The hype machine is in overdrive for next month's big Featherweight title fight between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor. The MMA odds say it'll be a close one, but is it all hot air?
Promotin' ain't easy. The UFC went to Mexico City Saturday night in front of a packed house at Arena Ciudad, and wouldn't you know it, the fan favorite took a beating in the main event. Not just the fan favorite, but the favorite on the UFC odds board, as well. Cain Velasquez (–435) dropped the Heavyweight title to Fabricio Werdum after getting caught in a guillotine while attempting a takedown in Round 3. So much for conditioning.
At least UFC 188 was an entertaining card overall with plenty of highlight moments for the home fans – Yair Rodriguez was particularly impressive. And it wasn't as if Werdum didn't earn the title; he was given a Performance of the Night bonus for his efforts. But the main event clearly didn't meet expectations. Now we look ahead to July 11 and UFC 189 at the MGM Grand, where another title fight awaits us between featherweight champion Jose Aldo and challenger Conor McGregor. Can this one possibly live up to the hype?
MC 2000 Ft. Jesus
The chances are better than they were for Velasquez-Werdum. At press time, the UFC odds are only slightly in Aldo's favor at around –125, even though he's 7-0 in the Octagon and undefeated in 18 fights stretching back to 2006. That's how impressive McGregor (5-0 in UFC) has been since making his big-time debut two years ago. Who knows what'll happen when they touch gloves?
Here's one thing that probably won't happen: Either fighter blowing up the way Velasquez did on Saturday. He was obviously unprepared for the high altitude in Mexico City – and it wasn't just Velasquez that night, either. Altitude will be much less of an issue at the MGM Grand (approx. 2,000 feet). Nor do Aldo and McGregor have to come back from injuries like Velasquez did. And as featherweights, they'll naturally be more likely to last into the championship rounds.
Hot Air Ballooning
That doesn't mean they'll make it out of the first round, though. The nightmare scenario for Dana White is that McGregor gets totally outclassed by Aldo. It could happen; the toughest competition McGregor has faced thus far was Dustin Poirier, and while Poirier was (and is) one of the rising stars in the featherweight division, Aldo is Sherdog's No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world, behind only Jon “Bones” Jones.
We've already put Aldo in our UFC picks for this fight, but it isn't because we think McGregor isn't the real deal. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised at all if McGregor came out and battered Aldo in the early rounds – which would be a successful result from a promotional standpoint. We've been thoroughly impressed with McGregor's fighting style, not to mention his mental make-up.
Which brings us back to the hype machine. Evidently, McGregor has the promotional side of things down to an exact science. Not only is he acting the part, he's also putting in plenty of extra work doing interviews and conferences and getting his face out there in the media. It would be easy enough to look at this from a cynical viewpoint, and question whether McGregor's UFC record qualifies him to be one of the faces of the company, let alone a narrow underdog to the champion.
We're not that cynical. McGregor may be playing a promotional role, but he's bringing real confidence and fighting spirit to the table, the kind you develop through hard work and success. If McGregor doesn't go over Aldo at UFC 189, it won't be because he's a paper tiger. We expect a great fight when these two gentlemen finally meet on July 11. Like we said before, this might be the real Fight of the Century. That couldn't possibly be too much hype, could it?