Monday 18 December 2017

“I hope he likes me after I whoop his a$$” – Conor McGregor replies to Dustin Poirier’s dislike of him

Conor McGregor in action
Conor McGregor in action
Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

Although Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier is 2 fights from the top of the UFC 178 main card, many fans have this scrap billed as the ‘peoples main event’.

Any video footage or interviews featuring Conor are receiving a multiple of views compared to that of main eventers and co-main eventers. Here’s a quick preview of how the 2 men stack up against each other.

The Physical

Physically, the two men are inseparable. The age difference is negligible with Conor (26) 6 months older than Dustin. Both men are 5ft 9in (175cms) and both will obviously have to weigh-in at 145lbs (66kgs) the day before the fight. They should be a similar size after rehydrating and feeding up on fight day. Both men have spent time in their early career at lightweight (155lbs/70kgs) and both are considered big as far as the featherweight division is concerned. Just to underline their similarities, both have an identical reach of 73 inches.

If you listen to Conor talk there is always an emphasis on the work he puts in the gym. Any video footage you see of Dustin training suggests he doesn’t shy away from the work either. Both will be in superb physical shape come fight night.

Verdict: Even

The Mental

This is where we begin to see some separation. Conor has become famous for narrating his own career and getting most of his predictions right about what his next fights or career moves will be. He talks about himself as if his media persona is the puppeteer to his fighting persona. He says something and then fighter in him makes it happen.

Conor’s ascent through the pecking order has riled up some of his UFC colleagues including Dustin. While Conor discusses opponents as a means to an end – the featherweight title, his opponents have adopted a more ‘I’ll show him, big mouth punk from Ireland’ type of approach where Conor appears to be their end game.

At the media day to launch the UFC 178 event in Las Vegas Dustin and Conor faced off in a stare-down as is custom after the press conference. Conor describes how he felt the moment went – “The media day in Vegas was the first time that we came face to face and he put his fists out and I went head to head… He’s been talking a lot, I know I talk but he’s been talking a lot, all sort of s*** on Twitter saying a lot of stupid s*** but when it came face to face, when it came man to man he backed down and there wasn’t a peep out of him… I felt that he was broken already, he was timid.”

Check out the final instalment of the UFC Embedded Vlog

Verdict: Advantage - Conor

Grappling

Conor’s grappling ability is an unknown quantity for MMA fans. His fights have either stayed on the feet striking or not lasted long enough for us to see his ground game. His fight with Max Holloway showcased some of his ability but this was only after seriously injuring his knee.

Most of the successful US based MMA fighters generally have an amateur wrestling pedigree from either high-school or college or both. Dustin doesn’t, however. Six of his 16 wins have come by way of submission so he must have some decent chops on the ground.

Some might point to the fact that Dustin is formally graded higher in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a brown belt to Conor’s purple. However, SBGi black belt Tom King, who regularly trains and coaches Conor, believes Conor’s ability is at least a brown belt if not a black belt.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that if you’re so good at one thing you can’t be good at something else. For example, some people still believe Gunni Nelson is so good on the ground his stand-up game must be his weakness, which is obviously not true. The same goes for Conor, his stand-up is so good his ground game must be his weakness. Its hard to believe that someone who works so hard in the gym, as Conor says himself, to seek perfection in human movement would not give wrestling and BJJ the required training hours.

Having said that Dustin has proved his ability to submit fighters in the UFC, so he shades this round. But not by much.

Verdict: Advantage – Dustin.

Striking

This one won’t take long. Very few people hit as hard as Conor. Also, and probably more importantly, nobody has as wide and varied an array of punches and kicks as Conor. As soon as you think you have your guard worked out… Boom! Conor hits you from a completely different angle; both punches and kicks.

While Dustin has worked hard on his striking and looked good in the recent training footage the UFC have broadcast, Conor has a solid chin. There isn’t a piece of footage from any of Conor’s fights showing him getting knocked down by strikes and he’s never been knocked out.

Verdict: Advantage – Conor

Bottom Line

While Dustin has been around a lot longer, fought tougher opponents and is ranked higher than Conor, his career trajectory has been that of a good fighter. And he is a good fighter.

However, if you look at how the UFC has treated Conor, they believe he’s a superstar. This might not count for much in the Octagon on Saturday night but if you consider Conor has gotten better every time he steps in to fight since way back in the Cage Warriors days, maybe that explains the superstar treatment. It is not because of the things he says, its because of the things he does. And, most importantly, because he is an excellent fighter.

It’ll be the toughest test of his career on Saturday but if he gets past Dustin Poirier in the fashion he has predicted, Conor McGregor will cement his position as one of the finest Mixed Martial Artists around.

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