In the wake of UFC 239, Jorge Masvidal has all of a sudden become something of an outside shout to welcome the former champion Conor McGregor back to the octagon later this year.
These days, there is something of a special x-factor needed to draw the increasingly reclusive former two-weight world champion into signing on the dotted line and in his own words, change your life forever.
A narrative with purpose, a rivalry worth resolving, 12lbs of championship gold. Conor has gone beyond the point of no return in the sense that a three-round fight that has little impact on the sport’s history or his overall legacy will likely be passed on.
And that understandably irks some people but like the great Floyd Mayweather before him, playing the game methodically from a position of semi-retirement certainly brings its benefits once things hit the negotiation table.
So would Jorge Masvidal be a fitting opponent for McGregor? Absolutely!
Now riding a two-fight winning streak with brutal finishes of two of the most popular welterweights on the planet, Gamebred could really be a perfect rival to the Irishman in more ways than one.
Do I think it’ll happen? Probably not.
But who knows! Stranger things have happened.
Speaking in a recent interview with TMZ, UFC president Dana White explained his reluctance to make this fight happen – citing the size difference and Conor’s past difficulties at 170lbs as his reasoning.
“Masvidal is too big for Conor. Yeah, but he shouldn’t have [fought Nate Diaz at welterweight]. I hated that he did it. Not only did I hate that he did it once, I hated that he did it twice.
“He doesn’t belong at that weight. No. There’s plenty of fights for him in his weight division without Conor. He’s too big for Conor, Conor doesn’t belong at 170.
“He’s got the balls to fight at 170 but he doesn’t belong there. Hell no.”
During a recent episode of his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, UFC colour-commentator Rogan also gave his thoughts on a showdown between Masvidal and McGregor and how incredibly difficult this fight could be for The Notorious.
“That’s a rough fight for Conor. Masvidal is a big fella too. He really belongs at 170 [pounds], that’s where he’s fighting. He fought at 155, but really tortured himself to make that weight.
“He’s a big guy. You’re talking about a guy that knocked out ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, knocked out Darren Till, knocked out Ben Askren. I mean, he’s knocking out big welterweights — big. Darren Till is a big welterweight.
“He’s big. He’s not a guy coming up from 155 pounds. He’s never making 155 pounds.
“In the last few fights, [Masvidal] is coming into his own, really becoming something special.”
I’m really not saying this fight will ever even happen but for the sake of fun – given the timing, I’m going to take a stab at predicting how exactly it would play out – given what we know about each man’s skills, attributes, and how they match up.
For the sake of really setting the scene, let’s assume that the fight takes place over five rounds at welterweight later this year and both men enter the contest in healthy condition.
Despite his scintillating run of form in recent times at 170lbs, Masvidal spent the vast majority of his career fighting as a lightweight before making his permanent leap up in weight back in 2015.
Of course, as the years went on, Jorge has developed a physique befitting of a more natural welterweight and with a reach of 73″ coupled with his 5’11” height, a lot of the advantages McGregor has held over several of his featherweight and lightweight victims would be nullified.
I’m not exactly sure about how heavy Masvidal is on fight-night but I would imagine that he’s somewhere around the 180lb mark once the octagon doors close – giving him roughly around a 10-15lb advantage over Conor.
Though not traditionally known as a power-puncher, since his year-and-a-half-long hiatus after losing to Stephen Thompson at UFC 217, we’re seeing a version of Gamebred that boasts genuine one-shot KO abilities and with his back-to-back victories over Darren Till and the famously durable Ben Askren, he proved that he also holds the more raw power of the two.
In terms of sheer boxing technique, things are pretty tight.
Jorge has some of the crispest hands in the sport, period, but when McGregor is really on-form, it’s almost impossible to move in on him without eating a left hand.
Eddie Alvarez realised very, very quickly that he was completely outgunned on the feet back in 2016’s UFC 205. Failing to avoid a counter-shot virtually any time he tried to close the distance, Conor was able to do what he does best – get comfortable and begin working towards the finish.
Despite being one of the best counter-punchers to ever step into the octagon, McGregor will stalk his prey slowly and wait for them to make their move. As it has been said many times in the past, the kicks and spins (which have certainly died down in recent years) are just probes to position you where he wants.
I don’t for a second believe that the Conor who fought Khabib Nurmagomedov in October was anywhere near his best or as well-prepared as we’ve seen in the past. His pace and rhythm were off from the get-go and when the opportunities to counter arrived, the shots were just a tad-bit laboured.
The sting and ‘zip’ just weren’t there and his reflexes seemed to have slowed, so for reference here, I believe that his pair of showdowns with Nate Diaz will give us a better idea of how this one would go.
Nate is the rangy pure boxer who uses his years of sparring world-class pugilists, defensive savvy, and his legendary chin to break you down round-by-round and in Masvidal, you have a guy who possesses similarly technical hands, an incredibly strong jaw, and the ability to pile on the pressure when needed.
If this fight were to happen at lightweight, I honestly think Conor would spark him within two rounds as a result of Jorge’s arduous (and potentially even dangerous) weight-cut but in a welterweight battle, I think the former featherweight would run into a lot of the same issues that made both bouts with Diaz as competitive as they were.
I’m not confident that McGregor can find a way to finish a guy who can absorb damage like Jorge in the opening two rounds.
And that’s not in any way a dig at his power and ridiculous accuracy but as White and Rogan correctly pointed out, size matters and in Masvidal, you have a guy who is fighting guys who have 20-30lbs on Conor – like Darren Till who will no doubt fight at 185lbs in the future.
One of the most underrated aspects of Conor’s makeup as a fighter is his phenomenal ability to take a shot and I don’t believe that Masvidal will be able to get the finish here, but I can see this fight’s competitiveness peaking at around the third-round before Jorge begins to put some real damage on a diminished McGregor in the championship rounds.
It will be fun, it will be tightly-contested at times, but Masvidal’s power and pressure will be enough to see him home while Conor’s elusiveness will be the key in his ability to avoid being finished.
Prediction: Jorge Masvidal by unanimous decision (48-47)
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena
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