MayMac Aftermath: Living Up and Down to Expectations

Written by: Remi Se

    The Conor McGregor vs Floyd Mayweather spectacle has come and passed with a 10 round fight in which the greatest boxer of a generation scored a TKO. Perhaps the biggest shock from the event is that it was generally an entertaining fight. Somehow, both fighters did enough to appease their respective fan bases, allowing the MMA and Boxing fans each to breath a sigh of relief. Floyd started cautiously and turned up the intensity more and more until he scored a finish. Conor, in spite of losing, managed to survive 10 rounds in his first professional bout, landed 111 punches and even took a few rounds in the eyes of everybody but the judges. The spectacle was full of surprises as well. Floyd became the aggressor for the first time in a long time, marching forward through punches to land his own. Conor meanwhile never manifested his power, appearing to conserve his power and focus on speed instead. Coming from a place of realistic expectations, both fighters did enough and in the process they put together a fight that was entertaining enough to leave the majority of fans satisfied.

Conor’s chance to shine:

    Through the first three rounds Floyd Mayweather practiced extreme caution, giving Conor the opportunity to show off some of his best qualities and win rounds. Floyd threw just 28 punches through the first three rounds and was outlanded 26 to 12 during the stanza. Floyd seemed content to give up these rounds and get a better look at McGregor before taking risks. The Notorious was patient in many instances and caught a great counter uppercut as Floyd went for a straight to the body early (I mentioned the uppercut counter in my preview so check that out if you haven’t). With few risks, Floyd was able to avoid most damaging blows but Conor did well to mix up the looks. Conor would seemingly skip into an orthodox stance and pepper Floyd with jabs, throw straights to body along the ropes and shifted to left hooks when Floyd put up a high guard. This was also a section of the bout where it was clear which habits Conor struggled to get rid of the most. Floyd’s head movement includes ducking into his opponent to take away angles for punching down. Conor wisely attempted to trap Floyd’s head (he’d need to break some rules to stand a chance) but his instincts meant he threw a number of hammer punches and many were rabbit punches. As the ref warned him repeatedly, Conor managed to cut this back a bit but many times would throw at least one awkward blow before tensing up. Still, the first three rounds in particular would be challenging to reward Floyd, even though two judges only gave Conor the first. Mayweather didn’t throw punches and was outlanded for it; Conor landed 16 power punches through three rounds, more than total punches landed for Floyd.

Floyd’s adjustments begin:
    Near the end of the third round, Floyd started to flash some of his adjustments to Conor’s unorthodox style. Mayweather had gotten caught throwing the straight to the body, but rather than deter him, the uppercut counter motivated Floyd to become more stealthy with that straight. Now Floyd was using feints and jabs to set up the shot, mixing up looks and avoiding patterns the whole while. At this point, Mayweather also started to close distance and put more pressure on McGregor to throw. Money went from 12 punches in the third to 31 in the fourth and they were virtually all power punches. Conor simply could not generate power from inside. He was able to do some interesting things in the clinch, pivoting around Mayweather or otherwise pushing Mayweather back with underhooks, but he was clearly at a deficiency punching from inside. Rounds 4 to 6 saw Conor still throwing and landing, but without the juice to stop Mayweather’s pursuit. Some other subtle bits of ringcraft were apparent in Mayweather’s approach. For one, he clearly studied the Diaz fight. Mayweather pressed forward with a high guard and simply absorbed or deflected McGregor’s shots on the inside. On top of that, while McGregor could work the clinch to get himself out of immediate danger; Floyd cleverly positioned himself out of the breaks to stay inside of McGregor’s reach even when separated. This meant Conor went from throwing 30 to 40 punches in the first three rounds to throwing 50 to 65 punches over the next five rounds. Floyd didn’t hurt Conor in these moments, but he walked Conor down and forced the Irishman to expend a huge amount of energy to stay out of danger.

    The adjustments taking effect, Mayweather was able to press even more as the rounds progressed and McGregor slowed down. Floyd’s punching went on an uptick to 50 or more punches per round from here on out. With Conor more exhausted and unable to threaten with power inside, his clinch work also suffered. Floyd began to press his elbow and forearms up into Conor’s face whenever the Notorious pressed for a clinch, this is a fairly common technique of Floyd’s. At one point, desperate for a break, Conor shot what looked like double-leg takedown just to get a moment of air. Still, this was the point in the bout where Conor earned his respect from the MMA world. Conor was low on energy and Floyd had made all of the necessary adjustments but Conor pressed on and kept rounds relatively competitive. He threw more punches in the 8th round than any other and made it a fairly debatable round (the showtime scorecard rewarded Conor the round). Conor kept the opening 4 rounds debatable and while the fight moved away from there, he was still able to compete by willing himself to throw volume.

Floyd goes for the close:

    The ninth and tenth rounds were when Floyd’s pressure truly crystallized into a full on beatdown. McGregor opened both rounds throwing a lot of volume, including a power punch out of the gate in round 9 that he followed with another uppercut which wound up being a low blow. After the quick explosions for 20 or so seconds however, the rounds were all Mayweather. Floyd threw 55 power punches and landed 39 of them in the 9th round, sometimes doubling up on haymakers and straight rights. Not only was Conor’s in-fighting already flawed, but his power was depleted and he was clearly laboring. Without any contact, Conor stumbled into the ropes at one point with exhaustion. The UFC champion was overwhelmed and scrambled to buy time but not much else. Money Mayweather smelled blood and pressed on, continuing to walk McGregor down until the fight was stopped by TKO. There was some complaining from MMA fans that Conor was never knocked down or given a standing 8 count. This is mistaken however, Conor was not punching back and there was no standing eight count because the rules didn’t call for one. Conor winning was never very realistic, even though there was a shot depending on the state of Floyd’s body after two years off. Floyd came in and did exactly what he should, while Conor showed competence in his footwork and flashed a jab that he’s never had to use in MMA.
Cognitive Bias:

    As I stated previously, both fighters did enough to appease their fanbases. MMA fans are applauding the effort from Conor while boxing fans celebrate that Floyd got his first stoppage in forever. Oddly enough, I don’t feel that either side is wrong here. Conor was outclassed and Floyd was never in trouble. Floyd fought a brilliant gameplan and exposed Conor’s biggest flaws as a striker by stepping inside and wearing out the Notorious’ gas tank. McGregor however lasted for 10 rounds, even winning a few (my personal scorecard had Conor winning the first three with rounds 4 and 8 being competitive enough to call debatable). Conor was knocked backward and off balance in the ninth and tenth rounds, but never knocked down and he never showed signs of breaking or giving up. His natural inclinations to clinch to buy time and throw high volume to create space both bit him in the end. Conor’s 100 plus punches landed on better accuracy than some of this generation’s best boxers is a result of Floyd’s reckless approach but Floyd was never going to exhaust the Irishman without pressing him. The uptick in punches from Conor and constant motion were just as important to his exhaustion as were the lead rights to the body from Money Mayweather. Conor remarked “I made him a Mexican” in reference to the fighting style Floyd shifted to after fighting from outside and waiting along the ropes proved ineffective. If there is cognitive bias, it’s in what the fanbases believe about each other rather than the fighters. Boxing fans were exposed to more Schaub style rants and the most rabid of Conor’s fans setting unrealistic limits. MMA fans likewise got to witness Max Kellerman and some other respected boxing pundits say that Conor wouldn’t land a punch or win a round. This created a gap in expectations or perceived expectations at least. MMA fans had a chance to watch boxing brilliance in Mayweather; boxing fans got to see a man from another sport enter the ring and accommodate himself respectably enough to push a unique approach from Floyd. All they had to do was stop hunting for validation and focus on the positives from both.

Two Sides to Prizefighting:

    Floyd and Conor McGregor share a lot of likenesses, but how they rose to the top of their sports shows the two ways to succeed as a prizefighter. Floyd was calculated in choosing his opponents and the parameters of fights throughout his career. The timing of fights with men like Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiaou frustrated some boxing fans. It’s hard to imagine any of those fighters beating Floyd at any time however, as the man is simply one of the greatest boxers we have ever seen. Conor isn’t calculated by any means. He took Chad Mendes on very short notice with a bad knee that limited his wrestling defense; fought Nate Diaz on short notice at a weight limit 15 lbs. higher than planned; and of course he took on a once in a generation boxer in a boxing ring. This has meant that Conor has lost fights, hasn’t looked supremely dominant and consistently has had his place in rankings questioned but it has also sped up his rise to the top. Their approaches are reflected in their fighting styles. Could Floyd have come out and taken over from the opening bell? Maybe, but his cautious style reduces the puncher’s chance for a fighter with unrivaled technique. Could Conor conserve energy by reducing his aggression? Probably, but the fighter that can withstand his early onslaughts is a rare breed especially in the octagon. Floyd has perfection and a career that barely has close fights to celebrate. Conor has losses but a rabid fanbase that accepts the failures with the triumphs. The true importance to success in prizefighting is to just continue to find compelling challenges and win. For Floyd, his career comes to an end as arguably the greatest ever. For Conor, his presence and success has proven transformative for fighter pay and he may have just brought an even larger audience to the growing sport that is MMA. There are plenty of people scoffing at this fight as if it wasn’t entertaining or as if it didn’t draw in a massive audience; but those two facts combined mean that the spectacle proved successful for both sports.

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