Featherweight champion Conor McGregor is looking to make history by defeating lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 to become the promotion's first two-weight champion. Defeating the newly crowned Alvarez, who will make just his fifth trip to the octagon, will be no easy task.
Alvarez has a strong background in boxing and wrestling, making him a dual threat, and has been to able to evolve his game plan over the years, winning the Bellator lightweight title before claiming UFC gold.
If McGregor wants to make history at UFC 205 by becoming the first fighter to hold belts in two weight classes simultaneously, here are five keys to victory.
1. Manage his energy efficiently
When Nate Diaz defeated McGregor at UFC 196, McGregor immediately pointed to the management of his energy. "I was inefficient with my energy," he said at the post-fight press conference. "It was a battle of energy and he got the better of that."
Alvarez is a different opponent, but McGregor can't get caught trying to fulfill his predictions by swinging for the fences in pursuit of the big shot. He needs to be patient, take the opportunities that come and manage his energy.
2. Work the body
McGregor needs to chip away at the stamina of Alvarez. Wrestlers are known for their conditioning, and the easiest way to level the playing field against a better conditioned fighter is with repeated body shots.
Those eat away at the metaphorical gas tank of a fighter. Punches to the diaphragm can affect how an opponent breathes, and an opponent fighting for air is an easier target. McGregor has perfected a front snap kick technique that not only uses the ball of his foot to attack the body, but also keeps the opponent at distance.
3. Win the battle against the cage
The biggest knock against McGregor has been his ground game, as Chad Mendes notably repeated before their interim title fight at UFC 189. McGregor is unquestionably a striker first and foremost, and he has proven to be adept on the mat. That said, Alvarez's game plan lately, as demonstrated against Anthony Pettis, is to push his opponent against the cage, then get him to the mat. Luckily for McGregor, he is better at defending the takedown against the cage, and if he can stay on his feet he will be in a better position.
As noted earlier, McGregor is more than proficient at defending the takedown along the cage. But he's susceptible to the takedown in the middle of the cage, as Chad Mendes proved at UFC 189. Alvarez will look to use strikes before changing levels and going for the takedown. If McGregor can return to his roots and put an emphasis on counter punching, he can exchange and escape to get out of harm's way. He used this strategy in part against Nate Diaz at UFC 202, exchanging and moving before resetting, not being drawn into standing in the pocket.
Standing in front of Alvarez and trying to slug it out is also a bad idea; 15 of the Philly native's 28 wins have come via TKO. By using his counterpunching abilities, McGregor can set the trap, escape and land a devastating strike as he retreats, similar to the shot that knocked out Jose Aldo at UFC 194.
5. Listen to his coach
Based on the audio from McGregor's corner at UFC 196, it seems like McGregor abandoned the game plan much to the chagrin of his coaches. The game plan, which he used more efficiently at UFC 202, was to use leg kicks.
We've seen how important game plans can be. McGregor's plan at 202 helped guide him to victory, and Holly Holm's flawless game plan against Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 helped her win the championship in one of the biggest upsets in history.