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Can McGregor Reclaim his UFC Crown?

Conor McGregor's Return
  • Dana White claims McGregor will get another title shot at Khabib if successful against Donald Cerrone.
  • The oddsmakers are heavily favoring McGregor to defeat Cerrone.

When Conor McGregor announced his retirement following a defeat at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov in October of 2018, many were sceptical about how long it would last. Just 15 months later, those sceptics are about to be proven correct when the Irishman returns to the octagon to take on Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in a highly anticipated bout in Las Vegas.

Make no mistake about it; McGregor should be – and no doubt will be – expecting to win this fight. Cerrone holds plenty of records; in fact, he has the most UFC wins in history, but that doesn’t mean he is at the level of McGregor – it simply means he’s been in a lot of fights. He’s been in just one UFC title fight in his career, and he didn’t last for long in it. That isn’t to say he isn’t a quality opponent, but there’s no doubt McGregor has a substantial edge.

Having said that, we’ve seen bigger surprises in sport before, and the way this fight goes could have a massive impact on how The Notorious finishes his career. If, as expected, he is able to take out Cowboy Cerrone, he’s likely to enjoy more major bouts during 2020 after entering the octagon just once in the past four years. 

Indeed, president of the UFC, Dana White, has publicly stated that if McGregor wins beats Cerrone he will have a chance to enact revenge on Nurmagomedov, assuming Nurmagomedov wins his own next fight. In contrast, a loss would make it two in a row and would mean he hasn’t enjoyed professional success since 2016.

While most are expecting he will be able to avoid the latter scenario, there are plenty of arguments to be made in favour of a McGregor loss. The first of these is the lack of practice he has relative to his opponent heading into this fight. Since McGregor’s last fight, Cerrone has made five visits to the octagon, though he lost each of the last two of those.

Also, in the favour of the Cowboy are the respective performances of the two at the welterweight level, where this fight will take place. Of course, McGregor is a champion in the featherweight and lightweight divisions, and he has only fought at welterweight against Nate Diaz. In the first of those fights, Diaz choked out the Irishman, while the second was an evenly contested bout that McGregor was lucky to win. 

McGregor Diaz 1
Conor McGregor after receiving his first UFC loss to Nate Diaz

Of course, the Cowboy could be said to suffer from this same affliction, having fought predominantly as a lightweight throughout his career. However, since making the change to the welterweight division he has enjoyed plenty of success, in contrast to McGregor – who has looked far less comfortable.

And while there’s no doubt McGregor is the more established fighter, it can easily be argued that Cerrone has a more developed arsenal. The two of them are both powerful strikers, though McGregor probably has a slight edge in that department, but Cerrone excels in grappling and has earned 17 of his 36 UFC victories courtesy of submission. Interestingly, this could be seen as an area of weakness for McGregor, with each of his four losses at the professional level coming via this method.

And yet, despite all these factors swinging the bout in the favour of Cerrone, it’s difficult to imagine any result other than a McGregor victory. He’s a decent defender who will look to avoid a grappling match with an opponent who has an edge on him in that regard, and his damaging striking makes it easy to envision him putting the Cowboy on the floor at some point in the fight. These exciting MMA odds suggest much the same thing, with bookmakers clearly expecting McGregor to get the job done relatively easily. Cerrone has plenty of reason to feel confident about the matchup, but McGregor is, ultimately, the superior fighter, and should be able to start off what could be a massive 2020 for him on a winning note.

UFC 246: Inside the Octagon – McGregor vs Cowboy.
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