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Three Reasons Why Cerrone Will Beat McGregor

Three Reasons Why Cerrone Will Beat McGregor

The UFC is set to kick off 2020 in a big way by welcoming back the biggest star in the sport, “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, as he takes on fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. The two meet in the main event for UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. McGregor, the former “champ champ,” is a -325 favorite for this fight with Cowboy coming back at +250. Despite the odds, I’m going to provide three reasons why the underdog is the bet to make in this highly anticipated bout.

Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone Betting Odds
Conor McGregor-325
Donald Cerrone+250

Odds as of January 16 at Bovada

If you would like to see three reasons why McGregor will beat Cerrone, check out Iain MacMillan’s article. Also, if you’re unsure how to make a wager on this massive event, Odds Shark has a useful article explaining everything you need to know for this bout. 

Cowboy’s High-Level Grappling

Many people are familiar with Cerrone’s style of getting in a standup war with anyone, anywhere at any time, but some may overlook his outstanding grappling skills. This is Cowboy’s 51st professional fight and he has 36 wins, 17 of them by submission. Although he doesn’t typically search for the takedown, rather standing and trading with his opponents, if they shoot on him, then he goes on the attack.

That said, if Cerrone is getting picked apart by McGregor’s pinpoint accuracy and fast hands, he may elect to try to force the fight to the floor. All four of McGregor’s professional losses have come by submission and he has been taken to the floor nine times over his last six fights, though his takedown defense looked much improved against Khabib Nurmagomedov in his last fight. I’m sure McGregor is making takedown defense a priority in his training camp because he could be in trouble if the fight goes to the canvas.

McGregor Tends to Fade Later in Fights

Conor McGregor is making his 12th walk to the Octagon and only twice has he gone the distance, and only three times has he fought beyond the second round, holding a record of 2-1 in those fights. He went the full five rounds in his rematch with Nate Diaz, winning by majority decision, and despite being outstruck 166-164, he did drop Diaz several times. He also went into the championship rounds with Khabib when he was submitted in the fourth round.

Meanwhile, Cerrone has had four fights go five full rounds, most recently in a decisive unanimous-decision triumph over Al Iaquinta last May. Cardio has never been an issue for Cerrone and if he is able to get through the first couple of rounds, the momentum should swing significantly in his direction.

Could Cowboy’s Diverse Striking Pose a Threat?

Conor should – and I stress should – have a sizable advantage on the feet with powerful and accurate strikes. Combine with that the fact that Cerrone is typically a slow starter and doesn’t exactly have the best striking defense, absorbing 4.23 significant strikes per minute. However, when looking at McGregor’s body of work in the UFC, he hasn’t been tested by a fighter with a very diverse striking skill set.

In McGregor’s fights that went into the second round and beyond, his opponents were boxers or wrestlers. Cowboy has really good kicks, specifically low kicks that could slow McGregor’s movements, allowing Cerrone to be the aggressor.

McGregor absorbed the most leg kicks (30) against Dennis Siver in 2015 and the second-most (18) against Nate Diaz in their rematch in 2016. The Siver fight went to the second round while the Diaz rematch went the full five rounds. In the fight vs Siver, although Conor dominated the bout, he didn’t check any of the leg kicks, there was visible marking on the inside of his lead leg and he was tripped twice because of them.

Of Cowboy’s landed strikes, 25 percent are leg kicks and I anticipate him using this attack frequently against McGregor before elevating the kick to the body or head to look for the knockout. His kicks in combination with his stiff jab may have McGregor thinking a little more than he wants to and could get him in trouble if he’s watching, not reacting.

Lastly, McGregor is optimal when his opponents are leading the dance, as his step-back left straight is by far the best in the business. But when Cowboy has room to work, he will stay on the outside throwing those leg kicks rather than overreaching and getting countered. I think this is the best approach for Cerrone – use his kicks to maintain distance and pick up the pace in the later rounds.