Opinion: Why and how Conor McGregor can shock the sporting world and beat Floyd Mayweather

OPINION: We've endured two-years' worth of speculation, a circus of a world press tour and now it's actually time for Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather to remove the furs, shed the entourages and lace up the gloves. 

Fight or farce, label it what you will, but this will undoubtedly be one of the biggest fights in combat sports history, with pay-per-view records set to be smashed.

Is this all just a gigantic money-making carnival, or does McGregor, with a boxing record of 0-0, actually have a realistic chance of overcoming a 12-time champion across five different weight classes?

Of course he does. 

Clearly Mayweather is the favourite, and rightly so, but it's all too easy to fall back on his historic resume when assessing the 'Notorious' one's chances against his highly-decorated counterpart.

Here's some of the how and why when it comes to McGregor's hopes of pulling off one of the most monumental upsets in sports history.

Fighting 'dirty'

As a relative boxing novice, approaching a bout against one of the most prolific technical fighters the sport's ever seen would be a fatal mistake for McGregor, and you can be sure that's what his team will be looking to avoid.

While forcing the clinch against the ever-elusive Mayweather is easier said than done, but any chance McGregor has to do so he needs to capitalise with rabbit punches and tight uppercuts at close range and attempt to land on the break.

Mayweather has proven to be vulnerable in such situations, and if McGregor can get busy with body shots in the clinch and disrupt his rhythm it may well serve to frustrate and force him to divert from his gameplan - perhaps even start to engage in a slugfest which would work heavily in McGregor's favour.

Awkward Style

With almost 50 pro fights experience across 21 years of professional pugilism, Mayweather has seen, and conquered, all varieties of different styles and techniques, but he's never seen a Conor McGregor.

McGregor started a revolution in MMA striking when he entered the UFC with his wide stance and fluid and unconventional movement, which allows him to utilise his length and control range expertly.

That extended range will also be much greater than what Mayweather is used to encountering, with boxers traditionally operating in much tighter confines. As a renowned points fighter, many suggest Mayweather can simply stick and move his way to a comfortable victory, but just how effectively will he be able to close that distance in order to land consistently?

McGregor lands a punch flush on Eddie Alvarez's chin at their UFC 205 bout.
McGregor lands a punch flush on Eddie Alvarez's chin at their UFC 205 bout. Photo credit: Getty

McGregor's defense is equally out of the mould, keeping his hands in a karate-style position and parrying his opponent's strikes, which enables him to find the most efficient route to a counter-strike.

Mayweather will have attempted to bring in sparring partners during his pre-fight camp to try and mimic that unorthodox style, but McGregor's is almost inimitable – a high amplitude and unpredictable offense which springs from the most obtuse angles.

Furthermore, the Irishman will almost certainly adopt a southpaw stance, against which Mayweather has previously had issues negotiating.

'Money' typically employs the 'shoulder roll' defence to deflect a natural left-hander's jab, which could be fraught with danger when considering the most lethal weapon in McGregor's arsenal is his left-hook.

Which brings us to the next point...


As one of the most celebrated defensive fighters in history, Mayweather has made a long and storied career from the avoidance of damage.

There are but a handful of times we've ever seen him wobbled by a headshot, most recently against Marcos Maidana, but you can be certain that it will only take one of those McGregor cannon lefts to land flush to end his night in ignominious fashion.

Simply put, McGregor has genuine knock-out power. Mayweather does not.

If he's able to land even a glancing blow, enough to stagger Mayweather, McGregor will swoop for the kill in a heartbeat.

Just how McGregor goes about setting up such a shot against the subtle and slippery of defense of Mayweather is a different story, but it's doubtful he'll need to rely on a counter blow to do so.

While he'll be stood further on the outside than Mayweather is used to, McGregor is explosive enough to be able to close that distance astonishingly quickly, and the decision to shift down in glove size from ten to eight oz is only going to increase the magnitude of his punches.

When paired with his laser-like accuracy it makes for a dangerous concoction, and blessed with an iron chin of his own, McGregor will be able to throw with much less regard for his own self-preservation.

And glove size aside, Mayweather's shots will contain considerably less sting than his counterpart, who's also physically the bigger, stronger human being.

The 'Mystic Mac' factor

McGregor celebrates his victory over Alvarez with both his featherweight and lightweight championship belts.
McGregor celebrates his victory over Alvarez with both his featherweight and lightweight championship belts. Photo credit: Getty

Self-confidence is a critical attribute for any professional athlete. Most fighters will tell you that the recipe for success at the highest echelons of their craft, or any sport for that matter, begins and ends up top, mastering the mental.

This is where Conor McGregor has proven to be nigh-transcendental.

While the plucky Irishman is a generational talent when it comes to pre-fight hype, his self-belief is far from mere lip-service or bravado. He genuinely believes everything he says, and he's done if for so long now, it's now become difficult not to buy into whatever it is he's attempting to sell, no matter the perceived arrogance or absurdity.

McGregor has made many a bold promise or prediction and, apart from one glaring exception, they've almost all been realised.

In one of his early statements upon arrival in the UFC, 'Mystic Mac' said he'd knock Brazilian Diego Brandao out in the first round. McGregor lanced him with a left and ended the bout in the first round. He told Dustin Poirier, to his face, that he'd crack him early in their contest, wobble him, and score a first round KO. And so it played out.

Twelve months later, he'd set a record for a pay-per-view buys with his stunning 13-second knock out finish of Jose Aldo to hoist the UFC bantamweight title. Of course, he'd predicted both.

His is a belief so infectious that it's clearly affected the public's perception of the contest, just look at the Las Vegas betting lines. So much late money has come in behind McGregor that Las Vegas faces financial disaster should Mayweather be unable to clinch the win they've so heavily favoured him to secure. 

Carrying the enormous hopes of a nation on his back has appeared to be far from a burden, rather a pressure on which he seems to consistently thrive. In under five years, he's won championships in two divisions, become the face of the sport worldwide and earned a fame which extends far beyond simply MMA. And he genuinely expected all of it.

Now he's predicting a first-round knockout of arguably the greatest boxer of all time under some of the brightest lights in sporting history. On the face of it, it seems almost insane. Yet who are we to start doubting him now?

Opinion: Why and how Conor McGregor can shock the sporting world and beat Floyd Mayweather
Photo credit: Getty

All of the above aside, the first three or four rounds will be the pivotal stages of the bout, where the fight will likely be won or lost for McGregor.

It's in these opening rounds that he'll have the best opportunity to impose his will before Mayweather, a traditionally slow-starter, uses his exceptional boxing brain to make his read of McGregor's quirky style and, in turn, adjust. 

And allowed enough time, he will adjust. It's an absolute inevitability. If that happens, it could be a long night for McGregor. If it goes the distance, there's only one hand that's going to be raised.

But in front of what should be a raucous partisan crowd awash in green and orange, chanting his name, would you be at all surprised if he could land just one of those left-hand hammers, to send Mayweather to the mat and the sporting world into hysteria?

I would be. Floyd Mayweather wins via unanimous decision.

Stephen Foote is a Newshub digital sports reporter