UFC 189 will see the most highly anticipated fight of the year but how do these featherweight combatants compare when they stand face-to-face and will this help us cash in our UFC picks?
McGregor's fists need no introduction as he has made his bones in MMA courtesy of 15 KO's in 17 victories. But what the casual fan does not recognize is that McGregor is actually becoming a far more complete stand-up fighter than he once was. First and foremost we must examine the southpaw's lead right. Throughout much of his career his jab was used as a measuring stick to gauge his distance and at the same time act as a parry hand to neutralize his opponent's lead left (assuming of course he is facing an orthodox fighter). McGregor is now turning that jab into a weapon and giving his opponents something to think about besides his devastating left.
McGregor is a counterpuncher by trade. He is also big on baiting his opponents by allowing them to advance and then stepping up and ripping off a front kick to the jaw or midsection. He will also use a roundhouse in similar fashion. His kicks may not be as aesthetically appealing and are more bludgeoning than the quick-whip style of some of his contemporaries schooled in Tae-Kwon-Do or in one of the more traditional martial arts. But that does not mean they don't do the job. While McGregor will always be known more for his fists it would be a mistake not to recognize how he has integrated his kicks into his repertoire.
Finally, the Irish sensation has also incorporated capoeira into the very essence of his MMA game. It is this herky-jerky, almost ponderously flat-footed style that is evident in the way McGregor sidesteps his advancing opponents' assaults and then times a perfect counterstrike to set them back on their heels...or their backs. Its roots are steeped in Brazilian culture with African influences and it is part dance, acrobatic and of course martial art. It is what also makes McGregor so very difficult to diffuse when the fight is standing up.
Let's set the record straight before anyone believes I am either blissfully unaware of Jose Aldo's accomplishments or think me to be a hater of one of the greatest featherweights to ever rule the division. I am neither and Jose Aldo is a champion of champions. Now that I have that out of the way let me say that Jose Aldo is not an offensive juggernaut the way we think of the explosive KO kings we usually back with UFC picks. He ranks fifth among featherweights for significant strikes landed but that has more to do with his many fights and the recent spate of those that have gone the championship distance. Aldo is not even in the top ten of all featherweights when it comes to strikes landed per minute or significant strike accuracy.
Surprisingly it is the UFC Featherweight champion's defense that should receive all the accolades. Aldo ranks second in significant strike defense (behind only Chad Mendes) in the 145 pound category and number five when pertaining to fewest strikes absorbed. One feature of Aldo's makeup is that he is highly adept at avoiding counterattacks which should aid him greatly against a counterpuncher as fierce as McGregor.
And saving the best for last we must doff our caps to Jose Aldo's legendary kicking ability. Aldo has the legs of a major league catcher but instead of using all that muscular heft to squat and receive baseballs Aldo transforms this muscularity into a lethal battering ram. Aldo is famous for summoning his rear leg to target the front leg of his opponent and relentlessly pummel it until his opponent must switch stances or try to survive on one leg. This has been a hallmark of Aldo's career but to ignore his punching ability would be a glaring oversight.
How Do they Match Up?
How does Conor McGregor match up with Jose Aldo? Great question but the answer may lie in McGregor's height and reach advantage. McGregor is a counter-striker while Aldo is completely comfortable with defending whether it be from an aggressive attack or a counterattack. Yet will Aldo be able to work the front leg of McGregor if the Irishman keeps him at bay with his reach advantage? Of course this won't be the first time Aldo has been the shorter fighter but McGregor is a different breed of cat. The Conor McGregor we have seen is pure devastation and annihilation.
We won't know if McGregor's front leg will be battered but let's not forget that he is a southpaw which means Aldo's rear leg will have to travel a longer distance to hit the inside of McGregor's right leg than the outside left leg of an orthodox fighter. That in itself could be the key to victory for McGregor. If Aldo cannot reach McGregor on a consistent basis with his ferocious leg whips then McGregor could be in good shape to claim the featherweight crown from a very noble champion.