UFC 246: Back Conor McGregor to bounce back in style against ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone

Our reporter's on the ground in Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 17: Welterweight fighters Conor McGregor (L) and Donald Cerrone pose during a ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 246 at Park Theater at Park MGM on January 17, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

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The big-fight buzz is well and truly back here in Las Vegas as Conor McGregor makes his long-awaited return to the octagon to take on American fan-favourite, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, in the main event of UFC 246.

McGregor has been jovial, respectful and happy throughout fight week – a stark contrast to what we’ve seen from him in the lead-up to his previous few fights. And, based on what we’ve seen in the past, a happy Conor is usually a successful one, and I reckon he’s looking good for a big win on Saturday night.

Cerrone mustn’t be underestimated, however. The American holds the all-time UFC records for fights, wins, finishes, head-kick KOs and post-fight bonuses. In short, he’s a walking highlight reel. But if there’s anything you can level at the amiable American, it’s that he is a notoriously slow starter. And against someone like McGregor, that’s not a recipe for success.

McGregor loves to come flying out of the blocks at the start of his fights, and there’s a good chance he could catch Cerrone while he is still looking to work out the Irishman’s timing.

THE THREE-MINUTE WARNING

The crucial time to pay attention to in this fight is the three-minute mark. If Cerrone can get through those first three minutes without issue, the momentum will start to move towards him. But we’ve seen McGregor’s ability to carry his punch power up to the 170-pound division in the past after registering multiple knockdowns against Nate Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202, and he certainly has the power to give Cerrone problems in the stand-up, and the Irishman may well have made his power count by that point in the fight. Then it’ll be a case of how long Cerrone can weather the storm before the finish comes.

McGregor has said this week that he wants to accumulate rounds against Cerrone, but I don’t necessarily believe that’ll be the case on fight night. I think he’ll find a home for his left hand early, and work Cerrone to the body with push kicks. And when he eventually clips him with the right shot, a TKO finish shouldn’t too far behind.

If Cerrone fights more pragmatically than we’ve ever seen him in his career, he has the skillset to defeat McGregor. But that just isn’t “Cowboy’s” style. Expect him to come out to stand toe-to-toe and throw down with the Dubliner. And that will suit McGregor just fine.

McGregor is a 1/2 shot to win by KO, but the 7/2 for “The Notorious” to win in Round 2 looks like a solid value pick. If you fancy the fight to go longer – or if you fancy a big-value second selection – you might want to consider the 9/1 on McGregor to win it on the scorecards.

If it goes that far, chances are we’ll have seen an absolute classic.

Sunday 05:15 – McGregor 1/3, Cerrone 9/4