The wait is finally over. The Notorious, Conor McGregor makes his much-anticipated return in the first UFC PPV this year. And his opponent is the UFC veteran, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Conor McGregor has been away from the sport ever since his loss to the lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. It has been years since Conor last won in the UFC octagon. Hence he would be aiming to get back to the top of the mountain starting with a win over Donald Cerrone. As stated by UFC president, Dana White a win over Cerrone would assure Conor a title shot against in the lightweight division. That makes this fight a must-win for the former lightweight champion.
On the other hand, Donald Cerrone is coming off from two losses in the lightweight division by the hands of Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje. However, because this fight is at welterweight division it is believed that fans would get a much better version of Donald Cerrone. But is that enough to beat Conor McGregor? Before dissecting this fight let’s take a look at some of the intriguing stats of both the fighters.
Conor McGregor Is Unstoppable In Early Rounds
Arguably one of the finest strikers in UFC, Conor McGregor is a nightmare in the first two rounds. It can even be argued that he is one of the best fighters in UFC history when we consider the 1st and 2nd round. And the stats show exactly that.
Out of the 21 wins in his MMA career, Conor McGregor has been able to finish 19 of his opponents inside round 2. The only two fights that went to the decision when Conor won were against Nate Diaz and Max Holloway, two fighters with phenomenal cardio and chin. This proves that Conor is a finisher. He is going to come out all guns blazing right after the bell rings. And this stat looks vital when we consider the KO losses Cerrone has suffered in his career.
Donald Cerrone has 6 knockout losses in his career and all of them have come inside the first two rounds. Cerrone is naturally a slow starter. From his recent fight against Al Iaquinta, we can see that Cerrone landed the maximum strikes in the fifth round compared to the earlier rounds. Now Cerrone can put pressure on his opponent in the early rounds as well. However, can he keep up with the pace Conor is going to fight within the first two rounds?
Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone: The Striking Game
Conor McGregor is a phenomenal striker and so is Donald Cerrone. However, they are not similar at all. Conor is boxing heavy while Cowboy fights more like a kickboxer. It’s safe to say that Conor’s boxing is superior to Cerrone’s. On the other hand, Cerrone is more well-rounded with some vicious kicks in his arsenal.
However, Conor goes to the body a lot and it can be seen in all of his fights. Conor’s striking percentage to the head against Eddie Alvarez is 75%, and it is 59% against Nate Diaz in the rematch. on the other hand, Cowboy absorbs a lot of strikes to the head. If you consider Cerrone’s fight against Darren Till who is a southpaw, Till had a great success landing 95% of the total strikes to the head. This stat was 64% for the fight against Jorge Masvidal and 635 against Al Iaquinta over 5 rounds. So it’s safe to say that Conor will have ample opportunity to land his strikes, especially in the early rounds when he is fresh.
Now coming to the kicks, Cerrone has a more versatile arsenal than Conor. Cerrone might likely catch Conro with a head kick.
That apart, Conor’s work rate is more than Cerrone’s as it can be seen from the below stats. The significant strikes landed per minute for Conor is 5.27 and for Cerrone is 4.34.
The Ground Game and Wrestling
It’s needless to say that Donald Cerrone will have the edge on the ground. However, the narrative that he will be able to take Conor down at will and submit him might be completely wrong. Conor showed some excellent takedown defense against the best grappler in the game right now, Khabib Nurmagomedov. It has to be taken into consideration that Cerrone is not a chain wrestler like Khabib. And Conor is very much capable of defending Cerrone’s takedowns in the early rounds. If Conor can defend the early takedowns and keep the fight standing he can do the most damage.
On the other hand, Cowboy is capable of finishing fights with his striking, but he will have to use his ground game against Conor. Conor slows down as the fight goes to the later rounds and that’s when Cowboy can score the takedowns, and assert dominance on the ground. Now whether he can submit Conor or not, that’s will only be answered if the fight goes to the ground.
takedown defense: 70%
submission loss- 4
takedown defense: 36%
submission win- 17
If you look at Cowboy’s stats, he has 17 submission victories and all the losses in Conor’s career have come via submission. Hence it does seem that Cerrone will be able to expose Conor’s weakness on the ground. However, Conor did fairly well against Diaz in the rematch on the ground.
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Now it all comes down to what version of Conor are we going to get. And whether Cowboy is at his best after the two back to back losses at the later stage of his career.
The last win for Conor in the octagon come in November 2016 against Eddie Alvarez and the last time he competed in the octagon was in November 2018. So the ring rust might be a factor going into the fight.
On the other hand, Cerrone has been active a lot. He has fought 4 times in the last year but lost the last two fights and he took some serious damage in those against Ferguson and Gaethje. These factors might affect the outcome of the fight.
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The rivalry between Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone goes way back. Now, this might not be the appropriate time for these two to fight. If Cerrone would have fought McGregor when he was coming off a win against Al Iaquinta this matchup would have been a lot more intriguing. However, both of them are true warriors inside the octagon and fireworks can be assured in the T-Mobile Arena when Conor squares off against Cowboy.
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