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Coach Kavanagh Reveals Round By Round Plan For Khabib

John Kavanagh

Much of the post-UFC 229 commentary has surrounded the chaotic scenes which unravelled after Khabib Nurmagomedov secured a rear naked choke on Conor McGregor in round four. 

Of course, by now you know the situation – Khabib launched himself at Dillon Danis and Khabib’s teammates entered the Octagon to attack McGregor.

However, the reason for McGregor’s loss has yet to be fully discussed or dissected. McGregor’s coach, John Kavanagh, appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast on Monday and he provided a fascinating insight to the fight by revealing what the plan was, round by round, to beat Khabib.

John Kavanagh

JR: Was there anything surprising in the fight? 

JK: “The right hand in the second round was a cracker, it was a beautiful overhand right. It’s a staple of wrestlers, overhand right in close but he doesn’t generally do that, he’s more jab and then close but that was a great shot.

“The style of takedowns and everything was kind of what we expected. We spent a lot of time preparing for that. I expected round one, for sure going to get a takedown so the goal of round one was to get out of it but still having energy. We didn’t want to put a huge amount of effort into trying to get back up in round one. I’ve seen that happen many times in his other opponents and they get back to the stool really tired. Round one, make him pay, do our best on the way in, fight as hard as we can but if we do end up down and it was against the fence, we figured it would be there, try to stay seated up. If we ended up on our back, just try to play guard until the bell, accept it will be a 10-9 round.

“For round two, again, the same plan. Do as much damage as we can but if we end up on our back, don’t put a huge amount of effort into trying to get up, he’s an absolute master at regrounding people. That turned out to be a 10-8 round, he got some good shots there and obviously landed the great right hand so that was a bit more than we hoped for.

“Round three, things started to turn a little bit in our favour. We did a lot better at keeping it in the middle, defending the takedowns.

JR: So the plan was to slow him down a little, watch him slow down a little bit in the third, fourth and fifth?

JK: “Yeah, exactly. I think at the beginning the consensus was ‘Conor knocks him out in the first or Khabib takes over from two on’. For us to win the third round was probably a bit of a surprise to people. The Al Iaquinta fight, if you look at that, from round three on he wasn’t able to hit any takedowns. So, hoped we would have a go in round three, we could defend the takedowns a lot easier and start landing our shots. That did happen for round three, not as well as we planned, not as well as we hoped.

“Then in four, he hit another great takedown, made a mistake giving up the over hook, exposed our back and that was all she wrote.

JR: Wrapping up the legs?

JK: “In round one, I thought Conor did well, we had practised for that, to keep our legs bent. You see guys, they straighten their legs…Conor did do that a couple of times but he was able to continuously get a leg free so not until the last 30 seconds of round one, he didn’t really tie them up and get him flat on his back. For the majority of that, he was against the fence. He used his hands to keep upright, tried to land little shots…

Joe Rogan’s podcast is still live and you can watch/listen here.

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Author: Sean McMahon

Sean is Deputy Editor and head rugby writer. You can contact him by email or on Twitter