3 Ways Donald Cerrone Can Beat Conor McGregor at UFC 246

Tom TaylorContributor IJanuary 17, 2020

3 Ways Donald Cerrone Can Beat Conor McGregor at UFC 246

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    Donald Cerrone collects records like he collects cowboy hats.

    He has the most wins in UFC history, with 23 victories in the Octagon. He holds the UFC record for most finishes (16), as well as the records for most knockdowns (20) and most kick-induced knockouts (7). He's earned more post-fight bonuses than any fighter in UFC history (18) and owns the joint-record for most fights in a single year (five).

    While a UFC title has eluded him, the man is as accomplished as they come. 

    Despite his accomplishments, though, Cerrone will step into the cage with Conor McGregor at UFC 246 on Saturday as a 13-5 underdog with Caesars. The oddsmakers don't like his chances, and as any quick scroll through social media reveals, many fans feel the same way. 

    But is Cerrone, the gunslinger with so many records crammed on to his resume, really that outmatched against the Irish megastar? Without the aid of a crystal ball, that's impossible to say until fight night, but to suggest Cerrone is without routes to victory is inaccurate.

    The fan favorite can beat McGregor in a number of different ways.

    Let's take a look at them.

Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu

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    This is Cerrone's clearest path to victory.

    McGregor is not a bad grappler, but Cerrone is much better.

    Over the course of his career, Cerrone has produced a whopping 17 wins by way of submission. Five of those were via rear-naked chokes, while he's also ended fights with triangle chokes and armbars.

    Oftentimes, Cerrone locks up his submissions after hurting his foe on the feet or by scrambling out of another position on the mats. Yet he's also a fantastic wrestler. We don't see it too often, but he has an excellent double-leg takedown, which provides him with a path to the canvas when things aren't going his way on the feet.

    While Cerrone has a clear grappling edge over McGregor, however, he's stated on several occasions that he intends to strike with the Irishman at UFC 246.

    "You know, I probably should, but I don't think I will," Cerrone told Brett Okamoto of ESPN when asked whether he will attempt to grapple with McGregor. "I like to fight too. I like to get in there and throw down. Everyone says his stand-up is amazing, so why not go and test it?"

    Given McGregor's predilection for knockouts, this might seem like a bad idea. But Cerrone is no slouch on the feet. Which brings us to the next point...

Kickboxing

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    McGregor is statistically a more dangerous striker than Cerrone. The Irishman has achieved 18 of his 21 victories by way of strikes, while the American has earned just 10 of 36 victories in this way.

    That being said, Cerrone could knock out McGregor.

    Cerrone has solid boxing, but his deadliest weapons are his legs. As previously covered, he's finished a significant seven fights with head kicks—and that doesn't include the submissions he's locked up after wobbling his foes with kicks.

    Furthermore, McGregor could be open to the high kick, as he typically fights from a side-on stance with his hands low. If Cerrone can adequately disguise his head kick, perhaps behind a cross, it could spell disaster for the returning Irishman.

    Yes, McGregor can take a shot, but he was wobbled by Nate Diaz and dropped by Khabib Nurmagomedov, and all of that trouble was due to punches. Kicks land with an entirely different kind of impact.

Cardio and Pace

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    Conor McGregor is often criticized for his apparent deficit in the cardio department. We don't see him tire often because he wins most of his fights quickly, but we did see him fade in his two 2016 bouts with Nate Diaz and in his 2017 boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. His conditioning looked improved in his 2018 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, but concerns about his gas tank are still common and fair.

    Cerrone, on the other hand, has never had any issues in terms of cardio. He's gone five rounds a number of times in the past and generally looks like he's ready for a long jog even after a 25-minute fight.

    If Cerrone is able to weather McGregor's early storm—and that's a big if—there's a chance the Irishman will start fading down the stretch. Cerrone could also conceivably expedite his foe's exhaustion by forcing grueling tie-ups against the cage and peppering in knees and punches to the body, a target he's excellent at hitting.

    Whatever the case, there's a solid chance McGregor will start to slow down at some point in this fight. When that happens, Cerrone, with his seemingly bottomless gas tank, will need to pounce. That means cranking up the offense and forbidding his foe from catching his breath.

    If the American is able to wear out McGregor, a stoppage will be right at his fingertips, whether it's by knockout or submission.