Diego Brandao is not the quintessential top contender to test the budding skill set of an international dynamo like Conor McGregor, but he'll have to do.
As one of the winners of The Ultimate Fighter 14, the 27-year-old is on the cusp of divisional relevance should he pull off an upset and end the reign of Ireland's most prized MMA prospect.
But it's going to take one heck of an effort from the Brazilian to ward off an athlete of McGregor's caliber, especially considering McGregor is one of the most well-rounded featherweights in the UFC right now.
Brandao has spunk, power and the knack for finishing a fight when the opportunity presents itself, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be on top of his game come Saturday at UFC Fight Night 46.
Here are keys to victory for both fighters as they try to ascend the 145-pound ladder.
Keys to victory for Brandao
If Brandao even wants to dream of beating an athlete like McGregor, he'll have to pace himself through the fight.
Staying patient, picking his shots, keeping his distance and playing his cards right is going to get him there.
That's easier said than done. The Brazilian loves to sling leather in bunches, but he'll have to tone it down in order to last the full length of his first headliner.
McGregor is a fighter who loves to mix things up and show his opponent different looks, so Brandao needs to understand that sticking to his game plan could help his chances late into the fight.
Land early and often
As important as conditioning will be for Brandao in this five-round battle, he's certainly going to have to land in order to score points.
What better time than in the first round for him to land a couple of power shots flush with McGregor's chin?
The Irish sensation has yet to be tested inside of the Octagon as far as eating a heavy shot. If Brando can land early and often, he could very well throw McGregor off his game and make him fight from behind for the rest of the bout.
It never hurts to do damage early.
Keys to victory for McGregor
Keep Brandao busy
Brandao is not known for his cardio.
His power keeps his opponents on their toes late into fights, but he usually starts to fade as the fight grows long and strenuous.
That's when McGregor needs to strike.
He needs to understand that footwork, head movement, in-and-out strikes and overall versatility could very well be the difference between winning and losing.
If he can mix things up early against Brandao, the Brazilian should encounter problems by the third round when it comes to defending McGregor's kicks, combos and takedown attempts.
Believe in himself
I know that sounds crazy because McGregor is one of the cockiest fighters in the promotion today.
Who will win this weekend?
But as a human being, one who will be pinned against a heavy-handed veteran capable of turning a fight around at any given time, McGregor needs to believe that he belongs in the limelight.
He needs to believe that this is his time to climb the featherweight ladder and that he will not lose to a former reality show winner who has shown glimpses of dominating promise.
For the 26-year-old to truly cash in on the opportunity at hand, he needs to win this fight. He has more at stake but also more to gain should he put a whooping on Brandao.
All in all, McGregor needs to understand that any loss, especially to an unranked fighter like Brandao, could mean disaster for the championship image his has instilled in himself since he entered the UFC.
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