Over the past couple of days there have been reports that the UFC is looking into giving Conor a shot at the welterweight title. If that were to happen, he would face up with the current 170 lb. champion Kamaru Usman. As someone who enjoys watching Conor fight, I don’t want this to happen. This is one of those fights that could end a career for Conor.
While he has shown that he can compete at the bigger weight class, Conor hasn’t fought a guy as sturdily built as Usman or Masvidal. He is currently 2-1 in the division, with a win and a loss against Nate Diaz and a win against Cowboy Cerrone. Both Diaz and Cerrone, while great fighters, are not necessarily known for their raw power. Rather, they get by on technical ability and strong will. Conor matched up well with them because even though he moved up a weight class, there was not a discrepancy in power. In fact, Conor most likely had more power than both Cerrone and Diaz. But even then, he struggled on the ground against Nate Diaz in their first match and eventually tapped out due to a rear naked choke. I can’t imagine what Usman would do to him on the ground.
From a physical standpoint, Usman possesses a tremendous advantage. He stands three inches taller than Conor and is visibly more muscular, and therefore stronger. He also is a better wrestler than Conor and would be able to use his size advantage to give him an even bigger edge in the ground game. Although Conor is one of the best strikers the UFC has ever seen, Usman has shown that he can trade with the best in his weight class and has insane knockout power.
People will point out that Conor has done well against grapplers in the past, and if you look at his record it would appear that he has. He’s beaten Chad Mendes, Eddie Alvarez, and Jose Aldo. But just because he beat them doesn’t mean he did well on the ground. Chad Mendes fought on a day’s notice and ragdolled him for a couple rounds before gassing and getting touched up. The Alvarez fight didn’t really go to the ground because Eddie tried to stand up with Conor and got knocked out. And we know the same thing happened with Aldo. In addition to that, all three of those fighters are stand 5’9″ or less. While Conor may not have been as solid as Mendes or Aldo, he made up for it with his bigger frame.
I can’t blame Conor for getting beaten to a pulp by Khabib because everyone does, but he did struggle on the ground against Nate Diaz. And Nate isn’t nearly as big as Usman, nor does he have the wrestling background that Usman does.
Furthermore, we know Conor has issues with his cardio at times. He gassed out in both fights against Diaz at 170 lbs. Usman, on the other hand, went 5 rounds at an insane pace with Colby Covington and beat him in a decision. Conor would have to bulk up to stand a chance against Usman, which could cause serious issues with his cardio, especially in a five round fight.
The only chance that I could see Conor having is catching Usman with his patented counter left hook, which he used well against Alvarez and knocked Aldo out with. He uses it better than anybody. Other than that, he definitely possesses the power to knock Usman out in a phone booth, but I don’t think it would be wise for him to try and trade punches with the larger Usman. Instead, I think Conor would be very cautious and try to be very technical with his striking. Even then it would be a very difficult fight, as Usman would most likely take him to the ground and smother him.
All this being said, I have no idea how in the hell the UFC could give Conor a welterweight title shot. I mean, I get it from a money standpoint, but Conor has literally fought three times at 170 lbs. If I was someone like Leon Edwards, who is on a seven fight win streak, I would be furious. Conor undoubtedly would attract huge numbers and the UFC would have a tremendous payday if he got matched up with Usman, but there has to be some level of loyalty to their fighters.