Boxing

Opinion: Like With Nate Diaz, All Hope Of A McGregor Win Vanished With A Taunt

Opinion: Like With Nate Diaz, All Hope Of A McGregor Win Vanished With A Taunt

As soon as Badou Jack dispatched of Nathan Cleverley in the 5th round of the final undercard bout before Floyd Mayweather put his reputation - and that of his entire sport - on the line against Conor McGregor, the surrealness of the occasion really kicked in for me.

After months of build up, some of it tedious, some of it exhilarating, the hype was to be put to one side and this was actually going to happen. I watched it with friends and all of us didn't know how to feel as McGregor made his way to the ring. Could he actually do it?

I had, for weeks, been stressing that I would love to see the Dubliner get his hand raised, but couldn't imagine how it would happen. Floyd would have to grossly underestimate his opponent, get cocky, and leave himself open to a big shot early on. Most agreed that was Conor's best chance of success, but even if all of those things happened it wouldn't guarantee a win.

The anthems were sung - side note: give me Imelda May actually singing her national anthem over Demi Lovato milking the shit out of 'Star Spangled Banner' to show how many octaves she's got in the locker any day, it's not about you, Demi! - the introductions were made, the bell rang. Straight away Conor lived up to his word.

He had said that he will take the centre of the ring and look to land from the very start and he did. There was genuine excitement for a lot of McGregor fans watching that first round, as Conor was landing one or two decent shots and looked to be enjoying himself, but for me, straight away I felt a familiar feeling that this wasn't going to last.

The way Conor was peppering Floyd in those first two rounds made it look like a good start, but in between rounds it was absolutely clear to see just how comfortable Mayweather was. In the past weeks and months, I've seen Floyd pretending he was enjoying the press conferences, the interviews, trying to make it look like it was all natural to him. This time there was no faking. He was in his natural habitat, and he knew he'd seen the best that his opponent has to offer.

That familiar feeling I had was the memory of the first fight with Nate Diaz. For rounds one and two it was going well, in fact it was going far better than the early rounds against Floyd, but Nate was walking through Conor's shots and he wanted more of them. Floyd too was walking through the shots, much more successfully than Nate, and then came the moment I knew it was over, just like I did at UFC 196.

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Then, it was a direct point of a finger from Diaz to McGregor to let everyone know that he was gassed, and this fight was going to be over soon. This time it was much more subtle. For as fond of his own voice as Carl Froch was, he picked up on a wink from Floyd Mayweather to the commentators that he made when he was in the clinch in the third round, and I saw it too. That wink was confirmation that not only was Mayweather in control, but he had been the entire time.

Footage has since emerged of Brendan Schaub and Nate Diaz having a disagreement backstage after last night's fight, in which Diaz is adamant that Mayweather controlled the fight from start to finish, while Schaub keeps saying that McGregor won rounds.

Schaub is correct, Conor did win rounds, the first two on one judge's scorecard at least, but what Nate is arguing is what he knew happened when he fought the Irishman, McGregor was given those rounds in the knowledge that if they were survived, there was nothing left. Floyd took McGregor's best and hadn't even gotten started.

The mouth was the next giveaway. When Conor's energy is gone, he can't hide it, his mouth drops low and everything he does looks laboured. He is still dangerous, but he leaves himself wide open as he can no longer defend and attack in the same movement.

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This was Floyd's gameplan, just as it was Nate's. Weather the early storm, then pick away at your exhausted opponent. While Nate used his concrete head to absorb the shots, Mayweather used his defence, arguably the best the sport of boxing has ever seen.

You could hear John Kavanagh asking Conor to stop throwing shots where Floyd was blocking, he wanted his fighter to be patient and wait for Floyd to throw before throwing, but instead, it seemed that McGregor thought he was doing damage with the shots that did manage to slip through Mayweather's guard, while in all actuality he was just wasting energy.

Floyd turned up the pace, and it was only a matter of time before the ref stepped in.

Thankfully, the similarities between the loss to Diaz did not end there, as McGregor showed class in defeat and took his loss well, earning the respect of many who didn't want to give the MMA superstar any. It's unlikely that McGregor will get the chance to run this one back, but if he does wish to box again he learned a valuable lesson about energy conservation.

He's even admitted since the fight this is something he knows he needs to improve, and he managed to do so for the rematch with Diaz where he corrected his errors and fought smarter, so it would be interesting to see him box again, and I'm sure there is a long list of fighters who would welcome that pay-day, but for now, I can't wait to see Conor McGregor defend his UFC belt(s).

He's bounced back stronger before, and there are many more big nights for the Irish fans to turn up in force to, but this was always going to be a step too far.

Still, it was fun while it lasted.

Mikey Traynor

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