Saturday 10 December 2016

Time for Conor McGregor to pull back reins and for his team to learn valuable lessons

Colm Parkinson

Published 09/03/2016 | 02:30

Conor McGregor after his defeat to Nate Diaz in their welterweight bout. SPORTSFILE
Conor McGregor after his defeat to Nate Diaz in their welterweight bout. SPORTSFILE

Four days on since Conor McGregor's loss in Las Vegas and I can't decide which was more surprising - that he lost or that no one saw it coming. Like Ronda Rousey before him, Conor found himself the victim of the UFC hype machine.

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We know McGregor moved up two UFC weight classes to compete with Nate Diaz on Saturday night.

To put context on that, in boxing terms, he actually moved up almost four weight classes since his last fight.

In fact, he moved up 15 pounds, over two weight classes in boxing, on 11 days' notice. Crazy stuff.

There's no doubt in my mind Conor believed in his own hype. I can't even blame him for that. He's young and has had unprecedented success in such a short space of time. He predicted the outcome of his last fight, a world title win against Jose Aldo, with scary accuracy. It's not surprising that he might get carried away with the hype and feel he's bullet proof.

That's where his team comes in. Who pulls the reins back on him when he's suggesting a welterweight contest on 11 days' notice when he could have fought someone 15 lbs lighter in the lightweight division?

Why did Conor, by his own admission, punch himself out in the first round? What were the tactics other than go out and knock him out? Was he trying too hard to live up to his 'Mystic Mac' title after predicting a first round knockout?

McGregor's coach John Kavanagh, writing in his column last week, pointed out how durable Diaz was but then dismissed it in the very next sentence.

"Nate is a scrapper and you can't count him out. Looking at some of his fights over the years, he can take a tremendous amount of punishment. But I don't believe he'll ultimately be able to withstand what Conor will throw at him."

Over a nine year career Diaz has fought the cream of the crop in the UFC in the lightweight and welterweight divisions. He was only stopped once in his career and that stoppage came from a kick to the head. Despite all this McGregor, a featherweight for his whole UFC career, was supposed to knock him out at welterweight. How did everyone, including the bookies, get it so wrong?

Lessons need to be learned by Conor but also his team. Were preparation and tactics what they should have been? Is he spending too much time with his movement coach, Ido Portal, who was actually in his corner on Saturday night. Is he facing the quality opposition in Straight Blast Gym that he needs to compete? Let's hope he finds answers to all these questions in the coming weeks so we can see him do his undoubted skills justice again.

Irish Independent

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