While Conor McGregor officially finished Eddie Alvarez at three minutes and four seconds in the second round of last night's UFC 205 main event, once again it seems as though his opponent was defeated before he set foot in the octagon.
That has been said countless times before, but the manner in which Alvarez went down without so much as a whimper in response suggested that he was out of his depth, and he knew it.
Eddie Alvarez took his time getting to the octagon, he had a prayer to himself before he walked through the door, and then as we were all expecting one last "fuck you" or some form of machismo as the referee relayed the rules... There was nothing.
A touch of gloves.
After all that has been said about families, and backgrounds, and what is going to happen, there was a touch of gloves. McGregor did what he always does in sizing up the body language and actions of his opponent. Sometimes he offers a middle finger, or one last insult to plant a seed of doubt in the mind, but this time there was nothing. Eddie wants to touch gloves? Let's touch gloves. McGregor looked at the man opposite him in the same way he looked at Aldo, almost with sympathy.
Eddie Alvarez's performance over the last few weeks was admirable. He laughed off McGregor's taunts, insulted his accent, and even riled up the Irish fans. He was telling everyone who would listen that he was absolutely loving it. But a fake smile is easy to spot.
It's easy to draw comparisons between Alvarez's reaction and that of Dustin Poirier, as they were strikingly similar in how they approached the situations that fighting Conor McGregor presents.
Both Alvarez and Poirier tried to laugh off McGregor's jibes, both men claimed that they would reveal the truth about the Irishman, both men had absolutely no idea that what they were getting themselves into.
What they said was so similar it's like they had planned it together:
-I'm gonna beat his ass.
-He talks too much.
-He's only got a left hand.
-The truth will be revealed.
All of that was said with a confidence that anyone watching knew was fragile. McGregor explained how both had holes in their games that he would exploit, and that they didn't belong in there with him. Both men were defeated before Bruce Buffer had a chance to shout their name out.
For Dustin Poirier it is understandable, he genuinely did not know what he was up against and has since admitted that McGregor is the real deal, but for Eddie Alvarez? It is far worse considering the blueprint for success was laid out for him, and he chose not to go with it.
The way to deal with McGregor's verbal warfare is most certainly not to think that you can one-up him. Nate Diaz showed the world how you take away the confidence that McGregor gains from messing with his opponents with the simplest of lines...
Fuck you. I don't give a fuck.
And he really didn't give a fuck. This is the problem that other fighters face, that is just how Nate Diaz is.
McGregor tried to get under his skin, tried to get a reaction, and all he got was a middle finger and the number '209'. We then saw a McGregor that lacked focus, and ultimately was caught out and handed the first and only loss of his UFC career. For the rematch, McGregor knew Diaz wouldn't engage, and knew that he had nothing to say after losing, so he was respectful, and focused on getting better.
Now, this is most certainly not to say that if you bite your tongue and don't rise to McGregor's taunts you are going to win, but it is very, very clear that there is nothing to gain from trying to give it back as good as you get it.
If you try to laugh, and try to find something you think is going to upset him, then you would want to be a hell of a lot wittier than Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, and Eddie Alvarez have been.
If you watch Conor McGregor at those press conferences, he absolutely loves it. He wants you to talk shit, he absolutely thrives on hearing the crowd laugh their heads off when he hits back with whatever insult he had tucked away for the moment... So why do fighters continue to indulge him? It's madness.
Diaz, by nature, had it right, and it would have made Eddie's life a lot easier had he not been saying the things that will be thrown back in his face such as describing Conor McGregor as the easiest fight in the division, things that everybody knew watching was a lie.
Instead he laughed, he stood back as Dana White restrained McGregor on the stage at Madison Square Garden and looked as thought he was getting exactly what he wanted. Little did he know he was offering a red rag to a bull.
Nate Diaz's style of not engaging with Conor's mind games won't work for every fighter, it is most definitely not a case of 'shut your mouth - win the fight', but Stockton's finest made it clear that you don't have to put on a bullshit macho front. You can display your real emotions, show that it's bothering you, and use that energy to focus yourself.
It does seem, however, that there is absolutely nothing to be gained from pretending you're enjoying it. You can say it's armchair psychology, because it is, but how many people do we have to watch visibly crumble after taking the bait before we accept that the one guy who genuinely didn't let it bother him got it right?