UFC 189: Keys to Victory for McGregor, Mendes, Lawler and MacDonald

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2015

UFC 189: Keys to Victory for McGregor, Mendes, Lawler and MacDonald

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    Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    We are just one day away from the biggest fight card of 2015.

    Headlined by an illustrious featherweight showdown between Irish phenom Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes, as well as a co-main event rematch between welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, UFC 189 is poised to produce.

    Results may vary, especially considering Mendes is stepping in on short notice to fill in for champion Jose Aldo, but the aura surrounding the biggest event in promotional history remains intact.

    However, through all of the media obligations, commercials, interviews, press conferences, trash-talking and Twitter beef, the action itself often gets overshadowed by the pageantry.

    That's all due to come to an end this Saturday as the Octagon door rockets shut and the only things that reign supreme are high-flying leather, quick movement, execution and resilience.

    But who will fare the best when it matters most? What do they need to do in order to secure the most sought-after success?

    Here are the keys to victory for each fighter involved in UFC 189's marquee matchups.

Keys to Victory for McGregor

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    For someone who has four finishes through five UFC victories, successfully predicting a few of them in the process, McGregor has a lot to prove this weekend.

    In order for McGregor to chop through Mendes' strong wrestling, quick offensive bursts and powerful overhand right, he'll have to keep his distance before he does anything else.

    With an eight-inch reach advantage and an unorthodox way of creating varying angles, the 26-year-old should find success if he picks his shots, circles to the right to avoid Mendes' knockout power and keeps the wrestler honest with timely leg kicks and stiff jabs.

    If McGregor is unable to avoid nose-to-nose combat, then he could very well find himself on his back, which is something we've rarely seen during his UFC career.

    Dennis Siver took McGregor down a few times back at UFC Fight Night 59, but Siver is nowhere near Mendes in the wrestling department.

    Therefore, Notorious must scramble in succession. If Mendes is on top, that means he's scoring points and taking time away from McGregor's striking.

    By pushing off, throwing shots from the bottom and relying on his athleticism and strength to work his way to the cage, McGregor can save a lot of time on the clock to pressure Money on the feet.

Keys to Victory for Mendes

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Mendes is going to be in for a rude awakening if he decides to strike with McGregor.

    Sure, he was able to go toe-to-toe with Aldo back at UFC 179, but the Brazilian doesn't incorporate the same sort of movement, unpredictability and fluidity as the Irishman does.

    So, even though Mendes prides himself on his newfound power punching under the tutelage of Duane "Bang" Ludwig, his best chance for success resides in his wrestling and top game.

    As one of the best takedown artists in the division and coming from a Team Alpha Male outfit dedicated to producing strong wrestlers, Mendes is going to test McGregor where Aldo would not have.

    It's certainly a concern for the ultra-confident McGregor, but Mendes must keep a strong base when on top in order to keep the bigger body glued to the mat.

    With that said, the Californian also needs to stay patient on his feet in order to gauge McGregor's shifty footwork and timing before he moves in for the kill.

    One false initiation of contact could spell disaster for Mendes, who has produced a 20:0 takedown ratio throughout his 10-fight UFC career.

Keys to Victory for Lawler

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    It's no secret that Lawler is going to rely on his power this Saturday at UFC 189. With some of the best knockout strikes south of 205 pounds, it's hard to blame him.

    But when it comes to an opponent as technical and unflappably potent as MacDonald, focusing on one ability will get you in trouble.

    That's why Lawler must attack early and often in order to throw the Canadian for a loop and to set the pace and tone of the fight.

    Unfortunately, it's one of those plans that have the best chance to backfire, but Lawler is a stud when it comes to making other fighters feel uncomfortable. He's also a guy who can eat a punch for breakfast.

    But he'll need to do everything in his power to remain standing in order to feed off such a game plan.

    Fighting off his back is not going to give Lawler the leverage he needs to secure a finish, let alone score points against a guy who eats and breathes mat work.

    So the champ needs to be on his tippy toes in order to circle away when needed and launch some flying knees when the Canadian implements a takedown attempt.

Keys to Victory for MacDonald

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    It's interesting to know that MacDonald has never seen the light of day when it comes to championship rounds.

    But considering he represents a perfected concoction of athleticism, skill and conditioning, it's safe to say he'll remain offensively effective should Saturday's title fight spill over into the fourth and fifth frames.

    That means that the young 25-year-old Canadian will have even more time to stick his body to Lawler, sap the veteran's energy and score points in top position.

    It's his best chance to secure a smart and controlling decision, despite any negative feedback that knockout-loving fans may have. But that's easier said than done when you consider Lawler will land shots inside as MacDonald moves his way forward.

    So it may even be a smarter move for the challenger to weather the champ's storm through the first round-and-a-half before he implements his own game plan and engages in close quarters.

    Because if it wasn't for a third-round knockdown in their first meeting at UFC 167, then MacDonald's strong grappling and penetrating ground-and-pound would have been enough to defeat Lawler.

    A few extra rounds are just what the doctor ordered, and they're a welcomed sight for a fighter who likes to take his time inside the cage.

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