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Mayweather vs. McGregor: A Preview of Saturday's Superfight

Jacob Letarski

RotoWire Editor for College Basketball and MMA. Frequent podcaster, plus radio and video guest. Follow Jake on Twitter at @JakeSki52.

The Buildup

Two worlds collide Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, paving the way for what is projected to be the largest combat sports event of all-time. Both boxing and mixed martial arts fans will unite with a mainstream audience to soak in this spectacle, which is projected to approach five million pay-per-view buys. Floyd "Money" Mayweather has dominated the sport of boxing, earning championship belts in five divisions while building up a 49-0 record. But getting to the half-century mark undefeated will require overcoming one of the most unique hurdles of his career. Standing in his way is the UFC's most recognizable fighter and pride of Ireland, The Notorious Conor McGregor. Sometimes referred to as "Mystic Mac" due to his ability to predict the outcome of his fights (and then follow through), McGregor became the first UFC fighter of all-time to simultaneously hold two championship belts. He made quick work of one of the best featherweights of all-time in Jose Aldo, sending him to the canvas in just 13 seconds. Fast forward to UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden, where McGregor took care of Eddie Alvarez in the second round to become a two-division champion. Now, the elite faces of each sport will come together for a showdown set to captivate the nation.

What started out as a pipe dream on social media is finally a reality. Mayweather Promotions will co-promote the event alongside Dana White and the UFC, and it will be available in the U.S. via Showtime Pay-Per-View and UFC TV for a cool $99.95. Below you'll find a breakdown of fight scenarios, x-factors, a betting guide and finally, a prediction.

Before moving forward, thanks are due to Richard Mann of StrikeScore MMA for several of the visuals. Credit to OddShark and Bovada for the majority of odds and prop bet information.

Tale of the Tape

Graphic courtesy of thesun.co.uk



Few stats cross over between the two separate sports, but one way to compare them is "striking differential" -- strikes landed minus strikes absorbed. Note: the only strikes measured here are at a distance, which counteracts the effects of MMA's close-range ground-and-pound. The chart is courtesy of Richard Mann of StrikeScore MMA.



Logistics

Date: Saturday, August 26
Prelim Start Time: 7 PM ET, FOX
PPV Card Start Time: 9PM ET, Showtime
Rounds: 12 3-minute rounds
Weight Class: 154 pounds
Rules: Boxing
Gloves: 8 ounces
Referee: Robert Byrd
Judges: Burt Clements (USA), Dave Moretti (USA), Guido Cavalleri (Italy)

Undercard Bouts:

Champion Gervonta Davis (18-0, 17 KOs, -5000) vs. Francisco Fonseca (19-0, 13 KOs, +1500) – 12 round IBF junior lightweight (130 lbs) title fight

Champion Nathan Cleverly (30-3, 16 KOs, +300) vs. Badou Jack (21-1-2, 12 KOs, -400) – 12 round WBA regular light heavyweight (175 lbs) title fight

Andrew Tabiti (14-0, 12 KOs, -300) vs. Steve Cunningham (29-8-1, 13 KOs, +240) – 10 round cruiserweight (200 lbs) fight

Yordenis Ugas (19-3, 9 KOs, -180) vs. Thomas Dulorme (24-2, 16 KOs, +150) – 10 round welterweight (147 lbs) fight

Juan Heraldez (12-0, 8 KOs, +180) vs. Jose Miguel Borrego (13-0, 12 KOs, -220) – 10 round junior welterweight (140 lbs) fight

Kevin Newman (7-1, 3 KOs) vs. Antonio Hernandez (9-1, 2 KOs) – super middleweight (168 lbs) fight

Savannah Marshall vs. Amy Coleman – 4 round (2 minutes per round) super middleweight (168 lbs) fight

 

Mayweather will win IF


  • The fight goes the distance. Simply put, you have a better chance of being struck by lightning twice than watching McGregor out-point Mayweather over the course of 12 rounds Saturday. If McGregor is unable to secure a finish, this is Mayweather's fight. Outside of scoring a knockdown, it's difficult to see McGregor even winning a single round, let alone the better part of 12. A fight that goes the difference will have the great majority of rounds scored for Mayweather, with several of them being of the 10-8 variety.

  • McGregor's cardio doesn't hold up. Conor McGregor has gone the distance just twice in his professional career, with his longest fight on the record being a five-round victory over Nate Diaz at UFC 202. With MMA rounds checking in at five minutes, that's 25 minutes of total fight time. This match is scheduled for 12 rounds, leaving the door open for 36 minutes of total fight time at 3:00 per round. McGregor's cardio has never been a question in the past, but it remains to be seen how he can pace himself for three-minute intervals. Think Homer Simpson, folks. If McGregor goes all-out early and fades in the later rounds, there could be an opening left for Mayweather to earn his first KO/TKO victory since defeating Victor Ortiz in 2011. It's one of many potential paths to victory for Floyd, though I'm personally not sure this will be the one he takes. To further illustrate this, here's a graph that displays average fight times, courtesy of Richard Mann of StrikeScore MMA.

  • McGregor makes a mistake that results in disqualification. This is one of the least likely scenarios, as the contracts have been structured in a way that McGregor's massive pay day would be severely diminished if he does something outside the rules. He's an MMA Fighter and there's always that instinct in the back of his head, but don't bank on Conor throwing a leg kick, attempting a takedown or firing off a spinning backfist. Even esteemed boxing referee Joe Cortez, who worked in Conor's camp, commended him as a student of the game and does not expect anything to go wrong Saturday (MMAFighting.com).

Before moving on to McGregor scenarios, I want to stress that the most likely outcome, according to Vegas, is a Mayweather KO/TKO/DQ at approximately (-125). Maybe there's a little MMA writer bias shining through, but I simply don't see that happening. McGregor has never been knocked out in his fighting career, proving time and time again that his chin will hold up in the bleakest of situations. Mayweather hasn't scored a knockout in boxing since 2011, and will be a much smaller man by comparison. The match will be fought at 154 pounds, which isn't a huge weight cut for Mayweather. McGregor, on the other hand, will be cutting roughly 15-20 pounds from his walking around weight. McGregor's height and reach advantages don't seem like much on paper, but you'll be able to tell the difference when they stand next to each other. Floyd may be one of the best boxers of all time, but note the word "defensive" almost always precedes the word "boxer" in that sentence. At 40 years old, can he generate enough damaging offense to rattle an athlete as tough as McGregor? We'll see Saturday night.

McGregor will win IF


  • He lands the heralded "one punch." This is why prize fighting is a helluva sport, and exactly why they fight the fight. In the UFC, the betting favorite only wins approximately 60 percent of the time. Any time two men enter a cage or ring, there's always a chance that one perfectly-placed shot connects to put the opponent to sleep. McGregor has racked up plenty of those. Of his 21 MMA victories, 18 have came via KO/TKO, and 13 of those were in the very first round. It's tremendously unlikely that's he's the first of 50 fighters to actually connect against the defensive wizardry of Mayweather -- but not impossible.

  • Mayweather comes out uncharacteristically aggressive. I'm confident Mayweather will put together a sophisticated and strategic game plan, but if he becomes too overconfident or somehow McGregor gets in his head (also unlikely), the door could open for him to make a mistake. McGregor's coach, John Kavanagh, made a prediction Monday on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani that if the two fighters meet and Mayweather's first step is forward, he will be knocked out in the first round. Of course a coach always has his fighter's back, but this outcome seems incredibly unlikely. There's a point to be made here, though. If Floyd decides to fight out of his element for whatever reason, his risk of making a mistake rises.

Mayweather X-Factor

Body Shots -- Experience is too obvious of a choice, so let's take a look at one technique we can expect Mayweather to go to early and often Saturday. When Mayweather fights southpaws, he employs an incredibly deceptive jab to the body in which he almost crouches and looks the opponent in the eye before delivering it. Opponents expect him to go for the head as a result, but his unmatched speed allows Floyd to connect to the body of his counterpart before they realize what happened. Once or twice is no big deal, and it won't be for Conor early. As the fight gets into the middle rounds and later, however, these will start to wear down the stamina of McGregor while also scoring points for Mayweather. The switch to 8-ounce gloves -- which Mayweather is already used to -- will actually serve as an advantage when Floyd strikes the body. His incredibly accurate shots will be much sharper upon contact, and will cause noticeable problems for Conor in the later rounds. Mix in some power shots to the body, and if they connect at the right spot, they could stop the fight early.

McGregor X-Factor

Psychological Warfare -- McGregor is not going to have a clear advantage when it comes to any technical aspect of boxing. Physically, he's younger and has a size advantage, but that won't matter if he's unable to connect against the greatest defensive boxer of all-time. Speaking of, Mayweather has rarely, if ever, faced off against an opponent that will go tit for tat with him in the trash talking department. McGregor is a mastermind in this area and has baited several formidable fighters into his trap by using it. Jose Aldo, one of the most calculated featherweights of all-time, came charging to the center of the Octagon when the two fought, and he was put to sleep in 13 seconds. An esteemed wrestler in Eddie Alvarez attempted three takedowns, but gave up after each were unsuccessful. When he moved to stand and trade with Conor, his night was ended shortly afterwards. I'm not saying Floyd can be baited into fighting out of his element, but Conor has done this to plenty of professional fighters in the past. Should Floyd be inclined to abandon his technique and send a message, even if it's only briefly, it could cost him his consciousness.

Gambling Guide

This fight is expected to be one of the biggest betting matchups of all-time, with even more money wagered than a typical Super Bowl. Since the fight was announced, the odds have changed drastically and frequently, as illustrated by this graph, courtesy of Richard Mann of StrikeScore MMA (odds via OddShark). 


Here are a few tips for making the most out of your #MayMac bets:

  • Shop Around. Just like finding a mortgage or choosing what stocks to invest in, it pays to shop around to get the most favorable numbers. If you're confident in a McGregor win (or just betting with your heart), make sure you get the best odds possible in order to maximize your profit. For example, as of Tuesday afternoon, Bovada has McGregor as a (+300) underdog. Per OddShark, other online sites have him in the (+365) range. If you're out in Vegas and can visit the sports book at Caesar's Palace, you may still find him at (+400). Even that small discrepancy means the difference of a $100 payout on a $100 bet.

  • Consider betting outcomes over betting the fight straight up. Bovada offers many intriguing props, as will just about any sports book you find access to. If you think McGregor is going to win, for example, it would almost certainly be by knockout. You can make yourself an extra $25 on a $100 bet if you bet McGregor to win by KO/TKO/DQ (+325) than if you bet him straight up (+300).  If you like McGregor to stand tough but still think Mayweather will win, try betting Floyd by Decision/Technical Decision (+250), rather than a straight-up victory (-400). Even a KO/TKO/DQ bet for Floyd gives you (-125) odds, which is a significantly better payoff than just betting the outcome.

  • Take a look at round props. This applies mostly to McGregor betters, as the payoff for calling a KO/TKO in Rounds 1-4 (+700) or Rounds 5-6 (+1200) is much greater than betting the fight straight up. Call a sixth-round knockout correctly? That $100 bet nets you $1200 in profit. The odds get tremendously better past that point, but that coincides with the facts -- don't count on any kind of McGregor stoppage if the fight gets past round six.

  • Bet with your head, not your heart. MMA fans and Ireland natives have flooded Vegas sportsbooks with Conor McGregor bets, so much so that Floyd is less of a favorite for this matchup than in 11 of his last 18 fights (per OddShark). And those were against professional boxers -- he was a bigger favorite against Andre Berto (-3000), both Marcos Maidana fights (-600, -900), Robert Guerrero (-600) and Miguel Cotto (-700). See the graph below for an illustration, courtesy of Richard Mann of StrikeScore MMA. You may not want Floyd to win, or even have an issue with his character (this could go both ways), but betting big on McGregor just because you want to root for him is not the right course of action here. You have to be fully OK with losing that bet.


We may not all be working with this type of bank roll --

-- but there's still money to be made and plenty of action to be had.

Prediction

I had considered taking this to the RotoWire Staff Picks roundtable, but not a single writer I reached out to wanted to go out on a limb for McGregor. I, like most combat sports writers, lean the same way. The fact is, Mayweather has defeated 49 classically trained boxers and there's little reason to think this fight will go any differently. If McGregor lands that "one big shot" he needs, the Irishman would be the first to ever do it. That type of long shot is fun for casual betters looking to cash big, but that's not where you'll find the so-called "smart money." In the end, Mayweather should take a decision that will likely have multiple 10-8 rounds in his favor. I think McGregor can hang in their and go the distance, but he'll have a tough time finding a home for his punches. It's not what fight fans want to hear, but this should play out a lot like Mayweather/Pacquiao in the last big superfight. Floyd will fight smart, which doesn't necessarily lead to a lot of action.

Just for Fun

Many analysts, athletes and celebrities have chimed in their takes on the upcoming matchup. Here's a sampling of a few perspectives: