Former rugby superstar Sonny Bill Williams has finally granted frustrated Barry Hall’s wish and will fight the ex-AFL player in Sydney on March 23.
While the Floyd Maywether vs Conor McGregor fight is 99 per cent certain, millions of people will be tuning in this weekend to see if the biggest fighter in MMA can seize the 1 per cent chance.
Here are the five ways McGregor topple the unbeaten king of boxing.
Use of distance
The first key for McGregor will be effectively controlling distance.
With a two-inch reach advantage, McGregor will naturally have an edge when it comes to keeping away from Mayweather, controlling the engagement and forcing his opponent to come to him.
However, as well as the conventional reach advantage McGregor possesses, he is also accustomed to fighting with a much greater distance between him and his opponent to allow space for the kicks and takedowns.
When he first arrived in the UFC, McGregor relied on an arsenal of spinning and jumping kicks to help explode across that gap so he could use his more effective punching combinations. But, over time, he has developed more sophisticated systems of feints, footwork and leads to close in.
Fighting effectively is often about timing and while Maywether is a master at boxing space and timing, having to cover just a little extra ground to reach his opponent will be the first step to throwing Maywether off his game and working in an area McGregor has a slight edge in.
This is where it could get weird.
Boxing has had a long time to evolve and over the years a Darwinian process has refined boxing stances into a highly developed art.
With McGregor, throw that all out.
The Irishman knows he will not be able to outbox Mayweather – if the likes of Manny Paquiao, Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvaerz couldn’t, how could someone with a record of 0-0?
While he won’t be throwing kicks or knees, to take the fight outside of Mayweather’s wheelhouse, McGregor has hinted he may well take up a variety of stances influenced by traditional karate, taekwondo and kickboxing.
When it comes to the exchange, there are only so many ways you can throw a punch. The point will be to distract and deceive Mayweather with techniques he hasn’t seen, so that when McGregor does move in, the boxer isn’t so ready to defend.
Physicality in the clinch
When the two fighters do come together, McGregor will hold a big advantage in the clinch.
Mayweather has effectively used the clinch in previous matches to avoid exchanges he doesn’t want to be involved in, but he has never gone up against someone who trains day-in, day-out in full MMA grappling and dirty fighting inside the clinch.
If McGregor wants to lean on his opponent to tire him out, a common tactic in MMA, expect Mayweather to feel every pound of extra weight and strength the bigger man has.
Offensively McGregor will want to use the clinch to dirty box, roughing up Mayweather with short punches and – if he can sneak them in – even elbows to the body, in an effort to get under Mayweather’s skin.
Both fighters are masters of the mental game, but Connor has taken trash talking in the Octagon to a level only the Diaz brothers really sit on.
He has successfully managed to get inside the heads of some of MMA’s top fighters, Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Porier both said post-fight they struggled to stick to their gameplan when faced with McGregor’s verbal onslaught.
One of the all-time greats, Jose Aldo, was goaded into a foolish exchange and knocked out in just 13 seconds when it came time to fight.
McGregor has already engaged with Mayweather verbally during their promotional tour and it was hard to see how effective it was. However, in an effort to push Mayweather out of his normal game of conservative leads and perfect counters, McGregor will be using every tool in his toolbox.
The left hand
All of this brings us to McGregor’s trump card, which he will be trying to funnel all his exchanges to: his counter left, which has stopped some of the best in the UFC.
You may have noticed my constant mention of putting Mayweather off his usual game, the problem for Connor is that Floyd is one of the most self-controlled fighters ever and doen’t come forward recklessly. Landing a flush counter on him has been nearly impossible for even the most seasoned boxer.
McGregor has the power required but for the moment to present itself he needs everything to go right.
Floyd is a master of exchanging only on his own terms and always being in a position to minimise his opponent’s strengths.
To land the left, Conor needs to sufficiently mess with Mayweather, using distances he isn’t used to, unorthodox stances, dirty tactics in the clinch, and mental warfare to goad Mayweather into making a mistake.
Then, just maybe, Conor McGregor can pull off one of the greatest upsets in sports history.