Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao Featherweight
A Brief History of How Brandao Inexplicably Ended up Here
Credit to Diego Brandao for stepping up, but sooner or later the UFC has to realize that maybe it's best to not have your good fighters fighting on such short notice. Granted, Cole Miller pulled out awhile back, so Diego has had plenty of time to plan for Conor McGregor, but this matchup makes no sense for either combatant. Conor is riding high off two decisive wins over quality fighters in Marcus Brimage, and Max Holloway. Diego is coming off an emphatic loss to Dustin Poirier.
Don't get me wrong. The fight is great on paper, and it will deliver on the action. I'd even argue that Brandao has a slimmer of hope in not looking completely outmatched. For the first 30 seconds. But it doesn't make either fighter look good moving forward. Having said that, it's such a solid action fight. We don't always need Kurosawa. Sometimes we'd rather watch some McTiernan.
Maybe I'm getting too ahead of myself. Brandao, despite some clear signs of psychosis, is a pretty talented guy. And his list of heads on a pike isn't bad either: Dennis Bermudez, Pablo Garza, and Daniel Pineda are solid wins in the division, and more or less on par with what McGregor has on his dance card. In fact, I'm not totally sure Conor wouldn't have a loss on his record if he had to fight Darren Elkins and Dustin Poirier too.
Fans are wanting to anoint McGregor as the next great contender, but let's see a little more bite before being inundated by all the barking.
To be sure, he's capable. There's a lot to like about Conor's game. For one, where his grappling was once thought of as a weakness with his first two losses being by submission, it has now turned into a plus. Working with Gunnar Nelson has been extremely valuable in that sense.
Watching his loss to Joseph Duffy, there's an element of panic to his grappling game that was crippled fighters like Melvin Guillard. Some guys simply can't turn that flight instead of fight switch on. That sense danger, and work to take the shortcut away from said danger than counter, or accept that they've merely lost position instead of opportunity.
Holloway isn't a chump and McGregor had no problem cutting up his guard. At the same time, let's consider an alternate universe where Diego has a chance.
Diego Brandao vs. Conor McGregor...The Year is 2007
If there's one thing to like about what Diego has to offer in this fight, it's his ability to be sudden. By that I mean his ability to create opportunities for himself like water to wine. His armbar over Bermudez was a brilliant display of this, and in general, he fights with the type of urgency he'll need against the upper echelon. His unhinged demeanor could potentially pay dividends against the more patient McGregor. After all, Conor is the type of fighter who wins because he allows himself to get comfortable, and settle into a rhythm.
Diego's style is not about rhythm. It's about violence: how to enact physical damage what whatever physiological weapon is readily available. Many a fighter has lost a bout because they anticipate point A, and point B, accepting that fighting has become more sport than spectacle only to find out that some men can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Wait...Conor looks pretty unhinged too...
Well if their staredown was any indication...
All of this sounds great for Diego, but it's an awful matchup. Dustin was able to cut up his porous defense on the feet, which has been a constant in Diego's career.
The main thing about how Conor is winning this bout on the feet is twofold: length, and angles. Conor will already have a solid reach advantage over Diego which is one thing. But to exacerbate the matter, Diego will have to deal with the way Conor keeps his base. Conor keeps a wide base that constantly shifts, so his movement just needs to be subtle to have a vital impact in the exchanges. He's never out of position, highlighting how you don't need to torque your whole body to land a powerful shot. Accuracy is the great proxy for power, and McGregor will find it pretty easy to land given Brandao's movement and style.
Essentially, expect this bout to look exactly like his fight with Brimage: or Diego's fight with Poirier.
There's not a lot to unpack here. Conor is simply the more technical fighter, while Diego is just looney tunes. Not to make Diego sound like he's the sum of his verbal threats to his opponents, but he's gonna need more time at Jackson's to unlearn what has brought him to the octagon dance.
Conor McGregor via TKO, round 2.