A Contest of Kings
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A Contest of Kings

A recap of how McGregor took UFC gold

A Contest of Kings

The November UFC Lightweight title match between “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez and Conor “The Notorious One” McGregor certainly delivered on all of the hype that it promised. Eddie Alvarez attempted to defend his belt against the reigning featherweight champion who was coming up in weight. McGregor, although fighting 10lbs above his normal weight in the UFC, remained the taller and longer fighter – it should be noted that he has obtained titles within both weight divisions in a less competitive organization. His style is well adapted to use every inch of his long reach. Both Eddie and Conor are listed as 5'9'', but when standing next to each other it was hard to believe that Eddie was not the shorter man and conversely, it was much easier to believe that Conor maintained a 5-inch reach advantage (as it's officially listed).

Although Alvarez had a few good moments throughout the match, McGregor ultimately dominated the bout. Conor asserted pressure from the opening bell – both men rushed to the center of the ring, but each time Conor moved forward, Alvarez moved backward. While being backed up toward the perimeter of the fence, Eddie landed a few inside leg kicks and one managed to briefly catch his opponent off balance, though he could not capitalize on this opportunity. Conor asserted his reach to establish his range. His first strike, a grazing snap kick to the body, made his intentions clear: he was out to pick his opponent apart from a distance.

The first and second panel are demonstrations of the tools The Notorious One used to negate the strengths of The Underground King. Throughout the bout Conor controlled the distance and strike selection. Maintaining a dominant hand position helps to prevent the opponent's jab while forcing the fighter to leap in order to land punches. Many of Conor's punches were not thrown to land but were perhaps range finders, baits, and setups. In Panel 2, we see the distance between the two is much too large to bridge with any single strike; even as Conor leans in with his left, his fist remains approximately a foot away from the face of Alvarez. The strike is nowhere near him, but it encourages him to take a leap of faith and so he initiates his darting right by pushing off of and picking up his right foot from the floor. The leap falls short and we see in Panel 5 that Conor picks him off while Alvarez isn't planted or ready to defend. When Alvarez is planted in the southpaw stance, he's hit immediately with another hard left hand which drops him. Just a minute in and the Lightweight Champion is already struggling to get back to his feet and recover from a legitimate knockdown.

When the shorter man returns to his feet, he is met with more lead hand manipulation, probing left hands, and long range kicks. The long snapkick to the body shown in Panel 1 prompts Eddie to prematurely close the distance. As he begins his favorite darting right hand, we can see that the center of his weight is underneath his own body. The position in Panel 2 would allow him to avoid straight strikes to the head or even bob and weave under looping strikes the may pose a threat. But as he darts in, he sacrifices defense for offense. His technique allows him to cover distance and nearly clip the chin of his opponent, but places his center of gravity beyond his own body. Eddie's reliance on using this darting motion once again backfires as he's caught with a left hand while his balance is compromised and he's floored just briefly, but not nearly as violently as the first time. After Alvarez manages to stand up, the two trade a kick each, but Conor uses the longer snapping kick. Alvarez circles to his own right and Conor stalks to until Eddie is pressured to shoot for takedown which was easily blocked; Conor then plants another snap kick into his gut to maintain the long range and make him pay.

Conor is in control again. With Alvarez's back to the fence, Conor starts to overload and misdirect Alvarez. Alvarez is forced to block a high kick – this discourages the right slip which is so useful for avoiding McGregor's dangerous left hand which has floored Alvarez twice in a mere two minutes. In Panel 2 the left hand comes again, but the angle is noticeably different. In all likelihood, it wasn't aimed to concuss Alvarez – it's too far upward and too far to one side; Alvarez perhaps reads the placement and has been primed to move his head to his own left shoulder. McGregor sets up another piece of the trap. He jabs at Alvarez, but doesn't land it – Alvarez has stood upright, but there's no ignoring the fact that a right jab could have landed on him. The appropriate defense for the strikes McGregor has been landing is to slip the head to the left side. McGregor feints the jab in Panel 4 and Eddie aptly attempt to slip it. Unfortunately, The Underground King has done precisely what was expected and Conor throws another left which clips and drops him. The angle of the left hand in Panel 5 can be contrasted to the one in Panel 2 – Panel 5's left is aimed horizontally and is meant to drive through the left shoulder of Alvarez which causes the 3rd knockdown of the fight within the first half of the first round. On his back, the Lightweight Champ is forced to defend himself against the potentially fight-ending ground and pound of his adversary.

After a minute of grappling, Alvarez manages to get back to his feet where he is met with more probing straight left hands, more kicks, and more pressure. Conor stalks until Eddie shoots for a takedown, has it defended, and is struck again during the exchange. The pressure and the left straights continue to take their effect. Even when Eddie strikes conservatively, he's met with counter strikes and kicks up the middle. The dynamic of the fight seems to have been determined by the end of the round.

In the second round, Alvarez knew he had to be more creative if he is to land and avoid being knocked down again. Leaping in with the right hand failed him twice and resulted in knockdowns, but waiting produced the same results. Although his background is in wrestling, simply rushing for a takedown at the higher levels of mixed martial arts is fairly ineffective. By throwing strikes a fighter can open up opportunities for wrestling exchanges or takedowns. The opposite is true: a fighter struggling to land strikes can create opportunities for them by using or even just faking takedown attempts. Eddie's attempt at creativity led him to adopt the latter strategy. By faking a takedown, he draws Conor's attention low, before coming up high for a left hook. However, Conor has simultaneously back-stepped and when Alvarez aims to follow up with a right, Conor's chin is nowhere to be found. Conor closes the distance and delivers a punishing blow to The Lightweight Champ which causes him to stumble back.

McGregor continues to dominate the range and pace of the fight. At times, he even places his hands behind his back and exposes his chin. Having one's hands behind their back is the possibly the worst defensive position to adopt, but it does influence the opponent in a few important ways – one of which is that the opponent may become upset by the obvious disdain for their skills and lash out. After another straight kick to the stomach, a side kick to the knee, and a few more punches by Conor, Eddie decides to go on the offensive. Perhaps a combination of anger and befuddlement caused The Underground King to up his aggression. By throwing a series of hard right hooks at the taller man on several occasions, he was able to land a few good right hooks. Conor's preferred method of combat is on the counter – when Alvarez stepped in, the left hand would often be there to meet him. When Alvarez stepped in this time, Conor threw the left hand which Alvarez read, ducked, and in turn countered with the right hook in Panel 1. After landing this, he attempted a left hook which fell short, then a right hook with Conor ducks in the following panel. Conor uses a quick pivot to land a left hand which bounces off of the lightweight's head and leaves him briefly knocks him down once more.

Eddie's wrestling comes into play as he gets up and pushes Conor to the fence. For the next minute, they vie for dominant positions until Conor is able to break and establish the distance yet again with long left hands and quick kicks to the midsection. Alvarez goes to what he knows and darts in once more, shifting his right foot from behind, to in front of him. As Alvarez lunges in, he's caught with Conor's left. But this time, Conor follows with the right uppercut, he rinses and repeats these two strikes until he drops and finishes what is now the former champion of the division.

By doing so, Conor McGregor became the first person to hold two UFC championship belts simultaneously. This historic accomplishment could effectively catapult him to being ranked as the top pound for pound fighter on the planet.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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