At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, John Kavanagh seems like a pretty cool guy. In contrast to Conor McGregor’s in-your-face attitude, he seems to exude a sense of calm when the camera finds him in the background of an embedded video. Which isn’t to say that Kavanagh can’t trash talk with the best of them, he just does it in a more subtle manner. For example, compare Conor at the UFC 189 press conference:
“For me, the wrestler question has already been answered by Conor. In one of the promo videos, I saw that Mendes said he’s going to show Conor what American wrestling is all about. That, to me, is like talking about Chinese geometry.
Wrestling is wrestling, no matter what part of the world you come from. The last time I looked at the medal count, the Russians seem to be doing pretty well… and that’s what my gym is full of…
Also, if you look at Mendes’ takedowns, I think the term they use over here for them is the ‘blast double’. There’s not a huge amount of finesse to what he does, unlike what you get from the eastern European wrestlers who Conor has been working with. It’s not just about the power.”
Allow me to translate: when a guy like Kavanagh says you “lack finesse,” that’s code for “You fight like a big dumb American ape with no skill.”
And therein lies the problem for the Irish camp. The biggest question surrounding this fight is not what either fighter brings into the cage, but whether or not Mendes will choose to deploy his best weapon, the aforementioned blast double. Call it inelegant if you like, but Mendes is built like a bulldog, and if he rushes in at full speed, it’s going to take a lot more than finesse to keep McGregor’s ass off the canvas. It seems then that if Mendes chooses to fight intelligently, the most likely result is a dreary twenty-five minutes of repeated takedowns and mat-holding, reminiscent of Tito Ortiz at his most devastatingly boring.
On the other hand, if Mendes decides that appealing to the crowd is worth more than the interim title, he’ll fight like he did in his rematch with Jose Aldo, mixing it up on the feet, using the threat of takedowns to set up punches and vice-versa. It’s a style that’s served him well against his last several opponents, but it remains to be seen if he’ll risk deploying it against such a rangy and crafty striker as McGregor.
But for the sake of my $60, I sure hope he does.