"I see him overreacting, overextending, and then being KO'd unconscious."
A prediction almost eerie in its accuracy, Conor McGregor’s record-breaking 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo at UFC 194 had already played out in the swaggering Irishman’s head.
The fastest finish ever recorded in a UFC title fight, McGregor stunned the world when he claimed the featherweight strap from Aldo in his eighth defence as champion in the most dramatic fashion imaginable.
With the Las Vegas championship bout widely viewed as a 50/50 contest between the established champion Aldo and the dangerous contender McGregor, the meeting of Brazil and Ireland’s finest was one of the most highly-anticipated fights the UFC had ever made.
What transpired in the build-up and on fight night itself was the story of one of the most vivid psychological beat-downs in the history of combat sports.
Having enjoyed a meteoric rise in the UFC, with a five-fight win streak in the featherweight division characterised by highlight reel knockouts, McGregor was lined up for a title shot against the fearsome Jose Aldo who was undefeated in 10 years inside the octagon.
The Brazilian was forced to pull out of the original fight date on July 15th 2015 with a rib injury, however, with McGregor instead claiming the interim title with a valiant TKO victory over All-American wrestler Chad Mendes.
McGregor and Aldo’s paths would cross just five months later, but not before a whirlwind of a world media tour spanning five countries organised to help hype up the mega fight, which was scheduled to take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The build-up to the bout would see Aldo and McGregor develop a bitter rivalry, with the champion visibly struggling to keep his cool amidst a barrage of trash talk directed his way by his loudmouth Irish adversary.
In some of the UFC’s most iconic press conference exchanges, McGregor was able to get firmly inside Aldo’s head with a number of memorable one-liners and put-downs.
In Rio de Janeiro in Aldo’s homeland, the Irishman proclaimed that he “owned” the town in front of a baying Brazilian crowd.
When it came to the Dublin leg of the media tour, McGregor enraged Aldo by reaching across the press conference table and grabbing his opponent’s featherweight title belt, which he held aloft in front his adoring home supporters.
Other vitriolic acts from McGregor in the lead-up to UFC 194 included throwing darts at a picture of Aldo’s face and issuing him with threats in his native Portuguese tongue.
By the time it came to making the walk in Vegas, Aldo appeared consumed with rage towards his challenger, which, as it would turn out, was a key factor in McGregor’s eventual success on the night.
If he shows up, I feel I will KO him inside one. I feel every single movement I make will get an overreaction off of him because he's emotionally invested in it.
- Conor McGregor, Pre-fight interview, December 2015.
A fight which had piqued the interest of a wider mainstream sporting public given the bitterness between the two combatants and the growing star attraction of McGregor, the MGM Grand reached fever pitch by the time of the walk outs.
McGregor was a picture of calm on his way to the octagon, with a conspicuous looseness about the ‘Notorious' as he prepared for his first shot a world title.
Aldo looked conversely emotional and rigid, marching to the octagon at a furious pace and appearing desperate to finally lay his hands on the man who had tormented him for months.
Prior to the opening bell, Aldo swayed backwards and forwards readying himself to strike, with McGregor staring him down in his typical crouched stance.
The Irishman’s trash talking would continue right up until seconds out, with McGregor uttering taunts of ‘let’s go boy’ in the direction of his frenzied opponent.
The contest would begin with no touched gloves and McGregor instantly taking the centre of the octagon.
The Dubliner threw a left hand and a leg kick to find his range at the beginning of the fight, with Aldo immediately responding by launching a full-blooded right-left punch combo which was brutally countered by a trademark McGregor left hook that knocked the Brazilian out cold.
In just 13 seconds, the UFC welcomed a new featherweight champion and the world of sport ushered in a new megastar.
Aldo had loaded up so much in this early exchange that he actually cut McGregor’s face with a big right hand which landed, but at the transactional cost of being clipped with a devastating left hook which knocked him out in the process.
How this contest could have unfolded had the action progressed longer is subject to an interesting debate, but any suggestions the outcome was a fluke are misguided.
Footage from inside McGregor’s dressing room before the fight shows the Irish icon drilling the left hook over and over again.
The Irishman’s camp were clearly confident McGregor could hurt Aldo with counter punches, with the Brazilian liable to ‘overreacting and overextending’ in the words of the Notorious himself.
McGregor’s mental warfare ahead of the fight undoubtedly played a key role in Aldo’s downfall in this regard, with the pent-up, reckless Brazilian leaving himself exposed to the full force of his Irish rival’s laser left hand.
Nobody can take that left-hand shot. Precision beats power, and timing beats speed.
- Conor McGregor, Post-fight interview, MGM Grand, December 2015.