A basic one-two combination drops Chad Mendes, followed by a few punches to seal the deal. At 4:57 of the second round, the fight is over.
Conor McGregor is the new Interim Champion of the featherweight division, just like he said he would be. Also, Chad Mendes fell in the second round, just like McGregor said he would.
“To the naked eye, they don’t look like much.
Only me and him know about it.”
– Conor McGregor
McGregor got busy on the feet right from the start. Within the first five seconds, he had already landed a spinning back kick and a flying knee.
By the first half of the first round, he had landed tens of strikes to Mendes’ body and head. Some claim the three weeks Mendes had to prepare for the fight were insufficient for a five-round fight. I agree.
Then again, Mendes looked tired after two minutes so there must have been more into it. And there was: McGregor’s work to the body.
Straight kicks, spinning kicks, straight punches, uppercuts. When thrown accurately, those strikes take the fight out of you, and I believe they were the biggest contributors to McGregor’s victory.
Here’s a sequence of all the strikes McGregor was able to land to Mendes’ body within the first minute of the fight:
It’s fascinating how few MMA fighters target an opponent’s body, but even more fascinating when someone does. In McGregor may have the best strikes to the body in MMA. He’s consistent and it pays off.
With all the straight strikes McGregor throws, an 8-inch reach advantage becomes colossal. Mendes did find a way to counter (more on this subject below) but he mostly caught McGregor at the end of the punches which decreased the impact and allowed McGregor to keep eating them.
Smooth Sailing? Not Quite
For Mendes, the right hand was ”money” in the first round. He landed a mix of uppercuts, hooks and overhand rights, and certainly gave McGregor’s future opponents some ideas.
For example, McGregor tends to overcommit with his left straight punches and hooks – so much that Mendes would repeatedly slip or duck the punch (or take it flush) and land one of his own as McGregor was too late to pull back. Many of Mendes’ counters landed clean.
Mendes slips McGregor’s punch and returns one of his own – McGregor is too late to get out of the way and eats the punch:
McGregor almost never had his hands up either, and when he would throw with his left hand, his hands returned closer to his waist than his chin (in the sequence above, he happens to return his left hand near his chin after throwing the punch).
As a side note – as the sequence above illustrates – McGregor punches through his opponents, not at them. When the punches land, they do damage; when they miss, they leave you open for counterpunches and takedowns.
Mendes anticipates a punch coming from McGregor and goes first, landing with his right hand while McGregor misses by a mile. Notice McGregor’s forward momentum and how low his hands are when Mendes lands:
It was also overcommitting to punches that allowed Mendes to secure takedowns.
Mendes slips the punch, grabs McGregor’s front leg and turns to complete the takedown:
Mendes proved McGregor can be taken down and kept down. Then again, nobody else in the division can match Mendes’ wrestling skills, and McGregor just beat him in two rounds.
Interestingly, McGregor never attempted to espace from the ground other than when Mendes went for a submission. Perhaps his goal was to ride out the situation and save energy. Well, it worked, as Mendes went for a guillotine which allowed McGregor to scramble back up and finish the fight.
Could Mendes have kept him on the ground until the end of the second round while throwing the occasional elbow? Then regrouped in-between the rounds and gone for another takedown in the beginning of the third?
Maybe. So much of the fight game comes down to strategy and tactics.
While this post showcased some of the flaws in McGregor’s game, “impressive” is insufficient to describe the way he finished Chad Mendes within two rounds – especially considering the drastic change of an opponent three weeks before the fight.
But now, everyone will be coming for McGregor’s head, knowing how much money and publicity is up for grabs. He will have some of the best people in the game breaking down his style and tendencies like never before. And just based on the Mendes fight, they have plenty to work with.
Aldo vs. McGregor is one of the most exciting MMA fights in the history of the sport. What will Aldo take away from this fight, having seen McGregor both get taken down (and controlled on the ground) hit in multiple instances? How much more confidence will McGregor have after breaking his “stylistical nightmare” within two rounds?