last 14 bouts, he has gone the distance 12 times. He knows how to pace a fight and control the tempo, but will McGregor be tamed?
The betting experts at Oddschecker give Mayweather more of an edge in the later rounds, simply because of the familiarity with the longer bouts, so it could serve as a benefit to him, but we’re yet to see how the Irishman’s gas tank will hold up when he gets much more opportunity to replenish it.
The odds are stacked against the debuting Irishman, and rightfully so, given the monumental task he has ahead of him, but he has shorter odds than some of the experienced boxers that have gone up against the 49-0 Hall of Famer in the past.
His chances are reflecting in his outsider status in the betting lines, but there’s always a chance. One thing McGregor has for certain is self-belief, and that can count for a lot when the chips are down.
We’re nearing the point where conjecture and predictions won’t matter, and that’s when both men will leave it all on the line in the ring. The only certainty is that they both leave much more wealthy than when they stepped in.