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John Kavanagh: ‘Exhaustion’ and ‘inefficiency’ biggest factors in Conor McGregor’s loss

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Though some people would point to Conor McGregor jumping up two weight classes and having a late opponent switch as the most obvious factors in his loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, his coach John Kavanagh doesn’t necessarily agree.

Kavanagh, who runs SBG in Ireland, echoed McGregor’s sentiment that Diaz was simply more efficient in how he fought on Saturday night. And if he had to point out anything that might went wrong specifically, it was that McGregor was trying too hard to land the knockout punch with his left, thus depleted himself early in a five-round fight.

The first round was both a good one and a concerning one for McGregor.

"Yeah, a lot of things were working," Kavanagh said during an appearance on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I did think that he maybe was loading up a little on his left hand, especially when you’re facing a same stance fighter. Nate’s kind of good at using that shoulder roll that boxers do to defend themselves. A lot of big lefts that weren’t catching him flush. They were kind of bouncing off his shoulder, or Nate was moving with the shot so weren’t having the impact they’d have on an opposite stance fighter or someone who wasn’t as highly skilled as Nate.

"But still, some good shots landed. He did get taken down by a single leg by Nate, but I thought Conor did very well, he executed a nice sweep and was taking the guard, almost passed and landed some good shots. So, all in all, it was a good round. I imagine the judges gave that round to Conor. I can’t see how it would have went otherwise."

Kavanagh said he cautioned McGregor to take a little heat off the left hand, and to try to focus on simply landing clean.

"That was pretty much all I said between round was, you don’t have to take him out with one shot, no need to load up on that big hand," he said.

"If there was something to critique or take away from that fight, I think Conor almost immediately said it much better than I’m able to say, is that he was inefficient with his job and Nate was efficient. And that’s what I was trying to get across, and that’s what we saw happening. He kind of blew himself a little bit trying to take his head off with every single left hand rather than just landing it. Maybe I could have stole his own phrase and told him to keep it flowing."

Diaz ultimately submitted McGregor with a rear-naked choke in the second round. Asked at what point he grew nervous that McGregor was in trouble, Kavanagh said there it was a sequence in which he took a hard shot and staggered.

"I think there was a good left cross, and it kind of stumbled Conor back," he said. "I kind of think it was really exhaustion at this stage. He looked really, really tired.

"At that stage it was clear that he was very, very tired. And if there’s one thing you’re never going to say about a Diaz brother is that he gets tired. He just has that incredible ability to just keep going and keep pushing themselves. They [Nate and Nick] are phenomenal athletes, the two of them. So I thought that tiredness and him being pushed back was when I was worried."

The one red flag that Kavanagh noticed, though, was that McGregor — whom he’s been with since the start of his career — was fatigued. 

"I’m with Conor a long, long time and I’ve seen him do an inordinate amount of rounds in the gym,