With the UFC continuing its big international run for 2014, it only makes sense that the promotion returns to Ireland for the first time in over five years. It makes even more sense to have an Irishman, who also happens to be on a blazing hot winning streak, headline the card. UFC Fight Night 46 takes place this Saturday, live from The O2 Arena in Dublin. The card is peppered with finishers, and the main event is no exception.

Diego Brandao, winner of season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, returns to European soil for the second time in his career, coming off a first-round knockout loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 168 in December. The native Brazilian and Jackson’s MMA fighter trains out of Albuquerque, N.M., with some of the best fighters in the business. Prior to his last fight, Brandao was riding a three-fight winning streak. He has finished his opponents in 14 of his 18 victories. However, with five of his losses coming via knockout, he will be facing a huge challenge as he steps into the cage with a southpaw Irish knockout artist.

Conor McGregor burst onto the UFC scene in April 2013 with a one-minute knockout of Marcus Brimage, followed by a three-round dismantling of Max Holloway in August. After the Holloway fight, it was discovered that the Dublin native had suffered a torn ACL. He has been on the bench ever since.

Training out of SBG Ireland with guys like Cathal Pendred and Gunnar Nelson, who are both on this card, McGregor is riding a 10-fight winning streak that includes eight knockouts, one submission and titles in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions of Cage Warriors FC. The hungry 26-year-old is ready to make his hometown proud as he takes on a very tough Brandao in a featherweight battle.

While a win for Brandao may not get him right in line for a title shot, a win for McGregor will get him into the top 10 in a stacked featherweight division and put him on the road to title contention. Brandao needs this victory more than ever to remain relevant and to keep another two-fight losing streak off his record. Both men have a lot on the line as one man looks for recognition and the other tries to potentially save his job. Regardless of the outcome, the fans will certainly come out victorious at UFC Fight Night 46

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: McGregor – 10, Brandao – 9

This is a pretty lopsided striking match-up. If the stats alone aren’t ugly enough for Brandao, McGregor also has a one-inch height advantage, a 10-inch reach advantage, has had success against bigger guys in the lightweight division and has a background in boxing, kickboxing, and capoeira. On his feet, the Brazilian is scrappy and has a ton of heart, but the Irishman is rangy, powerful and relentless.

With 12 knockout wins and having never been knocked out, McGregor is a striker all the way, and this spells big trouble for Brandao in the striking department.

Submission Grappling: McGregor – 9, Brandao – 10

Although not quite as lopsided as the striking comparison, Brandao holds the clear advantage in the submission grappling arena. He entered the UFC with a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, won TUF with an armbar of Dennis Bermudez and tapped out Pablo Garza at UFC on Fuel 9 in April 2013.

McGregor currently holds a purple belt in BJJ and trains under John Kavanagh, Ireland’s first BJJ black belt, but he hasn’t really showcased much in the submission department. Instead, he has finished most of his fights with his fists. Both men are really good with their submission defense. McGregor’s last loss was by choke to Joseph Duffy in Cage Warriors in 2010. Brandao’s only tapout was nearly seven years ago.

Brandao wins this category on a combination of submission wins and pedigree, but McGregor is long and may be a handful for the Brazilian on the mat.

Wrestling: McGregor – 10, Brandao – 10

The wrestling department typically tips the scales in this type of match-up, but that is simply not the case here. Brandao has amazing takedown defense, stopping nearly all attempts by guys who are much better grapplers than McGregor. Meanwhile, the Irishman has finished so many fights on his feet in the first round that his wrestling hardly ever gets tested.

McGregor’s biggest advantage in wrestling is, again, his size. With his long arms, he should be able to stuff takedown attempts, as well as get underhooks with ease. On the ground, he will be heavier than Brandao, but the Brazilian is very difficult to get to the mat. Chances are, McGregor won’t take this one down. Although Brandao has much success with takedowns of his own, he won’t be able to close distance without eating a lot of shots.

The wrestling department is a toss-up in this battle.


The x-factor in this match-up is a combination of McGregor’s toughness and the fact that he’s fighting in front of his hometown crowd. With McGregor ready to come back to the Octagon with a ton of pent-up energy and a penchant for finishing fights early, it would be amazing if he even let this one past round one. Brandao is entering a very unfavorable environment.

Total: McGregor – 29, Brandao – 29

Verdict: McGregor’s career was put on hold with a pesky little ACL tear last fall, but he is coming back into action on his home turf against a guy who has been knocked out five times. Greg Jackson will have done his best to get Brandao as physically and mentally prepared as possible, but with his beard rocking in full effect, expect to see McGregor enter the cage with a ton of fury and a relentless striking game. The Irishman will score a quick knockout of the Brazilian.

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator