There’s a marquee fight coming up in the squared circle, but in the Octagon, you can’t ask for much more than the July 11 tilt between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, where the UFC odds are tighter than a drum.
Let’s talk about the REAL Fight of the Century, the UFC 189 main event at the same venue between Featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. This has all the earmarks of an absolute barnburner. Aldo (25-1 lifetime) has won 15 straight fights in the UFC and the WEC before that, but the UFC odds say he’s only a –130 favorite to retain his Featherweight title. McGregor is 17-2 lifetime and 5-0 in the Octagon, and getting better (and bolder) with each appearance.
So who’s our early UFC pick for this superfight? There will no doubt be plenty more attention paid to this bout as we get closer to their July 11 encounter, but for now, let’s look at how each of these two gentlemen might fare in three categories: on the mat, gunning for a KO, and if the fight goes to the judges’ score cards.
Aldo just might be the greatest MMA practitioner in the world today. He’s second only to Jon “Bones” Jones in the pound-for-pound rankings at Sherdog, and if you include his WEC career, Aldo has successfully defended the Featherweight strap nine times over the past five years. Still in his prime at age 28, Aldo has a black belt in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Luta Livre, a hybrid of catch wrestling and judo. Despite these bona fides, Aldo has won just twice by submission, and never in top-flight competition.
McGregor has considerably less experience on the MMA circuit. The former boxer made his debut in 2008 in his native Ireland, and didn’t appear in the Octagon until 2013, when he put down Marcus Brimage (+115) by first-round TKO to earn the Knockout of the Night bonus. It’s been almost all TKOs since then. McGregor has a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and he’s been more willing to take it to the ground than Aldo, attempting 2.60 takedowns per 15 minutes to 0.93 for the champion according to FightMetric. But Aldo has a 91-percent stuff rate on takedowns, and figures to have the advantage should the fight go horizontal.
Punch Buggy No Return
It’s the striking that has brought both these gentlemen to the dance. Aldo has scored 14 wins by knockout, including seven of his eight WEC fights and two of his seven title defenses in the Octagon. Aldo drilled Chad Mendes (+250) with a knee in 2012, then smothered Chan Sung Jung (+705) with punches the following year. But Aldo’s striking prowess really comes to the fore with his low kicks, which are designed to wear down an opponent rather than create a knockout.
McGregor, on the other hand, has earned three straight Performance of the Night bonuses with three straight TKO finishes, over Diego Brandao (+400), Dustin Poirier (+180) and Dennis Siver (+648). He was an amateur National Boxing Champion in Ireland, and as an MMA fighter has landed 5.72 strikes per minute to Aldo’s 3.29. Factor in McGregor’s two-inch height advantage and four-inch reach advantage, and the KO should be the Notorious One’s preferred path to victory.
Not just preferred, but almost certainly his only path. If this fight does go to a decision, which has only happened once in McGregor’s entire career – in his 2013 win over Max Holloway (+190) – it will likely be because Aldo has been able to spend most of the 25 minutes neutralizing McGregor’s attacks. And as the incumbent champion, Aldo will have a certain amount of respect in the eyes of the judges. That’s why we’re making Aldo our very early UFC pick for this matchup, but we’ll revisit this as we get closer to July 11.
UFC 189 Pick: Take Aldo -111 at Pinnacle Sports