UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden saw Conor McGregor returning to the fundamental techniques that define his fighting style. In McGregor’s clashes with Nate Diaz the Irish fighter deviated from his usually fluent movements and attention to detail. The first fight in particular saw McGregor attempting to adopt a much more straightforward approach instead of relying on his diverse arsenal of techniques and tactics. The McGregor vs Alvarez fight, however, displayed a man who had reanalyzed and readjusted his game.
Distance manipulation played a pivotal part in giving McGregor the victory. Instead of snapping back his jabs the southpaw fighter used his right hand to measure the distance. This meant Mcgregor could correctly gauge when to throw his hefty left and warned him when Alvarez entered comfortable shooting range, a tactic simliarly employed by Artem Lobov at UFC fight night 99. McGregor used two techniques to maintain the optimal distance for stuffing take-downs and avoiding the clinch. First was the threat of Irishman’s cocked left hand ready for the counter, a dangerous weapon Alvarez quickly learned to respect.
The second came from McGregor’s consistent front kicks, which telegraph less than kicks chambered from the side and subsequently make the thrower less vulnerable to take-downs. McGregor employed the front kicks to punish Alvarez whenever he strayed too close for comfort, at times using the technique to literally push his opponent back into the fence. The manipulation of distance meant Alvarez either had to relinquish the initiative to McGregor or throw caution to the wind and adopt a rushing tactic. To often the underground king decided on the latter.
McGregor’s boxing technique, although powerful when successfully executed, contains certain vulnerabilities. McGregor’s wider stance, for instance, makes him susceptible to leg kicks, ironically a weakness McGregor himself exploited against Nate Diaz in their rematch. Sure enough, within the first few minutes Alvarez forced McGregor to stumble after taking a blow to the inner thigh. Unfortunately for Alvarez, McGregor’s use of front kicks here again worked to the Irishman’s advantage. The forward extension of the front kicks coupled with McGregor’s naturally longer reach outdistanced Alvarez’s low kicks, largely neutralizing their threat early on.
The second technical aspect of McGregor’s game that Alvarez failed to capitalize on was the openings in the Irishman defenses created by his tendency to fully commit into his left cross. McGregor’s left deviates from standard boxing form by emphasizing a weight shift from the back left to the forward right, often causing him to overextend if the punch fails to connect. Again, however, McGregor actively addressed the weakness.
Like Gegard Mousasi’s at UFC fight night 99, patience played a central role in minimizing the risk of Alvarez countering his over-extension. Even after rocking Alvarez with a hard cross, McGregor showed restraint, unwilling to expose himself to a potential bait by fully committing while on his opponent’s terms. To fully exploit McGregor over extension, Alvarez needed to slip to the punch’s outside. Fully aware of the vulnerability, McGregor also occasionally fainted a left cross before catching Alvarez’ outward slip with a roundhouse kick to the head or a right uppercut to the jaw.
Throughout the fight, McGregor pressured and controlled Alvarez’s movement through subtle tactics that slowly dismantled his opponent’s defenses. Alvarez’s initial game plan of hampering McGregor’s mobility through leg kicks enough to setup a take-down quickly fell apart in the face of the Irishman’s relentless onslaught. Mental strength also affected the fights outcome, with Alvarez clearly shaken after being rocked with consummate ease early in the first round. McGregor meanwhile employed a beautiful distance control strategy and relayed on a variety of well-thought out tactics to cover any vulnerabilities in his game.
Author: Johan Vandeleuv