Look, nobody likes Monday mornings. Well, I suppose there are probably people who just love waking up to the sound of a buzzing alarm to face five straight days of work/school/whatever, but if you're the kind of person who genuinely enjoys the start of the new week, we're probably not going to be friends. I'm comfortable with that. But if you're like the vast majority of people out there, you're probably suffering from a more-or-less severe case of the Mondays, and I have a cure for you. It's a violent remedy to a common malady, kind of like cough syrup, but with a bit more bite. Welcome to Monday Morning Violence.
This will be a weekly series in which I take a look at a past fight. I'll be highlighting either up and coming prospects or the pre-UFC bouts of current fighters, a combination blast from the past and Monday morning pick-me-up spiced with a generous dash of the old ultraviolence and a sprinkling of technical analysis. This week, we'll take a look at one of the most hyped of the UFC's recent acquisitions, "The Notorious" Conor McGregor, in his last fight before his Octagon debut.
That last bout (contested in December of 2012) marked McGregor's acquisition of the Cage Warriors lightweight title, making him a two-division champion in one of the best and most consistent regional promotions in the world. The victim was Ivan Buchinger, an experienced and dangerous opponent with a fine record on the European regional scene. If you're thinking to yourself that this was some kind of squash match, you can stop: McGregor was only slightly favored (between -135 and -160), and Buchinger, who's currently riding a four-fight winning streak against quality opposition, is probably only a win or two away from a shot in the UFC.
Without further ado, here's the video. Stick around after for GIFs and some technical analysis.
McGregor pounded his opponent unmercifully for almost four minutes before the referee put a stop to the massacre. As I stated above, Ivan Buchinger isn't a Campbell's can masquerading as a fighter, but a legitimate prospect in his own right, and McGregor absolutely dismantled him. BE's striking specialist Connor Ruebusch put together a great Judo Chop on McGregor's striking before his last bout, and I highly recommend that you take a look.
The upshot of Connor's analysis of McGregor is that the Irishman is an exceptionally skilled and dangerous striker, if a touch unorthodox. I'd add that McGregor is also a solid grappler, though that's not the heart of his game, with a highly underrated takedown repertoire that he put to fine use after blowing out his knee in the second round against Max Holloway last August. Against Buchinger, we can see the early stages of that development in this GIF:
Note how McGregor uses a spinning kick to push Buchinger backwards toward the fence. Much of the Irishman's game (regardless of the opponent) is predicated on keeping his opponent's back to the cage, where his greater length and superior footwork provide the maximum benefit. When faced with this situation, McGregor usually prefers to whirl a rapid succession of straight punches and quick kicks at his opponent, but here he shows another look. When Buchinger tries to get off the cage with a right hand, accompanied by a shift-step forward with his right foot, McGregor takes advantage. Watch closely: the forward step means that Buchinger is momentarily squared up with his feet close together, and McGregor capitalizes on this opening by dropping levels, securing the double-leg, and driving forward into the takedown. It's a crafty, veteran move that builds on the threat of McGregor's more standard striking game.
Mr. Ruebusch did a fantastic job breaking down the Irishman's striking, and I don't have much to add. But let's take a look at the fight-ending sequence, presented here in GIF form:
McGregor opens with a quick, karate-style high kick with very little hip rotation. When he steps to his right and gets the outside angle, meaning that his lead foot is outside his opponent's, McGregor fires off a pair of quick straight lefts, once again forcing Buchinger to the cage. Knowing that Buchinger can't back up any further, the Irishman anticipates Buchinger's slip (itself anticipating yet another straight left), and throws a hard, stepping left knee. Buchinger manages to create enough space to escape with a high kick of his own, and once the two men are back in the middle of the cage, he notices that he's momentarily gained outside foot position. Aha, Buchinger thinks, this is the perfect time to throw a straight right. Wrong, replies McGregor, who's just as capable of fighting from the inside angle as the more common outside. He pivots and fires a straight left over the top of Buchinger's right, and down goes Buchinger.
Any time a fighter receives as much hype as McGregor, there's bound to be a backlash, and sure enough the nay-sayers have come out of the woodwork. To a certain extent, they're right. Any talk of McGregor coming off his knee injury and challenging Jose Aldo is somewhere between misguided and delusional, and he does need to prove his quality against a couple of guys in the divisional top ten. With that said, however, "The Notorious" is pretty freakin' awesome. Don't be fooled by his swagger or his unorthodox style: his striking fundamentals, namely his pace, footwork, and sense of the distance, are rock-solid, and he has plus power in his hands and his kicks. His ancillary skill sets are not just functional, but beautifully integrated into his overall MMA game.
Thanks for tuning in to Monday Morning Violence. Check back next Monday for the following installment (I'm down for suggestions), or give me a follow on Twitter.