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Conor McGregor's fighting style: Which are the different martial arts that the Irishman uses in MMA?

Former UFC two-weight world champion Conor McGregor
Former UFC two-weight world champion Conor McGregor
Johny Payne
SENIOR ANALYST

Conor McGregor is a unique enigma with a fighting style that’s a beautiful blend of myriad martial arts.

It’d be safe to say that any given martial artist’s fighting style cannot be boxed into a single martial art. After all, many techniques in the world’s most well-known martial arts overlap with one another.

With that being said, today, we examine some of the notable martial arts Conor McGregor uses in MMA.

Capoeira

The two essential points I’d like to emphasize regarding Conor McGregor’s Capoeira usage in his fighting style are as follows.

Firstly, Conor McGregor sticks to one of the most important tenets of Capoeira and always uses this in MMA. Surprisingly, this isn’t discussed much!

Capoeira teaches its practitioners to try to dodge the opponent’s strikes and takedown attempts, rather than block them. McGregor stays true to this mantra and focuses on evasion, only making contact to hurt his foe or clinch up and grapple when he wants to.

Secondly, Conor McGregor uses another fundamental Capoeira technique, this one being related to the grappling aspect of MMA. Capoeira accords a lot of significance to balance. When a Capoeirista gets knocked down to the ground or is on the receiving end of say a standard single-leg or double-leg takedown; cartwheels, rolls, and sweeps, are what get the Capoeirista back to their feet.

In simple words, when a Capoeirista gets taken down, they aren’t supposed to shell up and stay on the mat, but instead have to keep moving and roll back to either assume a dominant position on the ground or get back to their feet.

McGregor displayed this rhythmic movement in his UFC 196 fight with his X-guard sweep against Nate Diaz. Besides, most MMA fans would surely be familiar with McGregor’s movement training with movement coach Ido Portal.

Boxing

Conor McGregor notably uses the bladed boxing stance wherein his lead foot is almost perpendicular to his opponent.

McGregor’s most dangerous punch is his left hand. He’s very good at throwing straights, crosses, hooks, and even uppercuts with both his left and right hands. However, it’s his counter left straight/cross that’s the deadliest strike in his combat arsenal.

Other notable boxing techniques that Conor McGregor uses are the lead-hand uppercut that he uses to raise his opponent’s chin in the air. He usually follows this up with a straight left.

Furthermore, the jab is an excellent range finder for McGregor, although I ought to note that he often prefers to simply stick out his lead hand and tag his opponent’s arm/hand as well as face to gauge the distance with an open palm.

McGregor also uses hooks, but prefers straight punches and crosses rather than the high-risk looping hooks that most other fighters use. Additionally, McGregor’s one-two (jab-straight/cross) combination to the head is outstandingly crisp. McGregor’s lead hook, his right hook, is usually a short and crisp one as he doesn’t like looping it.

Moreover, Conor McGregor is also a great body puncher, as evidenced by his rematch against Nate Diaz that took place at UFC 202. McGregor knows how to dig into the opponent’s liver, solar plexus, and spleen, without overextending.

What’s remarkable about McGregor’s body punches is that he always bobs and weaves or uses his footwork to get out of range after landing a punch/combination of punches to the body.

See Here: Conor McGregor's Salary & Endorsements

Taekwondo

The hook kick, spinning heel kick, back kick, and the side kick are notable Taekwondo techniques that Conor McGregor has used in his MMA career.

McGregor utilized these Taekwondo techniques in his first fight against Dustin Poirier back in 2014. While the fight ultimately ended with McGregor landing a devastating left hand that downed Poirier, the Taekwondo kicks definitely threw Poirier off his rhythm.

An important point I’d like to note over here is that McGregor uses both Capoeira kicks and Taekwondo kicks mainly to restrict his opponent’s lateral movement. This helps turn his opponent into a stationary target whom he can strike from different angles.

These kicks’ ultimate landing spots – primarily the opponent’s head and body – are common in both Capoeira and Taekwondo. However, it’s the journey of the kick that differs.

Conor McGregor’s Capoeira kicks begin with him using the dancing and acrobatic movements of Capoeira before he finally throws the kick. On the contrary, McGregor’s Taekwondo kicks have almost zero telegraph and he throws them from his usual bladed boxing stance.

What about Conor McGregor using Karate, Muay Thai, kickboxing, Lethwei, etc?

Yes, Conor McGregor uses a Karateka-like bladed stance that’s a crossover between a bladed boxing stance and a linear Karate stance wherein his lead and back leg tend to be somewhat linear and perpendicular to his opponent.

A very important difference between Conor McGregor’s and Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson’s Karateka-like stance is that McGregor is more fluid and doesn’t always keep both feet linear, whereas Wonderboy largely sticks to his linear feet Karate stance.

Conor McGregor uses Karate techniques such as the side kick, besides also incorporating Muay Thai techniques such as punches, elbows, kicks, and knees, into his combat skill-set. McGregor expertly used leg kicks and low kicks to keep Nate Diaz at bay in their UFC 202 fight.

So if McGregor uses Capoeira, boxing, Taekwondo, Karate, and Muay Thai techniques, what about other martial arts such as traditional Dutch kickboxing, Lethwei, etc.?

At the end of the day, Conor McGregor’s foundational martial art is boxing. His footwork and the deadly punches, as much as he loves using Capoeira and Taekwondo, mainly draw from the sweet science known as boxing.

On a closing note, I’d be doing McGregor a disservice if I don’t mention his brilliant elbow KO of Steve O’Keefe in 2012. He’d stuffed a takedown, amidst a grappling exchange where O’Keefe was latched on to his leg along the fence, and used elbow strikes to knock O’Keefe out.

McGregor’s vicious elbow strikes are never given enough credit. His standing elbow strikes against Nate Diaz and shoulder strikes against Donald Cerrone are reminiscent of classic Lethwei slugfests.

Presently, Conor McGregor is scheduled to fight Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 on January 23rd. Which martial arts technique do you feel is Conor McGregor’s biggest weapon? Sound off in the comments.

Edited by aditya.rangarajan
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