Conor McGregor Style Breakdown Part 1

Welcome back, this time around we’re going to take a look at some of the stand up skills Conor shows and take a deeper look into the finer details of what makes his stand up so effective.

This series will cover the following: Movement, hand strategies, killing rhythm (landing the left cross), cutting off ground.

In these series, we’re gonna take an in-depth look Conor’s weapons and take a close look at Conor McGregor’s “movement.” He’s says “They don’t move like I move.” and lets see what that might mean, but First, we take a look at offense.

Part 1


Conor is great when it comes to going on the offense (leading). Part of this is because he’s so good at breaking his opponent’s defensive rhythm. He has large variety of ways of breaking the defense rhythm.

In a fight, a fighter isn’t constantly in defense mode either constantly blocking or evading. They mainly initiate defensive actions when attacks come.

Conor uses a lot of feints to throw off the timing of their defense rhythm. He baits a reaction to their response and as soon as that defense comes down, BANG! Conor hits the opening at the precise timing where their defense opens. We’ll be exploring how he does that.


Lets look at the first tool in Conor’s arsenal, his shoulder feint. Now, the crafty thing about Conor’s shoulder feint is that it looks like a cross, but in reality, it can be more than just a cross. Conor uses that shoulder well to feint and draw a response to the opponents defense. Once that defense is open, he can transition the shoulder feint into a variety of different attacks including the leaping uppercut, the stiff jab, or the hook. On occasions, he can sneak in a kick as well.

conor shoulder feint comp 2.gif
Shoulder feinting

Conor has spoken once about he would “freeze them with my movement.” so lets take a closer look at an example of how movement can be used to trump the opponent.  To give a feint power over the opponent, you must first sell the feint by making it a threat.

Conor cross.gif
To make the shoulder feint a threat. He has to sell the movement first by making it land effectively with a cross. Conor first establishes that the shoulder movement is a threatening cross.

Once the threat of a cross has been established and sold to the opponent, the shoulder feint now can be used to draw the response you want. From there, the shoulder movement can be used for crafty transitions into other angular offensive choices that hit different angles around the guard, and here are a few examples:

connor strike switching.gif
Shoulder feint, draws Max to move, Conor then transitions into a leaping uppercut right up the guard
conor feint cross, jab cross chad.gif
slow Shoulder feint, then transitions into a quick Jab, cross
straight through the guard
conor feint, lead hook.gif
Shoulder feint, transitions into retreating lead hook to maintain distance

With just that simple shoulder movement alone, Conor has the luxury of hitting a variety of different angles by going under the guard with the uppercut, straight through the guard with the jab or around the guard with the hook.

There are a few different ways Conor can use the shoulder feint to his disposal:

1) He can use it to draw a defense pattern and hit the time frame where openings are exposed or hit them at timings where their rhythm is thrown off by the shoulder movement( examples above). Bernard Hopkins has mentioned before that one of the best times to catch an opponent is when they’re trying to establish their rhythm. Conor does a good job using this concept to open his opponents.

2) He can use the feint to cut the cage.  In the example above, Conor feints and Max’s reaction is to give up ground, backing him up even closer to the cage. You’ll essentially cause the opponent to become stationary instead of evasive out of the premise that giving up ground over feints is not worth  the space you sacrifice.

Hand Fighting of Doom

Hand fighting has been discussed before as part of one of the tools that Conor uses a lot in his game. It’s an integral part of how Conor leads in a fight. Just a brief summary of how hand trapping can be utilized (for those new to this concept); it can used to keep the opponents hands in check to prevent them from using their arms to attack, it can be used to pull down their guard to creating offensive openings, and it can be used to measure distance to the opponent.

The advantage of this is that you’re in such a neutral and balanced stance that if the opponent tries to attack you while hand reaching, you will have the stability to retreat, which makes it ideal for cutting off ground on fighters who try to retreat and counter.

conor hand fighting, retreat.gif
Note Conor’s stalking down Max while his stance is fully balanced on the feet, allowing him to retreat if the opponent attacks

Since this method works so well at making counter punching less effective, it’s a good way to trap them into the cage.

We know he can land his left cross with hand fighting, but how?

It’s time to get in-depth with Conor’s hand fighting now. You see, the hand fighting happens quickly and can be so subtle that it’s sometimes hard to see and is easily missed. (Fun fact, I’ve had to study his fights at half speed just to catch the finer details). I’m gonna break down some very important uses of hand fighting and how Conor does a great job at to open the opponent up with it.

Think about this for a moment; when someone reaches their arm out to hand fight, you have a few options to deal with it:

1) Case 1, You let them hand trap your guard. Which you don’t want because they can simply pull down your guard and hit the opening

spong hand trap.gif
Tyrone Spong reaching out to hand fight, opponent allows him to control his guard

2) Case 2, you reach out where their own hand is to keep their reach/traps at bay. This ends up being the better choice to minimize them from forcing your guard apart.

chand hand trap
Reach out to where their hand is to keep their traps away

3) Case 3, you use simultaneous counters to ward of the hand reaching. Example:

conor counters with sim cross on hand reach.gif
Siver opts to reach out, Conor uses a “simultaneous counter” to answer Siver’s hand reaching

4) case 4, you simply move away. Also not recommended since you’re giving up ground over an action that’s subtle.

Now that we have a few different possibilities established for dealing with hand reaching, let’s get into the heart of this art. We’re going to focus on case 2, which is what usually happens in a fight–fighters reach their hands out to meet their opponent’s hand.

This is a very subtle game of manipulation here so pay close attention this concept and precisely where the hand is. When Conor reaches his hand out, his opponent reaches theirs out to meet Conor’s hand.

What does that mean? If they opponent is reaching out to Conor’s hand position, it means that Conor can now manipulate where he wants their opponent’s hand to be! knowing they will reach to meet his hand position, he throws his own hand out to bait their hand to that position. Once he gets his opponent’s hand where he wants it, he can work around or pass their hand. Examples:

conor hand trap rhythm breaker 6. best. bait, hooks around the draw, crosses.gif
Conor reaches his hand out and baits Siver to reach for it…as soon as siver extends the arm, Conor throws a looping hook around into the crack of his guard.

Another example: bait the hand position, strike around it

conor hooks around hand fighting.gif
Conor reaches out to bait Max’s hand out, changes to a hook over the top of Max’s arm


Bait Hand out, and Flick Jab, Cross

The second hand fight trick Conor does is he leaves his hand out to bait their reach, then Conor kills their rhythm by abruptly changing to a quick rhythm of a flick jab to move his jab hand inside of their jab hand, and lands the left cross. Note the flick jab is basically used to parry their own lead hand aside to connect down the middle.


conor hand trap rhytm breaker.gif
Conor baits his hand out, as soon as Max reaches to meet Conor’s hand position, Conor changes his rhythm to quick a flick jab inside pass their lead hand, cross.


conor flick jab.gif
Closer look in at a 1/4 speed. Baits hand out, and at the pause moment of the GIF when Max reaches his hand out, Conor flick jabs
conor hand trap rhythm breaker 3.gif
Hand left out to bait, siver takes bait by reaching out, Conor quickly flick jabs pass their hand, cross
conor hand trap counter.gif
Baits hand out, flick jabs pass Mende’s lead hand, cross lands

I try not to make the series to long because I don’t want everyone’s PC to explode from all the GIFs loading so we’re going to continue Part 2 where we discuss more tricks of the hand fighting in Conor’s arsenal.

Part 2 here


11 thoughts on “Conor McGregor Style Breakdown Part 1”

  1. Great article. I’m really interested in learning more about handfighting if you can help me such as where to position my hand what counters can i use if i have the dominant hand and stuff like that . Thank you 🙂


      1. I have another thing. My style is very similiar to conor’s (I’m southpaw too) and i’ve added many new tools to it thanks to you and other analysist too . But what im not that good at is kicking. I struggle always with good kickers especially Taekwondo kickers. If you can write articles too about kicking defenses for southpaw that would be great. Thank you again 🙂


  2. Hey brother ,
    What is the best counter for someone who attack the body in a southpaw vs orthodox matchup ? I try handfighting him but he always throw a quick jab to the body and follow up with other punches. Itry to stiffarm his face too but he enter through don’t know how lol.
    Any other option?


    1. You have a few options. I’m assuming these are body shots from the outside range. If you sense he’s going to hit the body with punches, you can parry the jab while kicking their inside leg at the same time to sweep their stance. Since they’ll be moving in to attack, they won’t be able to check the kick. You also have the option to throw the knee if they move low to punch the body. Kicks or knees to the head are the best deterrents to body punches in MMA.

      you can also use something like this for a straight body jab

      It can work in southpaw vs orthodox the same. You can parry the straight jab when you pivot the body back. It takes you out of the way while giving you a chance to counter with a kick from a new angle.


      1. I can’t parry his body jab because im already reaching out my hand to close his jab hand or parrying it constantly downward which make it easier for him to start with a jab to the body. I know i can attack him easily since he isn’t trying to stop me from taking his arm but my goal first is to master my defense before anything else.
        If i want to be more clear in it he attacks in the same motion as if he is going for a takedown .


      2. ahh I see, so what I’m interpreting is that you’re getting body jabbed out of the hand fighting exchanges. In that case, you can use the rear elbow to parry the body jab away and return a retreating lead hook to counter if they advance in. Most fighters actually just move away entirely. Sorry bud, I can’t explain much without actually showing you. Good luck though.


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