By Ken Boehlke

Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez

McGregor -165
Alvarez +145

Under 1.5 Rounds +150
Over 1.5 Rounds -170

The best place to start when breaking down fights is current form. In other words, how has the fighter looked in his recent fights. The problem is, McGregor’s last two fights were against the same opponent, and an opponent in Nate Diaz that has very little stylistically in common with Alvarez. Throw in the fact that both of those fights were at 170 pounds, while McGregor’s previous UFC fights were all at 145.  This one is at 155, so McGregor’s current form is almost useless to this bout.

Alvarez, on the other hand, is on a three-fight run that’s almost unmatched in the history of MMA. The former Bellator champion Alvarez has defeated the previous UFC champ Rafael dos Anjos, WEC/UFC champion Anthony Pettis, and the former Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez (who popped for PEDs in his fight with Alvarez) all within the last year and a half. He’s basically cleaned out the who’s who of lightweight fighters and saved his best, the RDA TKO, for last.

So needless to say, Alvarez is in the best form of his life. He’s only been TKO’ed once in his long MMA career and that was in 2007. However, McGregor’s left hand is unlike anything Alvarez has ever seen in the Octagon. He’s taken out Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Dennis Siver, Dustin Poirier, and he even dropped Diaz three times in the second fight all with that left hand.

There is a clear plan that Alvarez would like to employ if he has his way. It’s to take McGregor down over and over again and gas him out. Conor’s ground game has been questioned throughout his entire career and that only ramped up when he was beaten up on the ground by Mendes, who was fighting on about two weeks notice. If Alvarez is indeed able to get McGregor on his back, Eddie has a great chance to win the fight, but it’s easier said than done.

In the second fight against Diaz, Nate attempted to take Conor down multiple times when they were clinched up against the cage, but was unsuccessful, indicating McGregor’s improved defense. Also, in the Mendes fight, McGregor claims he allowed Chad to take him down so he would wear himself out. Believe it or not, that strategy worked in that fight. Conor wouldn’t be wise to do that in this one. He knows that, so it’s unlikely that’s the course of action he takes… assuming he has the skills to stuff Eddie’s takedowns.

It really is a toss up fight with the odds only in McGregor’s favor due to star power. There are two X-factors in this fight that both point to McGregor though. First, it’s his unorthodox style which is all a big game to set up his left hand. He throws wild combinations that come from some of the oddest angles we’ve ever seen in the UFC, but it all goes back to opening up those haymakers. The second factor is Conor’s innate ability to prepare for an opponent. Like it or not, McGregor’s alter ego Mystic Mac has been spot on throughout his career. What he says will happen usually happens. Even in the Diaz fight, McGregor said he will land power shot after power shot to Nate’s chin. That happened, but where Conor went wrong was in expecting any of them to knock Diaz out. In the second fight, he was much more calculated and won the bout just like he said he would.

Alvarez’s bully style just isn’t suited well for a matchup with McGregor. Eddie will want to apply forward pressure, but with McGregor’s awkward movement it’s unlikely he’ll be able to sustain it. Alvarez won’t make the Aldo mistake of charging after Conor, but the vital moment of that fight may play out the same in this one. When Alvarez comes in, McGregor will slip the big shot and land a counter left of his own. Doubt it knocks Alvarez completely out, but it’ll hurt him bad enough for McGregor to pounce and finish him. Let’s say this happens in the second round, but it would not shock me in the least if it occurs mid to late first instead.

Pick: McGregor by TKO at 2:14 of Round 2