Finishing the Fight: UFC 246’s Conor “Straight Left” McGregor and Donald “Head Kick” Cerrone

    Cowboy Cerrone UFC
    Cowboy Cerrone, UFC Vancouver Ceremonial Weigh-In Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

    Conor McGregor returns this Saturday at UFC 246, taking on fan favorite Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. And fans will have their hopes high for a finish in the main event.

    Mixed martial arts fans love a good fight-ending sequence, as often it summarizes the story of the fight in just a few seconds. Getting the finish is a definitive end to a fight that makes a statement: “I was this much better than my opponent at that particular moment in time.”

    Every fighter has their go-to moves, especially specialists within certain martial arts disciplines. Their own signature styles that can lead to spectacular finishes. Whether it’s a scary-good rear-naked choke that fighters just can’t seem to avoid once going to the ground, or crazy power in a straight left hand that has dropped even granite-chinned fighters with ease, each fighter has a particular finishing move or sequence. Moves that have stuck in fan’s minds and come to define and describe their careers within the cage.

    The best predictor of things to come is often learned from the past. So let’s look at how Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone might finish the fight come Saturday at UFC 246.

    Conor “The Notorious” McGregor (21-4 MMA, 9-3 UFC)

    Conor McGregor is a household name, the ambassador for the sport of mixed martial arts and for good reason. The incredibly charismatic fighter knows how to sell himself, and the fight, in order to place butts in seats and sell lots of Pay-Per-Views. But the thing about Conor’s trash talk is that it would be absolutely worthless without the spectacular finishes in his career to compliment them. Conor is a very entertaining and explosive fighter. Out of Conor’s 9 wins in the UFC he has finished his opponent in 7 of those bouts. Max Holloway and Nate Diaz are the only men to go the distance with Conor. In each of Conor’s 7 other wins, he finished his opponent with strikes.

    Conor’s precision and timing are truly something to behold as well as the combinations that he is able to string together. McGregor has been known to gas out in later rounds but many fans and analysts attribute this to his fight style. It takes a lot of energy to bounce around, and dart in and out of your opponent’s range, all while delivering shots with a whole lot of mustard on them. Conor’s ‘X’ factor is his powerful straight left hand and almost everything he does is to try and set that weapon up. McGregor is always light on his feet, with a wide karate stance and is excellent at controlling the distance. Connor utilizes teeps, sidekicks and low kicks in order to keep his opponent at just the range that he wants them as well as to affect their movement and cardio. McGregor also utilizes head movement and is difficult to hit cleanly at times.

    In my opinion, McGregor’s best showing in the UFC was not his 13 second knockout of former UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo but rather the two-round systematic destruction of the former UFC lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez. At the end of the second round, in a fight where McGregor was dominating almost every moment, he finally found his opening to put his opponent away. Just barely sliding out of the range of Eddie’s long right hand, McGregor immediately connected with his power straight left hand. It’s a very long punch that almost turns Eddie completely around when it connects. Next McGeggor followed up with a pawing right hook before completely sealing the deal with another perfectly placed left  hand on the ear. The right hand on the way down was just icing on the cake.

    Everything was on the line and with all the pressure in the world Conor was able to turn in a virtually flawless performance to capture his second UFC belt — delivering a picture-perfect, signature fight-ending sequence in the process.

    Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-13, 1 NC MMA, UFC)

    Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is dangerous everywhere and he is about as game as they come. Cowboy holds the all-time record for finishes within the UFC, so it is only right for him to be featured in this piece.

    Cowboy can beat you standing with his crisp Muay Thai, or he can finish on the ground as he also possesses a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Cowboy finished one of the toughest fighters in the UFC, Matt Brown, via head kick in the third round of their 2016 bout. The lightning-fast switch kick was a result of Cowboy spotting Brown’s pattern of ducking his head to the right after throwing combinations. A spectacular finish to end a brutal fight. And back in November of 2018 Cowboy took on the super dangerous Mike Perry, who has hands that could knock out anyone at welterweight, especially a slightly undersized Cowboy. Cowboy successfully took the fight to the ground and was able to submit Perry in the very first round with a very nasty arm-bar.

    Donald’s most impressive KO finishes have all involved kicks, it’s his ‘X’ factor. As a matter of fact, Cowboy also holds the record for most KOs from kicks with 7.  Cowboy’s fight-ending sequence against Rick Story perfectly shows off his Muay Thai skills. First Donald moved out of range of the jab before closing back in and landing a jab of his own to the face of Story. Cowboy immediately followed up by changing levels to avoid an attack and fired a cross to the body before again popping Story with a left hand. Rick, clearly stunned, recoiled from the punches and began to retreat, but was just a moment too slow, as Cowboy fired off a switch kick to end the combo. This is easily one of the cleanest combinations to end a fight in recent UFC history and really shows off Cowboy’s patience, experience and skill.

    The question that remains is — which man will find the finish Saturday at UFC 246?