Conor McGregor is, without a doubt, a talented fighter. He’s big and long for both of the principal weight divisions for which he’s competed in the UFC. He’s also fast, athletic and knows how to take advantage of both his reach and his southpaw stance. Although I believe that Floyd Mayweather Jr. will win in a dominant fashion this Saturday, in a boxing fight many things can happen and Conor – like all of Mayweather’s previous opponents – has a puncher’s chance.
The key to beating Mayweather this Saturday does not lie in Conor trying to rough him up. In the past, all of Floyd’s opponents have tried to do so, without any significant success. It’s also never been Conor’s game. He is a fighter who fights at range. Trying to use dirty boxing will likely get him disqualified or lose him rounds. He could also get tired and compromise his ability to box in the later stages of the fight. If he chooses to pursue a pressure fighting tactic in the first rounds, Floyd will weather the storm and make him spend all his energy. Don’t forget this is a 12 round fight.
On the other hand, this is an intriguing stylistic match-up because, as previously analyzed here, one of Floyd Mayweather’s main attacks is the lead right hand. And all of Conor’s opponents who dared attack with a lead right paid for it. Here is Floyd attacking with a lead right hand:
Conor’s timing when countering the right is excellent, and means his left hand is almost certainly the main way he can win this fight. Against Mayweather this is an almost impossible task, but trainers are often asked to game-plan for the impossible and this is what this breakdown will try to accomplish. The purpose of this series is to teach, as well as analyze, so all techniques below can be used both in boxing and MMA.
Conor’s Striking Style
Conor McGregor striking style is not that of a boxer or a kickboxer. Conor has a unique style influenced by several disciplines. As you can see below his stance is more of a karate stance, or similar to the stances of old school boxers.
This is obvious when you examine his kicks, which are not Muay Thai kicks but resemble more those of karate; rigid, but powerful. As you can see, his chin is up. And while he has been hit hard several times over his career, his chin has never failed him.
It is also obvious that Conor is a fan of Mayweather’s style of boxing. He uses his own version of the shoulder roll and pull counter. His defense is solid and he uses a karate style footwork, where his hips are always loaded with power and he can explode back and forth without over-committing.
Below you can see some defensive drills he has been working on for the Mayweather fight.
Conor can also land punches moving backwards or at an angle.
Overall, Conor McGregor is not a boxer – in the traditional sense of the term – and it is not really fair when experts compare him with other boxers.
Sequences in Action Part 1: Conor’s Left Hand
The greatest weapon in his arsenal is his left hook. When fighting from a distance boxers do not really go for hooks with their back hand. They mostly use straight punches and overhands. Using left hooks from a southpaw stance makes you cross the left punching hand with the front right foot and expose yourself to getting countered with a straight right cross. From a distance, an orthodox fighter should be able to reach his opponent with a straight right and make a southpaw’s left hook miss, as it’s a shorter punch.
Conor’s stance and his reach advantage, however, allow him to utilize left hooks in an efficient manner. He has been able to knock out several opponents this way. Note the way he transfers energy from his loaded back foot to the left hand using his hips. This is why, in my opinion, this is a karate style left punch with the power coming from the hips and not a standard boxing punch.
Let’s examine Conor’s legendary left punch in action.
In the sequence below, Conor slips Ivan Buchinger’s right hand and makes him pay with a left hook. Conor is very good at landing on the chin. His punches rarely hit other targets.
Here is the gif:
In this exchange, you can see Conor in his fight against Diego Brandão. ‘Mystic Mac’ checks Brandao’s jab while staying out of range to establish a sense of distance and – as Brandao throws the second jab-to-right-cross combo – Connor lands a left cross, catching him between the two punches. Conor then throws a lead left hand and almost pays for it with a left hook (Conor never keeps his right hand up). However, he is able to get away with the strike due to his reach and footwork.
Take a look at this gif to appreciate Conor’s fencing-like footwork keeping his distance and going back and forth.
The photos below show a sequence from his fight against Eddie Alvarez. In applying one of the worst game plans of all time, Eddie keeps attacking with lead right hands and pays for it time after time. In this instance Conor slightly slips the right hand and lands a left hook, right hook, left hook combo.
Here is another angle:
Again, see this gif to appreciate how Conor keeps his distance and the accuracy of his punches.
In the next sequence, Alvarez attacks with a lead right to overhand combo against a taller, longer opponent (never a good idea). Conor, again, is able to catch him between punches with a left hand.
Eddie also uses this lead right to an overhand combo in the following exchange. This time he has more success, as he almost lands the overhand and then decides to go for a left hook to a right haymaker, which Conor rolls under to hit Alvarez with a left hook.
Champions make adjustments, according to Mayweather, but unfortunately for Eddie Alvarez, he is not that kind of a fighter. After getting countered attacking with right hands several times, he attacks one last time with the same punch. Conor uses a vicious four-punch combo to make him pay; a left cross, right hook, left cross, right hook.
Here is another angle and a gif.
In Conor’s fight against Jose Aldo, the Brazilian tries to use a fake lead right to close the distance in order to land a left hook. He almost succeeds (as can be seen in the gif below), but Conor is able to time a beautiful short left hook and knock Aldo out cold.
As pictured in this angle, Aldo connects with his left hook. But Conor has a solid chin and Aldo is a smaller fighter.
This gif shows how Aldo made the mistake of not using head movement in attacking against a longer taller fighter and how accurate Conor is in landing on the chin against a moving target.
With so many examples, it is obvious that it would be a mistake for Mayweather to underestimate Conor’s reach and his timing in landing the left hand.
Sequences in Action Part 2: Catching Mayweather with Left Hands
This section examines how southpaw opponents have been able to land left hands on Floyd Mayweather. My point here is not that McGregor can easily do the same. Make no mistake, it takes a special fighter like Manny Pacquiao or Zab Judah to land a punch on Floyd and Conor is not as technical as they are. However, styles make fights, and these are some sequences that show possible ways for Conor to get the job done.
Circling to Floyd’s Left.
Orthodox fighters, in general, find it difficult to deal with opponents who move towards their left. The movement makes them cross their punches and forces them to constantly keep resetting.
In the sequence bellow, Manny slips a jab and tries to pivot to his right. Floyd follows him with a right cross, leaving himself exposed for a split second. In photo #4 you can see Mayweather is briefly open to a left hook counter. What Floyd should have done is keep his right hand up, reset his stance and attack with a left hook, a jab, a left uppercut or a combination of these three punches.
Here is the gif.
An example of how bad it is for orthodox fighters to hit boxers with right hands when their opponents are moving to their left can be seen in the sequence below. Sharmba Mitchell puts Floyd momentarily in trouble by pivoting right and landing a left hook, right hook, left cross combination.
The gif shows that the left hook didn’t have power behind it, but landed nevertheless and so did the following punches.
Conor needs to keep moving towards Floyd’s left side (his blind side) and try to catch him as he’s resetting with left hooks.
Slip Right to Left Cross
In the two sequences below, Manny was able to land a left hand on Floyd by stepping a bit to his right (as if he were slipping a punch), getting out of the center-line and throwing a strike though the middle of Floyd’s guard.
In the first example, Manny parries the left jab and lands a left hook over the top. As analyzed here, Floyd often pulls back right after a jab, but Pacquiao is fast and was able to catch him this time.
Here is another angle:
Here is the gif of the sequence
In this second example, Floyd attacks with a jab and Manny slips to his right and lands another left cross. This time, Floyd failed to pull back after launching his jab, like he usually does, and thus paid for it.
Gif, angle #1
Gif, angle #2
Still, Floyd has a solid chin and can take a punch.
Headhunting in the Corners
As shown in the gif below, Floyd ducks under the right hand to get out of the corners. Although Robert Guerrero tries to punch low, Mayweather is still able to go under and escape. To counter this, opponents should double up on strikes, including punches to the body.
Manny was able to use body positioning to block Floyd’s exit strategy, and land a right cross to the chest (photo #3). He initiates the sequence below with a jab to make Floyd move to the right, and then makes sure to stay in front of him. Floyd is still able to escape, but a bigger opponent could have more success.
Here is the sequence in motion:
In order to land, Conor needs to aim lower – towards Floyd’s chest – and keep his distance while doing so.
Follow the Armpit
Whenever Floyd misses with a left hook he uses the forearm to push his opponent’s head down, as in the animated gif below:
In a similar situation. Robert Guerrero, instead of trying to push his head up continues to move forward, towards the armpit, and stays near the shoulder. As his head pops out he’s able to land a left hook.
Whenever a boxer launches a punch with a trajectory from a low to a high point, while his head is placed near his opponent’s front shoulder or ear, the punch has a high probability of landing. The reason being, that the opponent does not see the punch coming. This was extensively used by Mike Tyson and why he was so successful in landing punches.
Here is the punch in motion:
Countering the Philly Shell
Zab Judah was able to land on Mayweather’s chin, countering Floyd’s Philly shell stance. He used the jab to measure the distance, moved a bit to the right and attacked with a left cross that passed, sliding on the right side of Floyd’s bicep. This was executed in an upward motion, and Zab stayed near Floyd’s front shoulder while moving right. Notice that all of Judah’s straight follow-up punches miss as Floyd keeps moving his head all the time. Left hooks were more successful.
Slip Left to Left Body Punches
Below, both Judah and Robert Guerrero are able to slip Floyd’s lead right and land a left hook to the body. Sometimes headhunting with a technical boxer is not the way to go. Floyd can take punches to the body and a boxer needs to ‘mix things up’ by alternating from body punches to head punches and vice versa.
As mentioned in earlier breakdowns, Floyd will probably dominate the fight and make it look easy. As he often notes, he makes “extraordinary fighters look ordinary.” However, Conor could have his moments and, who knows? Maybe ‘Mystic Mac’ can prove us all wrong.
As a final thought, MMA fans should not underestimate boxing. Boxing gyms are where most MMA champions go to sharpen their punching skills. Boxing was the “gentleman’s art of self defense” before BJJ convinced everyone as to the importance of ground-fighting. Boxers are always dangerous opponents, because you can always count on them being able to take a punch. A mediocre boxer in Fabio Maldonado dominated Fedor Emilianenko in portions of their fight. Junior Dos Santos dominated the Heavyweight division with boxing alone, until he faced an irresistible force in Cain Velasquez.
This fight should help MMA fighters appreciate boxing and work more on footwork and head movement and avoid falling for Dana White’s “just bleed” mentality.
Fans can also be sure that, even if Conor McGregor loses, all his training in the art of the ‘sweet science’ will make him a better fighter in his return to MMA. He will be a fighter with sharper striking skills, which he can use to dominate all comers once again.
About the Author: Kostas Fantaousakis is a researcher of fighting concepts, tactics, and techniques, and a state-certified MMA, grappling, and wrestling coach in Greece. He teaches his unique Speedforce MMA mittwork system © which combines strikes, takedowns, knees, and elbows applied in the Continuous Feedback © mittwork system of the Mayweather family. Kostas is a brown belt in BJJ under MMA veteran and BJJ world champion Wander Braga (the teacher of Gabriel Napao Gonzaga).