“Keep telling me I can’t do something and I’ll go ahead and do it.” – Conor McGregor
Here’s one line of thinking: Besides the fact it’s certain to make dollars, the bizarre spectacle that is Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor doesn’t make much sense.
It doesn’t make sense that a bout between someone with zero professional boxing experience is fighting the consensus greatest boxer of his generation. It doesn’t make sense that an athletic commission would sanction such a matchup. It doesn’t make sense that Dana White and the UFC allowed it to happen. It doesn’t make sense that Mayweather agreed to a higher weight and smaller gloves when previously in his career he wouldn’t make concessions like that. It doesn’t make sense that McGregor’s feud with sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi has gotten basically the same amount of attention as the fight itself.
None of it makes sense, really, therefore the outcome not making sense would actually make perfect sense.
That’s why McGregor is going to win.
Thank you. Goodnight.
Oh, you want specifically why we’re about to see the biggest upset in sports history?
You want to know how it’s going to happen, too?
*Stands up, cracks knuckles, stretches arms, sits back down at keyboard*
It’s easy to make an argument that Mayweather is going to mop the floor with the UFC lightweight champion—our own Steven Loung made a strong case as to why it’s the most logical outcome.
Conventional wisdom might lead one to assume Mayweather is going to emerge victorious without a scratch on him because that’s what should happen, but there’s nothing conventional about McGregor’s rise to stardom and there won’t be anything conventional about his style in the ring.
Many fans and pundits siding with Mayweather argue McGregor has zero advantages in this bout.
That’s simply not the case.
Mayweather, in an attempt to generate as many pay-per-view buys as possible, is doing his best to portray McGregor as a worthy opponent. He has pointed out the age, size, reach and theoretical power edge McGregor has, while citing the loquacious Irishman’s momentum and recent activity as another advantage.
While true—in theory at least—those aren’t the only advantages McGregor has.
As odd as it sounds, the fact he isn’t a boxer is one of his advantages.
It will take Mayweather longer to pick up on McGregor’s tells and tendencies because, for one, there is no tape of him for Mayweather to study outside of some sparring footage, which you can’t read too much into.
You can expect McGregor to be more aggressive than Mayweather’s previous opponents, but more than anything, McGregor’s punches will come from unwonted angles.
In Mayweather’s first fight with Marcos Maidana in 2014, the awkward Argentine gave him trouble and stole rounds despite being a +1200 underdog and an opponent completely written off by most — just like McGregor. Mayweather walked away with a majority decision victory and dominated their rematch but this first encounter proved Mayweather can be exploited in certain areas (specifically along the ropes) against unpredictable punchers.
Mayweather completely outclassed Maidana in open space but when Maidana was able to cut the ring off and prevent Mayweather from circling clockwise, that’s when he had his best moments. McGregor will need to do the same.
It’s no secret McGregor’s best weapon is his left hand. To set it up in the UFC he frequently cuts off the cage with kicks. He won’t have that luxury Saturday. Instead, he’ll need to corral Mayweather using right hooks and lead uppercuts, which will help set up his money punch.
Chapter one in his series with Maidana is a bit of an outlier in Mayweather’s career. For the most part Mayweather has a habit of making elite talents look ordinary, aggressive fighters hesitant, and you can count on one hand the number of times Mayweather has been rocked or wobbled in his pro career.
He’s considered the greatest defensive boxer of all time and his vaunted shoulder roll defence has been a huge part of his success throughout his two-decade career. Mayweather keeps a high guard with his right arm, parrying jabs with his right hand and deflecting power shots with his left shoulder.
His ability to counter with his right hand might just be the most beautiful aspect of his superbly refined skill set.
It’s been said Mayweather struggles against southpaws yet the easy rebuttal to that is the fact he is unbeaten against southpaws to the tune of 9-0 and lands approximately 50 per cent of his power punches in those bouts. However, what is true about Mayweather facing southpaws is he’s more susceptible to power shots thrown by lefties.
Southpaws DeMarcus Corley and Zab Judah were each able to penetrate Mayweather’s defence and rock him with left hands.
It might seem like I’m grasping at straws here since the Corley and Judah fights took place more than a decade ago, but if McGregor is going to stun Mayweather this is how he’ll do it.
If Mayweather stays flat-footed or reacts to a punch even half a second slower than we’re used to him reacting, we’ll see him on skates and his backside will touch canvas.
Speaking of reflexes, Mayweather is 40. Athletes age overnight and combat sports is a particularly cruel beast. How many times throughout the years have we seen boxing legends lose to fighters who, on paper, had no business being in the same ring with them? McGregor is in his athletic prime. Mayweather is not. Also, he hasn’t fought in two years.
If Mayweather really is just as good as he was when he beat Andre Berto to move to 49-0, then he will break Rocky Marciano’s record and The Money Team will make truckloads of money selling “50-0” merchandise.
Here’s one last thing to consider, and if you’re the type of person to read your horoscope on a daily basis you’re more likely to nod your head approvingly.
McGregor practises the law of attraction—the idea being that through visualization and belief you can will things into existence, material or otherwise.
“It is the most powerful thing in the world,” McGregor recently told USA Today. “It is the belief that you are able to create whatever situation that you want for yourself, and no one can take it from you. It is believing something is already yours, and then doing whatever you have to so that it comes true.”
You might think this is mumbo jumbo but the 29-year-old has shown an uncanny ability to call his shots in the UFC, most notably prior to his 2015 featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo.
“If you can see it here and you have the courage enough to speak it, it will happen,” McGregor added. “I see these shots and sequences, and I don’t shy away from them. A lot of time people believe in certain things, but they keep it to themselves. They don’t put it out there. If you truly believe in it, if you become vocal with it, you are creating that law of attraction, and it will become reality.”
McGregor sent the tweet above two weeks prior to UFC 194. He said he’d finish Aldo, a man who at the time hadn’t lost in more than 10 years, quickly and violently by knockout.
That’s exactly what happened, and the punch he landed on Aldo was something he had envisioned prior to the fight in his dressing room.
Maybe that’s the beauty of McGregor’s confidence, his aura. He makes people believe he can accomplish the improbable because he steadfastly believes it himself.
“We are prepared for 12 three-minute rounds of non-stop pace and I will go forward and I will put the pressure on him and break this old man. Trust me on that,” McGregor said during Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference. “We are more than ready, however eight-ounce gloves he made a big, big error in my opinion. I don’t see him lasting two rounds. I feel I will have the decision to end it inside one.”
Against Mayweather, that sounds impossible.