Let’s face it, if Dennis Siver wasn’t on the UFC’s promotional event poster many would struggle to pick Conor McGregor’s opponent out of a line-up.
The vast majority of the media attention for this Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 59: McGregor vs. Siver has been directed at the Dubliner. Apart from obligatory Ultimate Fighting Championship press conferences, Dennis Siver has been pretty anonymous.
Until this week, the German broke his silence to tell reporters he planned to shove all the predictions up McGregor’s ass.
For most commentators this fight will not be close. Conor himself firmly believes the fight is a mis-match and has predicted a finish within minutes of the first round. Conor’s coach John Kavanagh disagrees with his charge and feels the fight will be finished quicker. Clearly the UFC have high hopes for McGregor as they announced he will be next to challenge Jose Aldo for the title if he wins in Boston this weekend.
For the Irish UFC star, he’s not surprised there is such a one sided view of the fight.
“People have the belief in me that I have in myself, so that now it's not even a question," he said. "Make no mistake, he’s a tough guy, he’s small and compact but people are running out of questions.”
Since the Dubliner blasted his way into the UFC in April 2013 there have been many who just did not want to believe the hype.
“Every fight there’s been questions. When I came in to the Brimage fight – ‘I haven’t fought UFC calibre’. For the Holloway fight – ‘I haven’t fought seasoned strikers’".
"For the Brandao fight – ‘I haven’t fought BJJ black belts with KO power’. For the Poirier fight – ‘I haven’t fought any top five opponents’. There’s always been something.
"But for me, this is going be another smooth contest. It’ll be one sided and it’ll be another first round KO. This will be my third fight in the time most of these fools have only fought once. I’ll have back to back to back first round KO’s in the time most guys have fought once.”
So why is this even happening if many don’t regard this as a contest?
McGregor last fought and won in the first round against Dustin Poirier in September with the champion Aldo defending his belt successfully in a hard fought five-rounder in October. Quite simply, Aldo needed a break and Conor wanted a tune-up fight while the champ was side-lined.
Despite of the lack of media attention, Siver is a legitimate opponent. He is a five year UFC veteran with a 10 wins, three losses (and one No Contest) and ranked #10 in the world’s premier Mixed Martial Arts lightweight division. Boston will be his 33rd career fight of which he has won 22.
When he entered the sport of MMA he came in with a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and some kickboxing titles. But since crossing over he has worked hard on the ground fighting aspect of MMA and now has more submission wins than knock-outs.
The short answer is ‘yes’. Everybody that has the striking ability of Siver has a ‘puncher’s chance’. If he can land square on McGregor’s jaw enough to rock the Dubliner, he will know how to finish the fight from there.
However, there are very few scenarios in the fight where this can happen.
Physically, McGregor is a few inches taller and has a four inch reach advantage. For Siver to rock the Irishman he’ll need to get inside his reach and land. McGregor's stance has morphed over his career from being similar to boxing to more of a karate stance. Rather than having his hands tucked at the chin and rolling the shoulders, the Dubliner is more upright with hands out in front.
Typically fighters that have rushed McGregor get caught on the way in and dropped like Marcus Brimage in his UFC debut and Diego Brandao last summer in Dublin. If you stay on the outside, he waits, analyses your movement and finds a way and a moment to land. As the man himself says, no other featherweight hits like him; if McGregor hits you it’s usually the beginning of the end.
For the fight to be finished quickly, Siver needs to rush his opponent or vice versa. I don’t expect the German to going racing across the Octagon, I’m sure his team have seen how little success previous opponents have gotten from this tactic. Equally, I don’t expect McGregor to charge across the mat. He may be unpredictable and unorthodox but he is not a careless or crazy a fighter. He is calm and calculating and only throws strikes he believes will land.
How long the fight lasts will be down to how much Siver can avoid engaging with McGregor. The passivity rule will require Siver to engage at some point, which suggests it could be a short night as McGregor and Kavanagh predicted above.
Sport is superb at throwing out surprise results in the face of overwhelming odds against such an outcome. I’m just not sure that we’ll get that in Boston on Sunday. According to McGregor himself, the finality will go beyond the fight.
“I’ll show no remorse with him. I’ll KO him stiff and I will retire him, this will be his last fight mark my words.”