Conor McGregor’s long awaited return to the Octagon, which headlined UFC 229 last Saturday night in Las Vegas, didn’t go the way he planned. Instead, he was pummelled by his opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov and ultimately submitted in the fourth round.
That, of course, is not the way McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh envisioned the fight going. Kavanagh and his fellow coaches had worked out a detailed game plan for the Irish MMA star, but unfortunately things just didn’t work out.
Speaking on the JRE MMA Show this week, Kavanagh gave a round-by-round assessment of UFC 229’s Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor fight.
“I kinda expected round one, for sure [Khabib is] going to get a takedown. The goal of round one was to get out of it, still having energy,” John Kavanagh said (transcript via Bloody Elbow). “We didn’t want to put a huge amount of effort into trying to get back up in round one. It seems to happen many times with his other opponents, and they were kinda going back to the stool really tired.
“So round one, make him pay, do our best [when Nurmagomedov is] on the way in. Fight as hard as we can, but if we do end up down, which it was against the fence — I figured it would be there — try to stay seated up. If we ended up on the ground, just play guard until the bell. Accept it will be a 10-9 round.”
“For round two, again, same plan. Do as much damage as we can, but if we end up on our back, don’t put a huge amount of effort in trying to getting up. He’s an absolute master at re-grounding people,” Kavanagh continued. “That turned out to be a 10-8 round. He got some good shots, and obviously he landed that great right hand. So that was a bit more than what we hoped for.”
Round three was easily the best of the bunch for Conor McGregor. In fact, the Irish star was actually able to stuff Nurmagomedov’s takedowns and win the round. Even still, however, Kavanagh says it didn’t go quite as he hoped.
“Round three, things started turning a little bit in our favor. We did a lot better at keeping it in the middle, defending the takedowns.
“I think at the beginning the consensus was Conor knocks him out in the first, or Khabib takes over from two on,” he added. “For us to win the third round was probably a bit of a surprise to people. But the Iaquinta fight, if you look at that, from round three and on, he wasn’t able to hit any takedowns.
“We hoped that we could have a go in round three, we can defend the takedowns a lot easier, and start landing our shots. That did happen for round three. Not as well as we planned, not as well as he hoped.”
Despite this strong third round, McGregor was submitted in the fourth. Kavanagh believes that was thanks to a small technical error on his student’s part.
“Round four, [Nurmagomedov] hit another great takedown,” he said. “[McGregor] made a mistake giving up the overhook, exposed the back, and that was all she wrote.”
What do you think of John Kavanagh’s assessment of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s defeat of Conor McGregor?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/11/2018.