Who’s Next? Top 10 Possible Opponents for Conor McGregor

By Keith Shillan

After every UFC card, I play matchmaker with the fighters on the main card. I pick who I think their next opponent should be. I was gonna do the same thing for UFC Fight Night 115. However, with so much talk about Conor McGregor and what he should do after boxing against Floyd Mayweather Jr, I decided to look at McGregor’s options instead. I figured more people would want to discuss who Conor McGregor should fight next, instead of Talita Bernardo and Mike Wilkinson.

So I am gonna give the top 10 options for Conor McGregor. Let’s face it, he is bigger than the sport now. The UFC gives him whoever he wants. The ranking will not be who I want him to face but who likely the matchup will be. I will also give a prediction on who I think would win the matchup.

 

10. Joseph Duffy

Okay, I get it.  This fight is not happening anytime soon. Let’s face it, top 10 list sounds a lot better than top 9.  I needed to give one more option, Duffy makes the most sense. Why does it make sense? Well on November 27th, 2010, Joseph Duffy submitted Conor McGregor at a Cage Warriors event.

Since that date, both fighters have taken different routes. McGregor would go on to becoming a two-weight UFC champion and one of the biggest sports stars in the world. Duffy has also been successful but not a household name. The other Irishman has reached the UFC and is 4-1 in the organization. He just signed a new contract with the UFC and hopefully the UFC will start marketing this good talent as the guy that has beaten McGregor.

Prediction

Both fighters have greatly improved since 2010.  I believe that Duffy would still have the advantage on the ground, but McGregor is still the better striker. Duffy has made great strides with his boxing. He showed against Reza Madadi that he has nice hands, especially in the pocket. That said, McGregor keeps opponents on the end of his strikes. His straight left is deadly.  Conor McGregor by 1st round TKO

 

9. Max Hollaway for 145 lbs Belt

I get that this fight is very unlikely also. However, during the post fight press conference that for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, McGregor stated that he has two belts to defend. Everyone including his own coach, John Kavanagh believes that McGregor would never fight at featherweight again. But perhaps nobody told McGregor that he isn’t supposed to. McGregor still refers to himself as the featherweight title. Maybe he wants to show that Holloway shouldn’t be holding his belt.

Prediction

These two guys faced each other back in 2010 in a prelim fight. The rematch would be the main event of a Pay Per View and get over 1 million buys. Back in 2013 fight, McGregor tore his ACL during the fight and beat Hollaway while not 100%. Holloway in his defense was only 21 years old. Since then he has won an amazing 11 fights in a row.

This might be the hardest fight to predict on the list. McGregor would have to face somebody that can match his length and might have even better footwork than him. I could see McGregor having some early success but Holloway has already shown that he can take McGregor’s power.  I could see McGregor slowing down due to being zapped from a severe weight cut. Holloway stands in the pocket and lands some serious shots. Also if there is any fighter with more confidence than McGregor right now, it might be Holloway. Max Holloway by 5th round TKO. 

 

8. Paulie Malignaggi in a Boxing Match

Does anybody know that Paulie Malignaggi sparred with Conor McGregor during McGregor’s training for Mayweather? If you didn’t know, you must be living under a rock.  The two had a falling out, and Malignaggi has taken every opportunity possible to bash McGregor and his team. To be honest, can you blame him? Malignaggi knows that the biggest draw in the world of boxing is McGregor. The former multi- class boxing champion knows that if he can secure a fight with McGregor, it would be the biggest payday of his career. The recently retired boxer has tried everything he could to get the fight, including showing up to one of McGregor’s media scrum to confront the MMA star (though Malignaggi claims that he was only trying to confront McGregor’s manager).

Prediction

I am not gonna pretend to be a boxing expert or that I even have seen Malignaggi box before. That said, I will always pick the professional boxer to beat an MMA fighter in a boxing match. Paulie Malignaggi by decision

 

7. Retire

I know that McGregor has already said that he wants to continue to fight. However, he has a big check coming in with a possible nine figures. He won’t touch those numbers again in the UFC. McGregor once that he wanted to get rich and then get out. He has a brand new baby. There is a very slight chance he decides it isn’t worth it anymore.

 

6. Superfight Against Georges St. Pierre at 170 lbs

Remember McGregor calls his own shots. He is always looking for a challenge. He is always looking to add to his legacy.  Perhaps, he wants to beat another legend. Perhaps, he wants to beat arguably the greatest fighter of All-Time. This fight could happen if Georges St. Pierre loses to Michael Bisping and instead of retiring like he said he would, he moves back down to welterweight. St. Pierre has already said that he is more interested in superfights than in fighting for a title. What bigger fight than a living legend vs the biggest star in the history of the sport.

Prediction

This really comes down to what St. Pierre has left. A prime St. Pierre is a terrible matchup for McGregor. The Canadian was always best at exploiting an opponent’s weakness. McGregor’s weakness has been his wrestling. St. Pierre was a master at timing double leg takedowns. I would expect for St. Pierre to make this fight look a lot similar to his win over Thiago Alves at UFC 100. St. Pierre by unanimous decision. 

 

5. Tyron Woodley for 170 lbs Title

So this one is also very similar to the St. Pierre matchup. McGregor calls the shots. He has won titles in two weight classes, why not try for another? He has already had words with Woodley backstage during the UFC 205 press conferences. Woodley wants a big pay day and a marquee matchup. This actually makes some sense. The welterweight division really doesn’t have a true contender. Does anybody want to see Robbie Lawler fight Woodley again? Maybe Santiago Ponzinibbio challenge for the title? If Mcgregor wants the shot, he skips the line.

Prediction

Like St. Pierre, I think Woodley is a terrible matchup for McGregor. Woodley is one of the very few fighters in the UFC that could match McGregor’s athleticism. Woodley has devastating one punch power. He also has a great power double that McGregor has struggled to stop. Woodley by unanimous decision. 

 

4. Khabib Nurmagomedov

I am really surprised at how many people are calling for Mcgregor to face Khabib Nurmagomedov next. Sure, Nurmagomedov is undefeated. Sure, he has virtually steamrolled everyone he has faced so far in the UFC (besides Gleison Tibau). Nurmagomedov has fought only twice in the last three years. He doesn’t have a single win over any fighter ranked in the top 10 of the MMA Takeover lightweight rankings. In the biggest scheduled fight of his career, he pulled out because of weight cutting issues. So why are so many people want to reward him with a title shot?

Prediction

By what was just written above, you would think I wasn’t high on Nurmagomedov. Actually, I think he is one of the best talents I have seen. He is relentless with his takedowns. His shot is a good shot, but his change wrestling is second to none. When he enters on an opponent’s legs, he continues to drive or change an angle not allowing his opponent to be able to stuff the takedown. Once he gets his foe down, he rains down some of the most menacing ground and pound of all time. I believe McGregor wouldn’t be able to stop Nurmagomedov’s takedowns and would be the victim of unending punishment. Nurmagomedov by third round TKO. 

 

3. Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee has been on such a great run lately, Lee has won five fights in a row and has lined himself for an interim title fight. If Lee can keep the streak rolling by beating Tony Ferguson, he would cement his case for a title fight. Lee is such a great trash talker too. He has a skill at getting under his opponent’s skin before the fight even starts. Does this sound similar to anybody? I want to see McGregor vs Lee just to see who wins the battle at the press conferences.

Prediction

The Motown Phenom has made such great improvements between each fight.  He was always known for his wrestling but he has really developed a great submission game. He finds many of these submissions because he is very good in scrambles. His striking has improved by great lengths but he still uses it to set up his takedowns. He doesn’t use his striking to punish his opponents. There is surely a path to victory for Kevin Lee. However, his defensive on the feet is still lacking. Lee was starched on the feet by Leonardo Santos, who doesn’t nearly have the striking precision nor power that McGregor has. Conor Mcgregor by 2nd round TKO. 

 

2. Tony Ferguson

The lightweight division has been widely considered the deepest division in the UFC for a very long time. Ferguson has won nine straight fights in that division. He has also won 15 out of his last 16 professional fights. He hasn’t lost a fight in over five years. If any fighter has ever deserved a title shot, El Cucuy is that fighter. The former Ultimate Fighter winner faces Kevin Lee for the interim UFC lightweight title bout. He wins that bout, how can you deny him any longer?

Prediction

This is one of the hardest fights to predict. Ferguson is very similar to Holloway. He has tremendous striking. El Cucuy constantly pumps a jab and has very nice legs kicks to back it up. He has good wrestling in the scrambles and constantly looking to attack the head with guillotines, D’Arce, and Anaconda chokes. Ferguson also has unmatched cardio. That said, I can’t get past how hurt he has been in recent fights. He was in serious trouble in his fights against Edson Barboza and Lando Vannata. I think McGregor cracks him. Conor McGregor by 2nd round TKO.

 

1. Nate Diaz

Okay, so Nate Diaz wants 20 to 30 million dollars to fight Conor McGregor. I think the UFC pays his 10 million and the trilogy fights at UFC 219 in December. The McGregor and Diaz fight is one of the greatest rivalries in UFC history, it actually might be the best. I don’t think the UFC takes a chance to not make this mega showdown happen. They both have wins over each other, and they both are huge draws.

Prediction

This is also such a hard fight to pick. Both of their first two fights have been wars. However, I think with the fight likely being at 155 lbs, this would favor McGregor. Also, McGregor has been a little more active than Diaz has. I would expect another war and instant classic. Conor McGregor by unanimous decision. 

 

Who Deserves the Shot

If Ferguson beats Kevin Lee for the Interim Title, he has to get the shot. His winning streak would be pushed to 10 in a stacked division. If I ran the UFC, I would give Ferguson the next shot at McGregor. I don’t expect him to be though.

 

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