Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor is set to go down on August 26th from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and it’s already being hailed as potentially the biggest fight in combat sports history. That’s despite the fact that few people give McGregor much of a chance at beating Mayweather in a 12 round boxing match. A street fight or a MMA fight? That’d be a different story, one that’s not being told because Mayweather would be crazy to agree to it.
But Conor McGregor was more than happy to switch sports to take on the boxing pound for pound great. Whether that’s because he truly believes in his ability to win or because he’s looking to add an extra couple of zeros onto his paycheck is up for debate. He’s certainly doing a good job of radiating confidence leading up to the fight, so much so that a surprising number of people have put money down on the Irish UFC champion to win. That would be a legendary feat, and the tantalizing possibility (no matter how slight) of him pulling it off is going to be a big driver of pay-per-view sales around the world.
So how could McGregor do it? What’s the blueprint for success? Let’s take a look at what both Conor and Floyd need to do to win this superfight.
Conor McGregor’s Keys To Victory
1. Be Unpredictable
In order to succeed where 49 other boxers have failed, McGregor basically has to throw out the manual on boxing and figure out something new that might work for him. The conventional gameplan on how to defeat Floyd Mayweather has been tried multiple times by better boxers without success, so what else is there? McGregor may be able to pull from other martial arts to find attacks that could surprise Floyd and pierce his defenses. He could even take a few pages from the boxing days of old in order to mix things up and keep his opponent guessing.
“We’re not going to spend 10 to 12 years doing something one way and then, because it’s a boxing fight, change everything for three months and beat the best defensive boxer of all time,” McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh said in an interview with ESPN. “No. We’ve got to come at this with an MMA striking strategy. Of course, hands only, but maybe there are things we can do from an MMA perspective, which, if people study boxing from the early 20th century, those things were a bigger part in the boxing game than they are today. We’re bringing an old-school boxing approach.”
2. Get Rough
The worst thing that McGregor could do during the fight is let things settle into a sparring match where he’s stuck on the outside trying to get his combinations off. Instead, he’d better come in to brawl and make things messy. Everything up to the edge of illegality and a toe over should be employed to keep Mayweather from being able to get comfortable. It’s easier said than done, especially since Mayweather is wicked fast and always ready to counter careless aggressiveness. But this fight could be won or lost in the clinch or against the ropes if Conor figures out a way to punish Floyd whenever they collide.
3. Fight Fearless
This isn’t a fight that’s going to be won on the scorecards. For that reason, McGregor would do well to forget about trying to win rounds and simply hunt for the kill through the 12 round fight. That’s going to mean eating a lot of shots as he puts himself in harm’s way repeatedly in order to get off shots of his own. But fortunately for him, Floyd isn’t known for power punching or his knockout ability. This part is still dangerous, though. The harder McGregor pushes, the more likely he is to leave himself open for whatever secret weapon Mayweather and his coaches have custom tailored for the fight.
Floyd Mayweather’s Keys To Victory
1. Stay Elusive
It might be tempting for Mayweather to change his style for McGregor and increase his offense, but that would be a mistake. Floyd needs to do what he’s done so well over the past ten years, and that’s frustrate his opponents and stay literally one step ahead of them and out of their reach. In the past, Mayweather has never had issues staying just an inch busier than his opponent, winning rounds on three or four extra jabs. If he’s willing to do the same against McGregor, it practically guarantees him a win on the scorecards.
But the temptation is going to be strong for him to try and put a beating on McGregor. Already, some pundits are saying anything other than a thorough and definitive drubbing would be a moral victory for Conor. Floyd has never seemed to care about criticism of his fighting style in the past, but this fight is a unique situation. Even if he doesn’t care about the expectations of others, his own pride and expectations may lead him to fight more aggressively than normal to earn a resounding victory. And that change in modus operandi could open up to door for McGregor.
2. Weather The Storm
While we won’t know until fight night whether McGregor plans to blitz Mayweather early on, there’s no doubt that Conor’s best chance of winning comes early in the fight when he’s still fresh. A lot of trash gets thrown McGregor’s way regarding his cardio, a lot of it overblown. That being said, it’s simple biology: the longer things go the less energy Conor will have. The less energy, the less speed. The less power. If Mayweather is smart (and we have no reason to doubt his fight IQ), he’ll do his best to frustrate McGregor early on and wait for him to tire him out. Slow down the pace of the fight by keeping out of reach and tying up whenever Conor manages to get in close.
3. Use The Ref
One of the biggest unknowns we still have regarding this fight is who will end up as the third man in the ring. Yet that could end up being one of the biggest factors in how the fight goes down. You’ve got referees out there known for letting the fighters fight, and others that will step in and call for a break the moment a clinch is initiated. Some are able to keep control of the action in the ring with invisible grace, and others regularly interject themselves in the middle to the endless frustration of fans. There’s dozens of ways the referee could become the biggest story of the match once the final bell has rung.
With Conor McGregor likely to employ an extremely unorthodox and aggressive fighting style, it’s almost impossible to imagine he’s not going to get a certain amount of push back back from the referee. And Floyd Mayweather’s team should take advantage of this by raging against all the misconduct (real and imagined) that Conor engages in. Even if the ref manages to keep it from influencing how he calls the fight, it creates the kind of atmosphere where no small infraction goes unnoticed and anything serious would be impossible to ignore. Worst case scenario for McGregor, he could end up deprived of various tactics after a warning or point deduction, throwing his gameplan into disarray.
There’s no doubt that the deck is heavily stacked in Floyd Mayweather’s favor. Yet this fight against Conor McGregor continues to intrigue fans who not only want to see who will win, but how it all goes down. Can the wily mixed martial artist bring something new to the ring? How will he handle things if the fight starts to go horribly wrong for him, as so many predict? How will the world react if he survives the full 12 rounds? There are so many questions we have that it almost excuses the fact that we already know the answer to the one that traditionally matters most: who’s going to win.