Judging Conor McGregor’s Strengths and Weaknesses
At one point in his career, Conor McGregor’s weaknesses were seemingly no match for McGregor’s strengths inside the Octagon.
The rise of “The Notorious” in the UFC was one of the greatest periods of modern mixed martial arts. But over the past years, the Irishman has polarized even his own fanbase for his antics outside of the cage. It’s fair to say that is just as ‘notorious’ for his transgressions in the public domain as he is for his skills within the eight walls.
Throwing dollies through bus windows, punching old men in bars, smashing up phones, and other mindless acts have seen him feed headlines to newspapers and appear in front of judges on multiple occasions.
But today, I’m going to play a different type of judge. Think of it as an exercise of adjudicating the strengths and weaknesses of Conor McGregor.
This should be interesting to most UFC fans, and it’s especially useful to consider when you’re betting on McGregor fights.
Let’s get started with what he does well.
McGregor’s Key Strengths
Inside the cage, McGregor is known for being a dangerous striker.
But is that all he has to offer? Well, absolutely not. You don’t get to the upper reaches of the tree in two divisions without having something special. But let’s not dance around the fact that he is one hell of a striker.
Of all of his attributes, McGregor’s power is probably his X-factor. There is no doubt that it is what he is most respected for, and for good reason.
Conor knocked out then champ Jose Aldo with one punch within just 13 seconds of the first round, making it the fastest finish in a UFC title fight in history. “Nobody can take my left-hand shot,” he proudly boasted after the fight.
Although he does have power in his right hand also, it’s his left hand, the “Celtic Cross,” that is his lethal weapon.
It could be argued that timing is actually a more important fighting attribute than power.
Sure, it’s great to be able to knock a man out with one punch, but if the punch isn’t timed properly it won’t land flush, rendering it almost useless. Eddie Alvarez discovered the deadly accuracy of McGregor’s timing first hand, in a fight that was largely a one-sided beat down.
Unlike Aldo, Alvarez wasn’t put down with one punch, rather it was death by a thousand cuts. For every punch Eddie threw, Conor would neatly time and counter back with two or three hard shots of his own, eventually putting Alvarez down for good 3 minutes into the second round.
McGregor is one of those rare fighters that make it difficult to know exactly how tough his chin is.
The reason for this is that his footwork is so supreme he rarely gets hit with hard shots, as he tends to remain out of range until he is ready to engage. This has saved him a lot of punishment and is the reason why he has never been knocked out in a UFC bout.
Sure, he got stopped by Mayweather, but at no point did he hit the canvas, and besides, it’s Floyd Mayweather, right?
Perhaps the hardest shot that McGregor has taken in his MMA career was landed by his rival, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Conor mistakenly braced for a takedown attempt and got cracked with an overhand right. One that no one saw coming.
Other than these two examples, McGregor’s chin has been largely untested as his elusive footwork and distance management skills have saved him from being slept on pretty much every other occasion.
Weaknesses? We all have them, right? Even Achilles, the greatest of the Greek warriors, had a bum ankle.
And while McGregor has his strengths, he has also been criticized for a couple of glaring weaknesses in his game. Let’s take a closer look at some of the shortcomings of the former champion.
McGregor’s greatest concern has always been his cardio.
In almost every fight he has, he can be seen breathing heavily from the mouth after just two or three rounds in, sometimes even after the first round. Many opponents have sought to capitalize on this weakness and drag him into deep waters in the later rounds once his footwork slows down and his power fades.
Conor recognizes this weakness himself and paced himself much better in his rematch with Nate Diaz. Getting yourself submitted via a rear-naked choke within just two grueling rounds of relentless Diaz pressure will do that for you.
Unfortunately for McGregor, some attributes can be improved but not removed. And while his pacing has gotten better he has still suffered from early fatigue in subsequent bouts.
Another weak part of Conor’s game has been his takedown defense.
Although he displayed noticeable improvements in the fight against wrestling-heavy Khabib, it wasn’t enough to save him from being taken to the canvas on several occasions. Once down, it is very difficult to get up against a wrestler, especially someone as jaw-droppingly dominant as Khabib, and most of the Dubliner’s lost rounds have come as a result of his lack of takedown defense.
McGregor has lost just four times in his entire MMA career. The common denominator is that every single loss has come by way by submission.
Even in fights he won, he was forced to overcome great adversity against wrestlers and grapplers alike. Chad Mendes, for example, is much smaller than Conor. A fact that The Notorious used to relentlessly mock him in the pre-fight build-up.
However, despite the smaller man’s stature, Chad was easily able to control and manhandle McGregor on the ground. This made the fight more difficult than it otherwise would have been. Fortunately for McGregor, his power saved him once again and he was able to use the mighty left-hand equalizer to knock Mendes out at the end of the second round.
On the Balance of Things?
Conor McGregor is a well-rounded fighter who can inflict devastating damage with his left hand whilst using his slick footwork to avoid taking much himself.
Opponents believe that exploiting his weaknesses, such as in his cardio, could lead them to victory. By taking him to the ground and turning up the pace when McGregor begins to tire, this is the best way to dismantle the Irishman.
Perhaps the reason why Khabib had such success against McGregor is that Nurmagomedov is known for his dominant wrestling and unrelenting cardio, the two areas that Conor struggles with the most.
On the balance of things, McGregor is an excellent fighter that is not without his flaws.
Want to learn more about other MMA competitors? Check out our guide to UFC fighters.