Down
enlarge
UFC 205: What's Conor McGregor's biggest challenge vs. Eddie Alvarez?
2:59 | MMA
UFC 205: What's Conor McGregor's biggest challenge vs. Eddie Alvarez?
Thursday November 10th, 2016

At the historic UFC 205 card in Madison Square Garden in New York City, lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez is looking to avoid winding up on the wrong side of history. His opponent, featherweight champion Conor McGregor, is seeking to become the first two-weight champion in the promotion's history.

Unfortunately for McGregor, he is facing a tough opponent who is well-rounded with solid boxing and better wrestling. Alvarez has cardio that enables him to go the distance and he is vastly more experienced and has been through some tough tests.

Alvarez has said there is an easy way to beat McGregor that no one has used yet, but he won't reveal it before the bout. Here are what we consider five keys to victory for Alvarez.

1. Win the battle along the cage

Alvarez has redefined himself in recent years, using an approach of driving his opponents against the cage, then grinding them along the fence and ultimately taking them to the mat. He employed this tactic en route to victory against Anthony Pettis and others.

But getting McGregor to the mat from this position is easier said than done because McGregor has proven himself adept at defending such takedowns. Chad Mendes struggled at UFC 189 to get McGregor to the mat along the cage, and Nate Diaz struggled at times in the same situation at UFC 202. While Alvarez could also struggle, he still could pin McGregor there, control him and frustrate him. McGregor can't use his best weapons—counterpunching and his left hand—fighting off the cage.

2. Wear McGregor down early

This pairs up with driving McGregor to the cage. If you can't bring him down, pin him there. From this position not only does Alvarez neutralize McGregor's best weapons, but also he can exhaust him, particularly in early rounds. McGregor admitted after UFC 196 he had issues managing his energy efficiently against Diaz. At UFC 202, McGregor focused more on preserving his gas tank during the early rounds to avoid a repeat, but still seemed drained towards the end of the bout.

MMA
UFC 205: Five keys to victory for Conor McGregor against champion Eddie Alvarez

Elbows and knees can eat away at McGregor's already questionable gas tank. If Alvarez can force McGregor to expend a great deal of energy fighting off the cage, he can set himself up for success in the later rounds.

3. Disguise takedowns in the center of the cage

McGregor demonstrated a remarkable ability to stay on his feet along the cage despite attempts to take him down, but he is vulnerable to the takedown in the middle of the cage. For Alvarez to do this, he needs to follow quick combinations by dropping levels and shooting for the takedown.

4. Ground and Pound

McGregor's ability to maneuver on the mat and grappling has long been considered his weakness and the route to beating him. He is more than capable of escaping on the mat, as we saw against Mendes at UFC 189, so it's not a given. But if Alvarez can keep McGregor on the mat and invoke the ground and pound method to wear him down, he could gain an advantage, potentially even setting up a submission.

5. Avoid a stand up war

Alvarez does not want to turn this into a standup war, despite being an above-average striker himself. While more than half of Alvarez's wins have come by knockout, McGregor has proven he has a solid chin and can take some damage.

The real reason to avoid the stand up is McGregor's skills.The Irishman's best chance of winning the fight is with his powerful left hand. By taking the fight to the ground and avoiding a stand up battle, Alvarez nullifies McGregor's biggest weapon.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.