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The signs of a marketed champion are something to truly be appreciated — not the champions themselves, but the people behind the engine creating the facade for everyone to see. If you look at the landscape of the most marketed champions in the UFC, you now ask yourself, “Were they really that good, or a product of seamless marketing?”
Now, I am not sitting here saying that I pegged all of them, but since I was young, I was able to really go against the grain, and whether I was right or wrong, I stood firm to what I believed they were, and more times than not, I have been correct. Some examples inside and outside the UFC are as follows:
I know I am going to catch heat for this, but I still will never back down from what I feel to be true. Mike Tyson, I never thought he was anything close to what they marketed this man to be. He had power, explosion, intimidation and a great trainer, absolutely, but if you go through his entire resume, who did he ever fight that was truly great.
Do you really believe in your heart of hearts that he could have lasted in the golden era of heavyweight lords? Frazier, Ali, Shavers, Norton, Foreman, and others? Why is it that he publicly turned down a fight with the 41-year-old Foreman? Why didn’t he ever fight Ray Mercer, when at the time he was undefeated? Why did he never fight David Tua?
In turn he fought guys like Tony Tubbs and Francois Botha who were not even on the contention radar because Don King was a businessman and knew the other men were all serious threats. When it came time to fight Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis, it was just unavoidable at that point. It was really do or die for Tyson, and the marketing train was coming to its final station.
Why was he fighting all these men that held mostly no relevance in the division? I’m not saying Tyson wasn’t good, because he was. However, Tyson was not great. He was the product of a good fighter, in a terrible era for heavyweights and great marketing. I will never ever be swayed from that.
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
Then there is Conor McGregor. McGregor’s story is fascinating, and what this guy has done to his life in such a short time is nothing short of incredible. He built a brand off his witty mouth and his brash personality. There’s no denying Conor also brought an extremely cerebral intelligence to the cage with sound precision striking. However, Conor was the farthest thing from being a complete or a well-rounded fighter.
That was all proven to you when he fought a short-notice fight against Chad Mendes. If you watch that fight over again, Mendes served him a heavy dose of wrestling that McGregor really had no answer for. As time went on, Mendes became gassed and was put away. However, he deserved a rematch on a full camp and never got one. That fight showed a clear chink in McGregor’s game and exposing that would later be his demise.
Against Nate Diaz, Conor showed another chink in his armor, which was his cardio, and once again the inability to grapple reared it’s ugly head, but this time Diaz finished the job. Later down the road McGregor would lose two more fights against Khabib, who smothered him with wrestling, and Dustin Poirier who dismantled him with calf kicks.
McGregor has been exposed in numerous ways: grappling, conditioning, and not really showing a tremendous will to climb out of the depths of hell when the flames are hot. Now please understand, I’m not saying he isn’t good. Conor changed the game in many ways, but he was a product of his own brilliant marketing and the UFC behind it with no restrictions.
The UFC still sees opportunities to capitalize, but this honestly may be one of the last times. How many more fights does he need to lose for people to realize the curtain is drawing? However, if he wins this fight, the can of worms may open again, and the money will continue to roll in, considering he will fight for a title next. Win or lose, this fight will never take away from the bright spots he has had in the cage, the things that he has done for the sport, and the numerous shows he put on in the past. He’s a brilliant businessman and a hell of a good fighter, but a great, well-rounded fighter he is not.
What Will Be Different in the Third Fight?
With all that said, there are concerns for me. If you watched their most recent fight, McGregor was finding his mark quite early. He was getting to the spots quicker, and his timing looked sharp. He rocked Poirier at one point, and it seemed as if McGregor was pacing for a good fight.
However, Poirier stayed committed to the calf kicks, and it was showing clear signs and symptoms of damage. Conor’s movement was off. He wasn’t checking them or adjusting, and he was just accepting them as they came in. McGregor was now fighting in desperation mode and throwing on sheer arm power and not from his core. He was later slowed down completely and Poirier was able to basically sit him in place and have target practice until McGregor buckled. Once again Conor was stopped. However, when it happens once, the world just isn’t shocked anymore.
Poirier is coming into this fight with a very high level of confidence, as he should. However, if he thinks that coming in with the same exact blueprint as the last fight will bring him riches, then he could be strongly mistaken. There are a few things that McGregor is, but dumb is not one of them. If he is truly there to fight for his legacy, then rest assured that Conor will make the adjustment on the calf kicks.
So where are the one or two weaknesses that McGregor has had the most trouble making the adjustments? Well, there are a few of them. His conditioning and his grappling are physical issues, and with Poirier being a notoriously late starter, the odds start to swell in his favor the deeper it goes. However, Conor is a sniper out of the gate, and I am expecting him to land the better of the exchanges early. Keeping Conor in place for the KO might not be that easy if he made the adjustment to the lower extremity game.
Dragging this into deeper waters and testing McGregor’s grappling, yet again, may not be the worst idea. McGregor isn’t a bad grappler, and his athletic ability coupled with his cerebral thinking helps him visualize what needs to be done. With that said, he has a clear deficiency when the fight stays on the ground too long or he gets secured there.
His escapes are not well versed, and unless he is taken down loosely and has the ability to pop back up, he tends to stay there longer than he needs to. In turn, McGregor can lose the round, and worse yet, get finished by either strikes or submission. I think that’s the path Poirier needs to take. Make McGregor work early. Get on his hips and show him a different look. Take away his range, and take away his left hand. Make him fight defensively and put a thicker pin in his gas tank quicker.
How I See This Shaking Out:
As far as McGregor, he wants this standing, and he wants to dictate every step that Poirier makes, aligning him for that kill shot. I do think this fight goes deeper than the others. I do think it’s a much more highly-contested fight than the last one, but I do think that Poirier takes this rubber match. I would be lying if I said that this fight didn’t scare me in terms of Poirier getting caught early, but I can’t pick the mystique of Conor over the clear facts that we have seen from a newer and more improved Poirier. Picking McGregor here is just hoping that the skillset matches the name, even though he hasn’t really proven it as of late, and I am not willing to do that until I see it again.
The pick: Dustin Poirier
- Poirier: $8100
- 100+ Points: 7 of 10
- Current Market Value: 7 of 10
- Hedge: 6
I see clear value here, considering I am not expecting this fight to hit the cards. Poirier will need to play the cautious game in Round 1. McGregor carries his power through Rounds 1 and 2. After that the energy bar starts to drop a bit. Conor also expressed that he has been training for all kill shots. With that said, the deeper this goes, the advantage is Poirier late.
- McGregor: $8100
- 100+ Points: 7 of 10
- Current Market Value: 7 of 10
- Hedge: 4
This is also clear value. McGregor will look to get this done sooner than later. I think he understands his body now. I think he knows that his body isn’t made for an all-out war. It doesn’t mean he can’t thrive in these situations, but he is wired for cleaner-style fights, whereas Dustin is wired for foxhole fights. McGregor is best served with an early finish which he will be targeting, so the value is there.
Vegas: Dustin Poirier (-120) | Close fight but I am a believer.
Non-Official Prop to Consider: Over 1.5 Rounds (Select Books) -190