“The Notorious” Conor McGregor was a mixed martial arts rookie the last time the UFC passed through his hometown. That was way back in 2009 at UFC 93 in Dublin. McGregor was backstage, telling people to remember his name. Here we are five years later, the UFC is finally returning to The O2 for Fight Night 46, and guess who’s in the main event? McGregor has developed into a quality fighter, holding the Cage Warriors Lightweight and Featherweight titles at the same time before kicking off his UFC career at 2-0.
Not everyone is impressed. McGregor was a boxer before he got into MMA, and he brings the style and the swagger of a boxer into the Octagon. He’s also been making the rounds promoting himself on Ireland’s talk show circuit, and on Saturday, July 19, McGregor will have a capacity crowd of 8,000 fellow Dubliners firmly on his side in the main event against Diego Brandao. UFC odds for this event are pending as we go to press, and so will our betting pick on this event for the time being.
Five Good Reasons
You may have noticed a certain level of disrespect in the MMA community toward boxers. But since when was throwing a punch a bad thing in a fight? McGregor dazzled in his UFC debut by laying out Marcus Brimage (+115 on the UFC lines) in just 1:07 to earn a healthy Knockout of the Night bonus. The Irishman’s attack looked a lot like Floyd Mayweather’s, with a touch of Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida thrown in.
You’d also be missing the boat if you thought that McGregor was “just” a boxer. He’s got a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the hours he’s put in at Straight Blast Gym with coach John Kavanagh have obviously served him well. When McGregor fought Max Holloway (+190) last August at Fight Night 26, he tore an ACL in the first round and had to switch from boxing to grappling. McGregor dominated and earned a unanimous decision.
Hold No. 712: Armbar
McGregor might want to stick with the stand-up game in Dublin. A purple belt is nice, but Brandao (4-2 in the Octagon) has his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and he submitted Dennis Bermudez (+290) with an armbar to win the Featherweight bracket at The Ultimate Fighter 14. There are plenty of people back in his native Brazil – and elsewhere – who would love to see Brandao teach the boxer a thing or two.
Again, don’t fall for the stereotype. Brandao isn’t wearing the white hat in this fight; he was a “loose cannon” during TUF 14, and his most recent opponent, Dustin Poirier, accused Brandao of threatening to stab him in the neck. Also, Brandao wasn’t even close to making weight for that fight, and ended up losing via first-round knockout. That was his second loss in UFC action; his first was by unanimous decision to Darren Elkins (+250) at UFC 146 in Las Vegas.
Having to face McGregor in Dublin isn’t Brandao’s only disadvantage heading into the Octagon. On June 3, he was named as the replacement in this main event for the injured Cole Miller, so Brandao hasn’t had a lot of time to prepare for battle. He also had to pull out of his scheduled fight with Brian Ortega on May 31 at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale due to injury. And on top of that, Brandao recently switched training camps, leaving the highly respected Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn behind in Albuquerque and moving to San Antonio to work with Pete Spratt and Rodrigo Pinheiro. That’s a lot of excess baggage to be bringing into hostile territory.