UFC 194: Aldo vs. McGregor – The Final Breakdown
“I’m here as a champion, and I think the court is complete here. I’m the king, Chad’s the prince, and now we have a joker.” – Jose Aldo post UFC 179
Now, in present day Las Vegas, the “Prince” to Aldo’s King has been replaced by “The Answer” following last night’s KO at the TUF 22 Finale. That said, the King and the Joker are still very much alive, well and prepared to provide us with the main event we’ve all been salivating for.
When Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor are finally able to put hands on one another later tonight in Vegas, a sense of relief will wash over both men and every fan in attendance and watching at home alike. There has never been more talk over a longer period of time (has it just felt like forever?) for any fight that I can remember.
Below, we’ll take a look at some statistics, what’s at stake and who holds the advantage on the feet and on the ground before Aldo and McGregor take center stage inside of the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The Records: The only true featherweight champion in UFC history, Jose Aldo, will bring a professional record of 25-1 (14 KO/TKO’s, 2 subs, 9 decisions) into the cage against the interim champ, Conor McGregor, who holds a record of 18-2 (16 KO/TKO’s, 1 sub, 1 decision).
The last time Aldo suffered defeat was over a decade ago at Jungle Fight 5 against Luciano Azevedo. Aldo has been perfect, winning 18 straight since against the best of the best at 145 lbs. For McGregor, it’s been just over 5 years since he tapped to Joseph Duffy at CWFC 39. Since then he’s been a man on fire, posting a record of 14-0 with 12 KO’s.
What’s at Stake: Everything. These two men have built something special together over the past year. It’s been the perfect storm. When you combine Conor McGregor’s silver tongue with the legacy Jose Aldo has built for himself you get arguably the most anticipated fight in UFC history. The blessing in disguise was Aldo’s untimely rib injury that forced him out of the UFC 189 bout against McGregor. McGregor went in and TKO’d the number two guy in the division in Chad Mendes putting to rest any and all questions about how he’d fare against an elite American wrestler.
So, again, what really is at stake here? Tomorrow will mark 1,848 days since Jose Aldo was awarded the UFC featherweight championship at a press conference inside of the Palace of Auburn Hills. That puts him behind only Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre when it comes to the longest title reigns in UFC history and a successful defense against McGregor also puts him right behind those two men and Jon Jones with 8 title defenses. One could make the argument though that this will really be Aldo’s 10th defense of this belt and that he’ll be entering his 2,215th day as champion when he takes on McGregor, putting him above St. Pierre and giving him an opportunity to tie Silva’s mark of 10 title defenses over one reign. After all, Aldo was fighting the very same competition in the WEC but since it didn’t take place inside of the “world famous” octagon it doesn’t technically count. Basically, in one word – legacy, it’s Aldo’s legacy that is at stake here. If he can beat McGregor after everything that’s taken place in the build up to this fight he cements himself as one of the greatest champions in mixed martial arts history. He’s already the greatest featherweight of all-time, a win against Conor gives him a shot at passing those marks set by Silva and St. Pierre, marks that may never be beaten especially now that there is so much parity in the sport; the customers are getting tougher and tougher.
For McGregor, it’s different. Will he solidify himself as the future later tonight in Vegas. Sure, he’s done a lot of talking heading into this one and he’s going to eat a lot of crow should he end up asleep on the canvas or fall short on the judges scorecards. The internet will explodes with memes, fans will make tweets with the words hype, train, and derailed in them. McGregor on the other hand will be just fine in terms of marketability. If it’s a close fight he could even get an immediate rematch. We all know the UFC loves those. If not, maybe it’s time to move up to 155 lbs and get that rematch with Joseph Duffy; avenging that loss at a stadium show in Ireland would be huge for McGregor and the UFC. Beating Aldo tonight will put McGregor at the top of the MMA mountain, a loss wouldn’t knock him completely off of it.
Standing: Saying McGregor likes to put pressure on his opponents right out of the gate would be a gross understatement. Tonight will be no different. One of the main talking points leading into this match up is the always fun southpaw versus orthodox match up. Aldo has only taken on one southpaw during his UFC/WEC career and that was of course current UFC color commentator Kenny Florian. Aldo’s right leg kick is his most dangerous weapon. We all saw what he did to Urijah Faber’s left leg and we know just how much of a difference maker those kicks will be against a fighter like McGregor who relies so much on his otherworldly movement. Instead of landing those leg kicks from hell on the outside like he usually does on his opponents, they’ll land on the inside of the right leg of McGregor due to his southpaw stance.
The difference between McGregor and a fighter like Florian though is range. McGregor is constantly moving and pressuring his opponents which will make it difficult for Aldo to just plant and fire off those kicks like he’s used to. If Aldo wants to continue his reign as one of the most celebrated champions in UFC history he’ll have to fight out of his comfort zone. His ability to just pop off those leg kicks and land his jab at will against stationary opponents has allowed him to coast to victories over the past half decade since being promoted to UFC champion – his elite level takedown defense hasn’t hurt him either – we’ll get into that later.
It’s really hard to go against a man like Aldo who just seems to get the better of everyone he faces standing. So I won’t. It’s also extremely difficult to go against a fighter in McGregor who will be a tough puzzle for Aldo to crack. So I won’t. The talk and the build up to this fight has been a blast. These two men standing across from one another and giving each other everything they have will be even more fun. In the words of the great Gwen Stefani, the thought of this fight actually going down tonight is bananas – B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
The Ground Game: One of the key recipes to the success of Jose Aldo during his mixed martial arts career has been his takedown defense which is something he absolutely will not have to worry about against Conor McGregor. The Irishman did show us that he’s not afraid to take the fight to the ground if he needs to. When he hurt his knee against Max Holloway at UFC Fight Night 26 he had to rely on the takedown to coast to a unanimous decision victory. Neither man is really a threat to shoot a blast double leg here, but if Aldo does feel threatened by McGregor’s stand up he certainly won’t crawl into a ball and turtle like Mendes or Siver, expect him to go for a takedown as either a last resort or to test McGregor’s jiu-jitsu.
Mental Warfare: Believe it or not, one of the biggest factors heading into UFC 189 may be a non factor just months later. If this fight would’ve taken place back in July as originally planned, I would’ve said advantage McGregor. That was the height of him being in Aldo’s head. The press tour that saw the men touch down in Brazil, Canada, Ireland and the East and West coast of America, really seemed to take a toll on Aldo while McGregor seemed to be enjoying every second of it. I don’t know if it was because of a tough weight cut or if it’s just all catching up to him but Aldo looked much more comfortable at the weigh-in yesterday than McGregor. The champ even mocked McGregor a bit during the staredown. In the end, maybe this time it was the the King and not the Joker who got the last laugh?
It’s may have been difficult and even exhausting at times for McGregor to keep up the pace of his trash talk – he’s ready to fight as is Aldo. Again, I believe the mental warfare would’ve played a huge factor back at 189 but don’t think it means anything now. Now, if McGregor is able to pot shot and land that left hand at will while talking to Aldo and walking him down inside of the cage, that’s a different story. He can still break the champion’s will during the fight itself, but as far as the lead up goes it lasted just a few months too long.
Bottom Line: Styles make fights. The build up to this one makes it almost impossible for it to meet the expectations of the fans. I believe it will exceed those expectations. Over the past couple of years McGregor has brought a lot of attention to himself with the way he carries himself and he’s backed it up every single time. The way his fans travel and take over the show whenever fights bring a certain sense of magic to the events he headlines. In many ways, it’s almost comparable to that short period of time when Brock Lesnar was headlining UFC events – the whole world is watching and it makes everyone on the card want to put on the performance of their lives.
When it comes to this fight I feel that we are truly in for something special. McGregor will play his pressure game and Aldo will either sink or fight out of his comfort zone. Will we see the Aldo of old? Remember, before he was winning all of these fights via decision he was ending fights and destroying dreams in the WEC and back in Rio to kick off his career. Maybe McGregor has lit a fire under the “old lion” that he’s been tormenting for months now. Maybe it will be Aldo who comes out hot forcing McGregor to back up against the cage and adapt.
Were you expecting me to end this fight with a prediction? Sorry, you won’t get one from me on this one. As a fan first, I’m just gearing up for an incredible main event like everyone else.
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