MMA expert David Powell (@Powlo981) was gagging to give us his thoughts on the superstar UFC showdown between Irish sensation Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes in their interim featherweight title fight from Las Vegas this weekend.
Chad Mendes v Conor McGregor | Sunday 04.50 | BT Sport 1
Well, well, well… Conor McGregor really is something special. A good, possibly great fight, YES! But this is so much more.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, the man from Lucan, Dublin is headlining a fight card across the pond on the UFC’s yearly flagship event during international fight week. And as he calls it, “The McGregor Show”, truly is something very special and unseen before in Mixed Martial Arts.
For McGregor to be headlining an Interim title fight when the welterweight strap is also on the line just tells you how big of a deal he the Irish brawler really has become. Remember the UFC will always prioritise the heavier weights when multiple title fights are on the same card. Well, not in this case, such is the buzz McGregor brings.
A bit of background surrounding the event first, UFC 189 was to be THE show, THE grudge match of 2015. Jose Aldo, the only ever UFC featherweight champion, the unstoppable force, had found himself a foe in McGregor. For Aldo, the road up to now had been full of good performances and exciting fights but never that bout that made him the star his position had demanded.
Conor then shines all this light on the division, easing through the obstacles in front of him. Aldo must have been excited to finally have a larger audience to perform in front of. Up to now, he had been expected to win every fight he was scheduled for and had done so.
Conor’s win against Dennis Siver in January set up this fight, a fight the UFC spent more money promoting than any other. Round the world press tour, big-money adverts and global TV show appearances had the MMA world excited, a lot of casuals interested and even non-following MMA novices hearing about the cocky Irishman and his brash chat.
However, three weeks before the bout rumours began to surface of a rib injury to Aldo. Injuries occur all the time, but this was different. Never the biggest fights, never so close to the event. This one hit hard.
The UFC needed to think; do they take McGregor out and delay the bout until later on in the year, or do they replace Aldo with potential for McGregor to lose and possibly miss out on the fight all together (in the short-term at least).
The UFC made a play – Aldo would be replaced by #1 contender and twice loser to Aldo, Chad “Money” Mendes, if he could not compete. The fight would be for the Interim UFC Featherweight title.
The news came on 1 July that we had feared, Aldo was out and Mendes was in. Big respect to Mendes for stepping up at late notice and in my mind, bigger props to McGregor for taking a very tough ask, when training for a striker, to take a fight with predominantly a wrestler (and the best wrestler in the division at that) with only 11 days notice.
Exceptional fight, Intriguing fight.
We may well find everything out about Conor McGregor that was up for debate. Can he wrestle? He hasn’t needed to up to now.
Can he handle awesome athleticism? We will defiantly find out on Saturday night.
Bar a quick knockout from McGregor, we should see all aspects of his full game.
Mendes has exceptional one punch knockout power, as well as the ability to put anyone on their back with his wrestling background. The only man Mendes has lost too is Aldo. That is a very good record in a stacked division.
Mendes’ last fight was a first round torching of #4 ranked Ricardo Lamas. Possibly the best Mendes has ever looked in the octagon. To be honest, Mendes has eased through everyone except Aldo.
However, in some ways for McGregor, I see this as a tougher fight than the Aldo bout, which seems odd when you consider Aldo has beaten Mendes twice and Aldo is the reigning champ. But styles make fights.
Short notice style change for one, Aldo was never going to wrestle McGregor, it was going to be a stand up war. A war that one could argue McGregor could win. But Mendes will test aspects of the game that we have never seen from McGregor in his short UFC career.
McGregor is an exceptional striker, and will use his nine-inch reach advantage well. The question is how long will the fight be on the feet for Conor to utilise his striking. And if on his back, how quickly can he get back to his feet?
I have to pick based on what I have seen up to now and Mendes is exceptional at stopping people from doing what they want in the octagon. I don’t see a finish from Mendes but I see a durable fighter stalling another and utilising his experience. However I could be underestimating McGregor’s takedown defence and ability to get back to his feet – we just simply haven’t seen enough of it to make me confident to back him.
It seems strange as, if the original fight was still in play against Aldo, I had McGregor winning a striking battle. And if this fight stays on the feet, it’s McGregor’s to lose all day. Trouble is, I think the longest this could stay on the feet is the beginning of each round, so I’ve got to put my pounds on Mendes winning at 13/8 (Betfred) at the available quotes.
Chad Mendes v Conor McGregor – Chad Mendes to win (13/8 Betfred)
Chad Mendes v Conor McGregor – Chad Mendes to win by decision or technical decision (6/1 BetVictor)
Chad Mendes v Conor McGregor – Conor McGregor to win via stoppage in Round 4 (17/1 Paddy Power)
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