By News Team
Last Updated: 17th January 2020
Every so often a fighter comes along that transcends their sport altogether. Their fights don’t really feel like fights, more like significant events. They carry an unusually large cultural weight. The world almost grinds to an abrupt halt and gathers around television screens to get a glimpse of the gladiators in their colosseum. Boxing had Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson. MMA has Conor McGregor.
Yes, he’s made well-documented mistakes outside the octagon, a domain far from exclusive to the fight game, but the UFC is the house that McGregor built. His indominable charisma twinned with a dynamite left-hand and a willingness to fight the best has made him far more than just a MMA star, he’s a global superstar.
On Saturday in Las Vegas though, he’ll collide head-on with an almighty force of mixed-martial arts in Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. A veteran of 33 UFC bouts, whose record reads like a who’s-who of combat’s biggest names. He embodies the ‘anyone at any time’ attitude and would love nothing more than to hastily pull the handbrake on McGregor’s latest return to the octagon.
A new Notorious could enter the octagon
The first man to hold UFC gold in two divisions at the same time, McGregor has proven his pedigree at both 145lbs and 155lbs, but arguably has questions to answer at 170, having lost one and won one at Welterweight.
Of course, he looked more comfortable in the Nate Diaz rematch than in the first fight and, although his natural weight is probably closer to 170lbs, he always seemed to be at his best at either 145 or 155. Whether the extra weight will allow him to sit deeper on more powerful shots remains to be seen.
Tactically, the Irishman may approach this fight in a similar vein to the second Diaz bout, sitting behind his hands and waiting for points-scoring opportunities to present themselves. He officially floored Diaz three times in that fight but didn’t go in for the finish after any of them. It may be that we see McGregor backed by a strong gameplan, rather than the knockout artist we have become accustomed to, and he’s currently 8/1 to win on points.
Equally, if you’re to believe McGregor’s comments during the build-up, we could see an especially new ‘Notorious’ one on Saturday night. With a renewed focus following his well-publicised issues outside the octagon, even long-time coach John Kavanagh reckons this is the best McGregor he’s ever seen. Maybe, just maybe, we could see another famous first round knockout win at 2/1.
Cowboy prepared for a proper duel
With a mixed martial arts record of 36 wins and 13 losses, there’s nothing that can happen in a cage fight that would surprise Cerrone. Having fought the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Robbie Lawler, Darren Till, Eddie Alvarez and Rafael Dos Anjos, he’s shared the cage with some of the biggest and best the sport has seen. Many fighters say it, but when Cowboy says he’ll fight anyone, anytime, he really means it.
Unlike McGregor, he has ample experience at 170 lbs and will certainly enter the fight as the bigger man. He’s coming off the back of consecutive losses to Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, but both of these were at lightweight, with Cerrone’s last fight at 170lbs ending with him becoming the first person in the UFC to finish Mike Perry. McGregor’s last fight ended in a loss by submission via rear naked choke and Cerrone is 10/1 to do so again in this bout.
Capable in the clinch and standing-up, Cerrone has more UFC wins and finishes than any other man in the company’s history and will provide a huge threat to McGregor at 170lbs. He has been adamant during the build-up that he wants this one to be a fight and won’t be shooting for any takedowns, but if he does it will be especially interesting to see if McGregor’s ground game has improved since his loss to Khabib.
This one really could go either way, and we look set for a real dog-fight on Saturday night. McGregor to win on points could very well be the way to go at 8/1.