Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez: Fight Breakdown of The Notorious Left Hand (part 1 of 2)

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Photo by Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Conor McGregor appears to show vast improvements every time he steps into the cage to compete. He truly is an obsessed fighter, always looking to build on top of any of his weaknesses in his game. When it came down to challenge the lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, Conor looked even more impressive. This fight was a one-sided performance to say the least, but here we are again exploring the craft of Conor McGregor. Eddie did display some brief moments of successful offense, but Conor’s timing, precision, and distancing was too superior to handle.

Controlling The Fight

In the lightweight division, the average reach is about 71.5’’ according to Conor has a 74’’ reach and makes complete use of it to manage distance. We saw history repeat itself when Conor returned to fighting an orthodox fighter in Eddie Alvarez. When Conor fights someone who uses an orthodox stance, he typically looks to seize control of their lead hand.

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Mirrored stance match-up where the lead foot meets the opponent’s lead foot.

By controlling the lead hand, Conor was able to measure while simultaneously keeping Eddies lead hand in check. With that lead hand in check, Eddie’s offensive options from that hand were limited. With Eddie’s lead hand constantly in check, Conor typically reduced the moments to a battle of who can now fire off their rear hand, or breach through the control of the lead hand.

Like this example where Conor breaches through the control of the lead hand. See how he controls the hand of his opponent and breaks through range with a jab. .

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Control the hand, breach through with offense. With Conor’s hand in control, all Eddie can do is retract the arm back. 

By having his hand over the top of the opponent’s hand, he now controls their options with that arm. With narrow options left, Eddie chooses to retract his lead arm, however, retracting the arm often means the he ends up relinquishing control of distance. Despite the criticism Conor receives about his lack of an active jab, he actually uses the lead hand more preferably to control the distance and the opponent.

McGregor’s Trap

Here’s where it gets interesting, Conor is well known for his excellent rear hand shot (his infamous left hand), and has a variety of ways to land it. This is one of the main attributes that distinguish him from many of his opponents. Conor will typically bring the fight into his terms by reducing the fight to a game of whose better at breaching through with the left hand. If the opponent attempts to deviate away from his control, Conor would typically reset by back stepping or countering.

As a principle, if you bring two fighters into a specific scenario, the one with the most tools for that scenario will have the superior edge. In this case, Conor overwhelmingly dominated Eddie with the craft of his left hand shot.

Left Hand Shot, How Does He Do It?

The cross is a relatively basic technique; one of the first forms of striking every beginner picks up, yet not everyone has that ability to consistently land it. Conor has the art of the left hand shot down frighteningly well. No matter who he fights, he’s always shown the competency and distance management to land it on every single fighter he’s faced. I’m often asked about his left hand shot from fellow readers seeking to know why such a basic shot lands so exceedingly well. The truth of the matter is that his success is a product of many different qualities.  Aside from his excellent precision and timing, he has tremendous variance in how he throws the left hand.

Conor uses a variety of rhythm when throwing that left hand. He typically uses a greater range of rhythm compared to the average MMA fighter. For the sake of this fight, we’ll just look at a few examples. Take a look at the following examples:

Delayed Cross

Check out the delayed left hand. It’s typically a delayed left hand that takes a bit longer to finish. The time it takes to finish a typical strike is considered a beat. In this case, this delayed cross can be considered a strike that takes about a beat-and-a-half to finish.

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Delayed left hand shot.
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Delayed left hand shot. The timing of Nate’s lead hook is thrown off. 

The purpose of the delayed left hand is to throw off the opponent’s reactive rhythm. More specifically, the opponent’s timing gets disrupted. See the example above where Conor throws the delayed cross and Nate mistakenly throws his lead hook counter way out of rhythm while Conor lands that left hand shot.

Conor has shown tendencies to use this on a regular basis and had even displayed its use against Eddie Alvarez, but he didn’t produce anything too significant with it.

Breaking Rhythm Mid-Combo 

In this next example, Conor sets up the cross by using deceptive rhythm mid-combo. In this example, Conor throws a jab, then throws a subtle feint jab to throw of the opponent’s timing, this sequentially opens up an opportunity for that left hand to land flush.

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After landing the cross, Conor throws a Jab, feints the lead hand again to cause Eddie to preemptively slip off early.

Pay close attention to the first jab. After the jab misses, Conor throws a feinting lead hand which causes Eddie to slip his head off early. Conor then proceeds to precisely land that left hand cross again after masterfully baiting Eddie’s head there through timing manipulation.

This left hand shot was similar to what he used to connect on Dennis Siver as well. See this next example where Conor throws a jab, feints a jab, then lands a left hand.

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Throw away jab, jab feint, left cross lands. 

In short, the success of Conor’s left hand stems from his ability to combine it with a vast variety of deceptive rhythm which he can connect with by countering or going on the offensive. In addition, his precision and timing make that left that much more devastating. With precision, he can hit the sweet-spot of the chin where it’s ideal to rock someone into a concussive state. With timing, that left can be used to intercept opponent’s moving forward, using their own momentum against them as they move into his shot.

The Efficiency of Conor’s Counter

Conor’s timing and precision looked really good in this fight. The distance Conor manages is so precise that he’s able to avoid shots by a hair. This plays a big role of why his counters are so efficient. Because he’s so precise with how he moves, he’s able to effectively transition into his attacks so fluidly. In principle, the further you move away from your neutral position, the longer it takes for you to return. So by moving away from your position by a small margin, this allows you to quickly come back to attack. Take a look at a few examples of how well Conor manages his distance by a precise margin.

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Conor pulls the head away just by a very slight margin, and is able to land a counter very quickly. 

Floyd Mayweather follows the same principle in his shoulder rolls, mentioning how he uses small subtle movement just enough so he body doesn’t turn too much, otherwise his rear hand shot would take longer to connect.

In this next example, Conor steps back and is able to maintain an offensive position.

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Conor steps back, but maintains an offensive upper body stance ideal for striking. 

Note that Conor’s legs are in a linear stance which is best suited for defensive movement, but his upper body remains squared up in an offensive position. His upper body isn’t linear, so this means his upper body is readily available to attack from either arm quickly. Since his shoulders don’t deviate away from his square stance too much, his cross is closer to the opponent and can connect sooner. The efficiency in this position allows him to fluidly transition into various offensive options.

In part 2, I continue off going into detail on some of Eddie Alvarez’s craft (signature moves), why he got countered and some aspects of the fight that did go right.  PART 2 Here.

2 thoughts on “Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez: Fight Breakdown of The Notorious Left Hand (part 1 of 2)”

  1. I think Conor is a great Fighter , from what I came across trying to learn about him in the most basic of terms is this :

    He fights to Land the Left hand in 2 ways
    1-If he Goes on the attack he will use the hand traps and force the opponent into the cage ,he will throw kicks in as well to cover ground and confuse but the main aim is to land that Left Cross
    2-He will look to land it off the Counter using some of these strategies:

    pull back and land it
    slip his head and land it
    slide back using footwork when a guy gets to close then moves in again and lands it

    I find this guy’s use of this weapon amazing

    I have read and watched a lot of vids on him and striking thought has done an amazing job in comparison to all the stuff out there

    I wouldn’t mind seeing another article on That Left Hand if there is anything left to write about it : )


  2. I also forgot to write about the way he can throw it moving back like against Aldo

    and the thing I find even more interesting is how Aldo tried it against Edgar but he couldn’t recreate it


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