Playlist- McGregor vs. Cowboy
We're almost here. Just one more sleep until the return of the "Notorious" Conor McGregor. Love him or hate him, the hype and anticipation ramps up whenever he's involved in a fight, he's transcended the MMA bubble. So, over the past few days, I've gotten my hands on everything to do to with the big main event, McGregor vs. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Press conferences, interviews, Embedded, and past fights of both guys. In fact, I've managed to watch every past fight of both McGregor and Cowboy- I started with Cerrone much earlier thankfully, given that tomorrow's fight will be the 51st time that Cowboy competes in a MMA fight. I watched his WEC career and first few UFC fights in preparation for the Cerrone article that I wrote a few weeks ago, here's the link if you're keen on more of my MMA ramblings:
Seeing as I'm sure most of you fine readers have lives, girlfriends, what have you, I'm sure you don't have time to watch 70 odd fights. So I've decided to launch a new series, as you can see in the title, it's called "Playlist". This is where I simply give you a selection of fights that I feel are must watch in preparation for a UFC event. Going forward, I may cherry pick fights for every fighter on a card if possible, but for this inaugural one, we'll stick to the main event fighters... this is as much of a one match card that the UFC has put together in quite some time. God help us if Conor or Cowboy slip in the shower or something between now and Bruce Buffer doing the intros. Anyway, here we go!
-McGregor vs. Marcus Brimage- UFC Fight Night Sweden. Where it all began. It's incredible to see a young Conor, sans many of his tattoos, but with all the bravado, storming into the UFC and making an immediate impact by running through Brimage, who was doing quite well for himself in the UFC, amassing a three fight winning streak following a stint on The Ultimate Fighter before running into the Notorious one. Plus we get his first memorable soundbite in the post-fight interview- "60 Gs baby!"
-McGregor vs. Diego Brandao- UFC Fight Night Dublin. This was Conor's return after ACL surgery, but the reason it's worth a watch is for the incredible atmosphere the Dublin fans create cheering for their countryman. McGregor wins, but it seemed inevitable... the people crowned him a champion the second his entrance music hit.
-McGregor vs. Chad Mendes- UFC 189. Mendes was a late replacement for Jose Aldo, and presented a completely different stylistic challenge for McGregor. This is worthwhile viewing as it showed McGregor's ability to come back from adversity, and was also his first UFC title win. Well, interim, so, kinda.
-McGregor vs. Jose Aldo- UFC 194. The punch heard around the world. After about a year of intense build and McGregor using his unique brand of trash talk and psychological warfare, the actual fight was over in seconds. McGregor became the undisputed featherweight champion. A historic moment in the UFC.
McGregor vs. Diaz- UFC 196 and UFC 202. The first McGregor vs. Diaz fight was a happy accident. Conor was scheduled to face Rafael dos Anjos in a champion vs. champion fight, giving him the chance to become a double champion, at both featherweight and lightweight. However, RDA pulled out with a foot injury, and the UFC put veteran Nate Diaz in his place. Due to the short notice nature of the fight, it would be contested at welterweight. This time, Conor would not be able to overcome the adversity. He put all his power into trying to knock out the bigger man, who did not go down as the 145ers did. Diaz cracked him back, and a hurt McGregor was forced to shoot for a takedown. Nate quickly used his jujitsu skills to choke Conor out and hand him his first UFC loss.
Conor accepted the loss humbly, but would not allow that to be the end of the story. He isolated himself from the fame and the media and trained like a madman for the rematch, still at welterweight at his insistence. With a full training camp to prepare, improved cardio and a strong game plan, McGregor prevailed, avenging his first UFC loss. Also, importantly, it shows McGregor's ability to perform and win at 170 pounds.
Win or lose against Cowboy, UFC always have a huge money fight in doing McGregor vs. Diaz 3. I feel like that would smash the PPV and box office records that Conor has set already.
McGregor vs. Alvarez- UFC 205. The last time Conor won in the Octagon (November 2016). It was a sublime performance, with lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez looking completely out of his element. Knocking Alvarez down multiple times, before finishing the champ with a 4 punch combo that looked like it was out of a video game or martial arts movie, McGregor looked unstoppable. He also fulfilled his goal of becoming a dual champion, the first people to simultaneously hold two division's belts in the UFC.
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone
Cerrone vs. Paul Kelly- UFC 126. Nice to see where Cowboy started in his UFC career as well. A young, but still seasoned Cerrone had an impressive UFC debut, adding to his tally of submission victories by choking Kelly out. The man tried to cheap shot Cerrone off a glove touch, so it was doubly satisfying for that reason. Also, Cowboy earned his first of many UFC Fight of the Night bonuses in his first outing in the Octagon.
Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz- UFC 141. Not that MMA math ever really works, but it's interesting to see how Cerrone deals with Diaz versus how McGregor dealt with him. Nate had a career best performance, taking Cowboy apart with excellent boxing technique, but Cerrone shows endless heart by continuing to fight back and try different techniques to combat the barrage he was taking.
Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard- UFC 150. The fight was less than 2 minutes long and won both Knockout of the Night AND Fight of the Night. Seriously unreal stuff.
Cerrone vs. Rick Story- UFC 202. Moving up to welterweight gave Cowboy a new lease on life, but the win over Story may be one of the most spectacular victories he has earned at 170. The finishing combo that ended the fight simply has to be seen to be believed.
Cerrone vs. Matt Brown- UFC 206. Some fights look so good on paper, you just know there's no chance in hell they will suck. Donald Cerrone vs. Matt Brown was one such fight. Brown is a veteran UFC fighter that always comes to throw down in a style that he has coined "technical brawling". Cowboy is cut from the same cloth- although he is more technical, he is no less violent. This ended with a sick head kick finish in the 3rd round, but the action was stellar all throughout the fight. Should have been a clear Fight of the Night, and maybe even a Fight of the Year candidate... unfortunately for them, Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi went and had one of the greatest scraps of all time in the fight prior on the UFC 206 card.
Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez- UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw. Talk about another satisfying fight. Hernandez came in extremely arrogant, believing that Donald was "over the hill", "past it" etc etc. Cowboy then proceeded to tear Alexander a new one inside the cage. It might be the best example of "Dad Cerrone"- since Cowboy became a father, he seems to have an increased focus and motivation in all his fights, bringing baby Dacson Danger Cerrone cage-side every time. Another fight that earned Cerrone dual bonuses- Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night.
Cerrone vs. Al Iaquinta- UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Iaquinta. Both Cerrone's last win (May 2019), and proof that he can go the distance in a 5 round fight. Cowboy was still unleashing punches and kicks until the final horn. It's also commendable how much he mixed up his attacks, changing levels, leg kicks, head kicks, head punches, body punches... it was a complete beating. Iaquinta was game and tried his hardest, but the veteran Cerrone beat him into a bloody pulp.
So that's the Playlist. Instead of watching 75 fights, as I have, here's 14- the length of a full UFC fight card. And that's not to say that both Conor and Cowboy don't have many other fights worth watching, just that I think these are among the most significant and relevant highlights. It's great seeing Conor KO Poirier in 2 minutes, or go 12 rounds in a boxing superfight with Floyd Mayweather, but does it really have much, if any, bearing on this welterweight MMA fight? Similarly, it's great seeing Cowboy go to war with Robbie Lawler and Tony Ferguson, or leg kicking Myles Jury into oblivion, but is it a major part of his story, or tell us anything that may affect the outcome of tomorrow's fight? Not really.
As for my prediction- heart says Cerrone, head says Conor. I love Donald Cerrone. He's been one of my favourite fighters since 2011. He's always exciting, and it's been awesome seeing him have success still after a long and hard-fought career. That said... he tends to crumble when it comes to high level fights. Whether it's a title fight, or a big name top contender, that's always where Cowboy stumbles. Conor McGregor is by far the biggest fight of his career. If he can overcome it, that would be great, but history says otherwise.
I used to be a massive Conor McGregor fan. But it's clear fame has gone to his head. Over the last year or two, he's been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Legal troubles, assault charges, and the latest is sexual assault allegations which are yet to be resolved one way or another. Then, in the Khabib fight, Conor didn't appear as sharp. In the build-up, his usual trash talk reached manic level, but his output in the fight didn't seem like the old Conor. In everything I've seen in the build-up to this one, McGregor seems to know his reputation is damaged. So he's saying all the right things, and appears to be taking this much more seriously, from the training to the media obligations. So I'm leaning towards seeing the old Conor back in the cage, but it'll take a lot for me to regain my fandom of his. Should he be guilty of the allegations, no chance. But when he's committed and on his game, he's a spectacular fighter to watch. As Cowboy said at the press conference, there's a good chance they "blow the fucking roof off" in Vegas.
Conor by 1st round KO. No one can take that left hand. But low key would love Cowboy to upset McGregor's plans of a big "2020 season".
Until next time, take care,