Conor McGregor now the interim featherweight champion, Robbie Lawyer defeats Rory MacDonald again to retain welterweight title
For the first time, we see the usually arrogantly charismatic Conor McGregor (18-2) being so emotional and respectful to an opponent after a fight. Yes, the Irish unorthodox striker won the interim UFC Featherweight Championship title against one of the top wrestlers in the division, Chad Mendes (17-3), but it wasn't without any struggle that strikers would generally face -- the technical takedowns and ground control. Mendes accepted to replace the apparently injured defending champion Jose Aldo just two weeks before the event. McGregor, too, had little time to prepare to fight against a wrestler instead of a striker (Aldo).
McGregor has always been comfortable and confident on standup, and he uses his long range very well as he's probably taller and lengthier than everyone he's faced. McGregor pushed forward as soon as the bell rang but it was Mendes' speed and wrestling that got the better of McGregor in the first round, taking him down twice and cutting above his eye with an elbow on the ground. At this point, I thought the smart thing for Mendes to do was to just bore this fight till his wins by decision.
In the second round, Mendes took him down almost immediately again and stayed in McGregor's guard for the most part of the round. McGregor delivered some painful looking downward elbow to Mendes' head which got him asking referee Herb Dean if it's legal. It obvious was. Then after a while it was McGregor's turn to ask Dean why wasn't he standing them up, which was probably what triggered Mendes to pass the guard to attempt some of a grounded guillotine choke. He managed to lock McGregor's neck for a second or two before the Irish escaped. They were both back on their feet but Mendes looked eshausted. McGregor landed a nice one-two in the final seconds that dropped Mendes and led to the McGregor's TKO win.
The co-main event between welterweight defending champion Robbie Lawler (26-10) and challenger Rory MacDonald (18-3) was one of the best fights I've seen this year. The first fight between the southpaw and the orthodox at UFC 167 back in 2013 ended in a controversial split decision but this time, it seemed they made it a point to not leave it to the hands of the judges as both the fighters just kept trying to finish each other off after the slow range-finding/water-testing first round.
Both fighters found their range in the second round, landing some significant punches, but it was Lawler who damaged MacDonald's face first, giving him a broken nose and bloodied face. However, MacDonald maintained his calm and composure. His black belt in no gi BJJ would've made the fight different if he managed to take Lawler down but Lawler defended all take downs well with sprawls and impeccable balance. The only weapon that Lawler didn't really possess was head kicks, which MacDonald landed in the last seconds of the third round which dazed wobbled Lawler although the kick was blocked. Lawler was backed to the fences and MacDonald tried to finish him with flying knees and elbows, but time ran out.
MacDonald continued with his dangerous head kicks at the beginning of the fourth round and it worked. It stunned Lawler again, giving MacDonald a chance to land some strikes which got Lawler's face damaged in return. Quite a gruesome sight as Lawler's upper lip was split while MacDonald's face was covered with blood and his nose out of place. Lawler worked his way back toward the end of the round with his powerful punch combos and finally in the first minute of the last round, he managed to knock MacDonald out by hitting his already badly broken nose with a cross punch. MacDonald just collapsed to ground and turtled up until the referee came to save him. What a fight! Hope to see a rematch between these two.
It was an entertaining card despite Aldo's absence. All of the bouts on the main ended with finishes, two flying knee KO/TKO's. Held at the MGM Grand Garden Arene in Las Vegas, the event's production was different compared to the previous PVP's. There were live music performances for the fighters (not just the singer/rapper, the entire band playing), the fighters have uniforms due to the Reebok deal with UFC recently, and the ticket sales and weigh-in attendance were record-breakers. And with a personality such as McGregor winning the title, things are going to get really fun again. This might just truly be the new era for UFC and MMA. For a while I thought UFC was getting a bit boring, which was why I didn't write about the last two title fights.
UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor - Full Results
Fight of the Night: Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald
Performance of the Night: Conor McGregor and Thomas Almeida
Main CardFeatherweight Interim Title: Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes | TKO (punches) | R2 4:57
Welterweight Title: Robbie Lawler (c) def. Rory MacDonald | TKO (punches) | R5 1:00
Catchweight (149.5 lbs): Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez | TKO (flying knee & punches) | R3 0:32
Welterweight: Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch | Submission (rear-naked choke) | R1 2:54
Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett | KO (flying knee) | R2 0:29
Preliminary CardWelterweight: Matt Brown def. Tim Means | Submission (guillotine choke) | R1 4:44
Welterweight: Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick | Decision (unanimous) | 3 rounds
Welterweight: John Howard def. Cathal Pendred | Decision (split) | 3 rounds
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones | Decision (unanimous) | 3 rounds
Flyweight: Louis Smolka def. Neil Seery | Decision (unanimous) | 3 rounds
Lightweight: Cody Pfister def. Yosdenis Cedeno | Decision (unanimous) | 3 rounds
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