MMA Review: #511: UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor

-Starting with 2009’s UFC 100, Zuffa have been building their July PPV as the biggest one of the year ala WWE and Wrestlemania, making it the centrepiece of “international fight week”, and 2015 was no exception as we were treated with UFC 189 – arguably the most hyped up card in UFC history thanks to a crazy world tour of press conferences and appearances for the main eventers, Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and the brash challenger Conor McGregor. The card was loaded top-to-bottom too with a semi-main of a Welterweight Title match between Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald, and then some of the top prospects and contenders in the world in the other fights. The hype was cooled a little when Aldo had to withdraw with a rib injury, but thankfully rather than lose Conor – the big drawing card – from the show altogether, UFC replaced him with former title challenger Chad Mendes, making it still the biggest show of 2015 thus far.

UFC 189: Mendes vs. McGregor

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

-Couple more things to note for this show, namely the fact that it was the first show under the Reebok deal, the details and issues of which I can’t be bothered to get into here. And with that Zuffa freshened up the production values of the show and made this look like an even bigger deal. Fuck everyone who dislikes the dubstep version of Face the Pain too – it isn’t a UFC show without that song damnit!

Bantamweight Fight: Thomas Almeida vs Brad Pickett

As I mentioned in the introduction this whole show was chock-full of top prospects and this fight was a prime example of that as Almeida had arrived with quite the reputation in 2014 and to this point he’d lived up to it with crushing wins over Tim Gorman and Yves Jabouin. This was another slight step up for him too facing the tough-as-nails veteran Pickett, who was moving back to 135lbs after a largely failed run at 125lbs that saw him go 1-2. Despite clearly being Almeida’s toughest ever opponent I still thought the young Brazilian would have enough to handle the Brit, mainly because now he’s hitting his late 30’s Brad doesn’t seem quite as quick as he once did.

Fight begins and they circle and throw some feints, with Pickett glancing on an overhand right. Good right hand from Pickett in a brief exchange. Inside low kick lands for Almeida. Exchange sees Pickett land a couple of nice blows from the pocket. Left hook glances for the Brit and he lands to the body as well. Left hook tags Almeida and he looks hurt but shows a good poker face. Left to the body from Pickett sets up a right and then a BIG LEFT that drops Almeida! He’s in trouble but he bounces up immediately, and that allows Pickett to drop for a takedown, surprisingly. Almeida blocks it, but takes a BIG KNEE that sends him down again and this is looking bad for him. Pickett swarms on him in an attempt to finish, but Almeida grabs onto a leglock! Pickett escapes that and comes back to his feet, where he lands a heavy elbow. They separate and Almeida still doesn’t look steady on his feet and he also looks busted up. Nice inside leg kick from Almeida and he glances on a right hook. Big left hook lands again for Pickett in an exchange though. He’s managing to beat Almeida to the punch here by varying all of his attacks. Suddenly though he leaves himself open with a left and Almeida DECKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Jesus. Pickett slows him down with an instant takedown, but Almeida scrambles to his feet right away. They trade some bombs with Pickett landing the left hook again and Almeida missing a spinning elbow. These guys are swinging wildly now. Spinning elbow connects for Almeida. This is a phenomenal round. Right hand lands for Pickett. Left hand again for Pickett. WILD TRADE sees both men land. Almeida’s face looks like hell. Big combo connects for Pickett. He’s walking Almeida down now. Seconds to go in the round and Almeida lands a crisp combo. 10-9 Pickett; tremendous stuff.

Into the 2nd and Pickett comes out swinging again although Almeida seems to be keeping his distance a little more. Flying knee misses for Pickett and Almeida fires back with one of his own and KILLS PICKETT DEAD!~! WOW.

No need for a follow-up from Almeida as Pickett was stiff when he hit the ground. Unbelievable flying knee finish for the Brazilian; up there with the best flying knees I’ve ever seen like James Irvin on Terry Martin and Carlos Condit on Dong Hyun Kim. Replay shows it was actually a jumping switch knee ala Thiago Alves on Matt Hughes, perfectly placed on the jaw. Bad break for Pickett as he was doing so well in the first round, but then he was meant to be the perfect test for Almeida and the young Brazilian worked his way through some deep waters and then passed the test with flying colours. He’s a future title contender for sure if he’s not there already. As for Pickett at 37 and with over ten years of MMA under his belt it might be time for retirement, especially as he’s taken quite a lot of punishment in that time. With that said though he did look good early on here so maybe a move down the card is just needed. At any rate this was a FANTASTIC opener and probably a low-end FOTYC in fact.

Welterweight Fight: Gunnar Nelson vs Brandon Thatch

Initially these guys were booked against different opponents in what I would’ve seen as winnable fights for both, a good move given I’d call both men two of the top prospects in the division. When John Hathaway – Nelson’s opponent – pulled out with injury, though, Thatch was moved up from his prelim with John Howard to take the fight. I’d have preferred them to be kept apart but wow, what a killer fight on paper. My pick was Thatch as I felt he could stop Nelson’s takedown and take him apart standing, but if the fight hit the ground it would probably be all Gunnar.

Round One and interestingly enough Thatch doesn’t seem to have as much of a size advantage as I’d have expected. Nelson comes out in his usual karate style, bouncing around with a wide stance and hands relatively low. Low kick connects for Thatch early on but Nelson avoids a second by leaping backwards. Pair of low kicks from Thatch are countered by a combo from Nelson, and then they clinch and both men land knees to the body. Good knees from Thatch separate and he lands another leg kick. Right misses for Thatch and Nelson clinches, but Brandon shrugs him off. Left hand comes up slightly short for Thatch and he backs up a little. Suddenly Nelson SPRINGS FORWARD AND DROPS HIM WITH A ONE-TWO! Holy shit that literally came from NOWHERE. Thatch looks out, but he snaps back into consciousness as he hits the deck and right away Gunnar pounces and takes full mount. Thatch is in deep trouble here. He still looks really foggy too, but he manages to escape the mount at least. Gunnar instead takes side mount and lands some shots before stepping to mount again. Americana attempt is avoided by Thatch and he tries to spin, but he gives his back in the process and Nelson slaps on a body triangle easily. More punches and elbows to the body land for Nelson from there and seconds later he slaps on the choke for the tapout.

Tremendous showing from Gunnar Nelson. Never expected him to drop Brandon Thatch in a million years as apart from anything else he’d never shown any knockout power as such, but he covered so much ground in a split-second and landed absolutely flush. Realistically Thatch was probably knocked out by the one-two and only came round when he hit the ground, but of course he was groggy on the ground with Gunnar Nelson, and you’re just not going to survive that whoever you are I don’t think as Gunnar might be the best grappler out there at 170lbs. After the disappointing loss to Rick Story I’d say this win puts Nelson right back on the track to the top of the pile. Back to the drawing board for Thatch but I still think he’s got enough talent to develop into a top ten fighter in the future given some easier match-ups. This was an incredible finish even if the fight wasn’t quite as good as the one that preceded it.

Featherweight Fight: Dennis Bermudez vs Jeremy Stephens

This sounded like a wild fight on paper as it matched up two of the most aggressive 145lbers on the roster, even if they were both coming off losses (to Ricardo Lamas and Charles Oliveira respectively). Tricky fight to pick too as they’re pretty evenly matched in all areas, but I was leaning slightly towards Bermudez for no real reason to be honest. In an added, unfortunate note, Stephens missed weight coming in – only making 149.5lbs – and was forced to forfeit 20% of his purse, win or lose, to Bermudez.

First round begins and they circle before Dennis shoots and drives Stephens into the fence. Stephens shrugs him off though nicely. Both guys come up short on punches before Stephens catches Bermudez cleanly with a right hand and sends Dennis down to his knees. Bermudez tries to get Stephens down but can’t finish the takedown, and he comes back to his feet and now he hurts Stephens with a combo, busting up his right eye in the process. These guys are not messing around. Nice left hook into a leg kick from Bermudez. Clinch follows and wow, Bermudez’s back is absolutely covered in blood. They exchange some short knees inside and both land well, then Dennis finally works a double leg and plants Stephens on the ground. Looks like he’s almost got full mount too, and Stephens turns and gives his back, allowing Dennis to get one hook in. Solid punches connect to the side of the head for Bermudez and Stephens is in trouble. Looks like Bermudez might be able to go for an arm triangle as Stephens turns now too. They scramble and Dennis looks to get both hooks in, but he’s very high on the body and Stephens slides free and takes the back himself, landing a knee as they stand. Solid knee breaks for Dennis and he follows with a leg kick. Stephens is badly bloody. WILD PUNCHES from both men and Bermudez lands cleaner and hurts Stephens again, then lands another leg kick. Good right hand answers for Stephens. Takedown attempt by Bermudez is stuffed and they end up in the clinch. Seconds to go in the round and Bermudez looks like he’s going for a possible front choke, but Stephens avoids and then avoids a spinning elbow too. Round ends with Stephens stuffing a takedown. 10-9 Bermudez, great round.

Between rounds a replay shows that an accidental clash of heads was responsible for the cut over Stephens’ right eye and also for how the blood got onto Bermudez’s back.

Second round and Stephens opens with a BRUTAL leg kick that clearly hurts Dennis. Another one follows but doesn’t land quite as cleanly. Big right hand connects for Bermudez and he looks to swarm, but Stephens DROPS HIM FACE-FIRST WITH AN UPPERCUT! Bermudez has enough about him to look for an ankle pick, but Stephens avoids and OPENS UP with a flurry that knocks the mouthpiece out! Somehow Dennis is still standing though and he manages to walk through a couple more haymakers to get to the clinch. That was crazy. They break off and another leg kick lands for Stephens. Stiff left jab follows. Big combo lands for Bermudez but he eats a left hook coming in. Leg kick from Stephens drops Dennis for a second but he comes back swinging. Right uppercut lands flush for Stephen and a BIG LEFT HOOK sends Bermudez down again. Again though he gets back up. Dude is tough as nails and now HE drops Stephens with a front kick to the body and then misses a wild flying knee. Good combo from Dennis sets up the clinch. Action finally slows down a little from there before Stephens breaks and nails him with a knee and an uppercut. Big leg kick from Stephens but Bermudez DROPS HIM with a superman punch! Stephens goes for the takedown but Dennis blocks it and we’re back to standing. Good combo from Dennis but he absorbs a body kick. Takedown attempt follows and Stephens again works to defend. One minute to go and Stephens breaks off with a knee. Leg kick lands for Dennis. Superman punch into a left hand follow. Stephens is just winging haymakers constantly. Takedown from Stephens but Dennis pops back up and opens up with a combo, and they trade into the clinch to end the round. Amazing stuff. 10-9 Stephens to even it up.

Third and final round and they share some mutual respect before Stephens glances on a head kick. Big leg kick answers for Bermudez and he follows with a wild combo. Both men are absolutely covered in blood here. Stephens backs up and Bermudez pushes forward…but he walks right into a JUMPING KNEE THAT KNOCKS HIM SILLY!~! Few haymakers on the ground seal the deal and send the crowd BATSHIT as Stephens leaps over the cage to roar at the camera.

That fight was AWESOME. Non-stop back and forth action from start to finish with both guys getting hurt badly at points before Stephens ended it with an absolutely sick highlight reel knockout. Total FOTYC right there, somehow better than Almeida vs. Pickett from two fights before as well. This is a pretty crazy show. Bravo to both men – I mean, Bermudez lost but after a fight like that he’s probably got a UFC contract for life as does Stephens.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald

After Lawler won the title in a close – some might say controversial – decision against Johny Hendricks, a lot of people expected Zuffa to book a third fight between the two as the first two fights had been so great, but thankfully they decided against that and instead granted Rory the shot he’d clearly earned with wins over Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine. Despite both Robbie and Rory having improved since their initial three-round meeting in November 2013, I thought this fight would come down to the intangibles as Rory’s the type to hold firmly to a gameplan while Lawler tends to fight more with his emotions, and it was that wild side to Lawler that had made him such a tricky fight for MacDonald in the first match. I saw three outcomes here – either Rory would take a lead in the early rounds and make it impossible for Lawler to come back; Rory would take a lead but that would cause Lawler to go into Hulk Mode and come back to finish him, or we’d see a razor-close decision coming down to one round. I was hoping for the second scenario but in the end I went with Rory winning by the close decision.

Round One and Rory opens with a pair of kicks to the midsection and a straight right. Front kick sets up a left hand for Lawler. Rory’s Mohawk looks ridiculous. Jab from Rory is countered by a leg kick. Couple of jabs and a right hand glance for MacDonald. This is a really tentative beginning actually. Crowd seem pretty split between the two. Decent right hand from Rory. Crowd begin to sound restless with about three minutes gone, as both men glance on combinations. Kick to the body from Rory. Takedown attempt from Rory is stuffed and Lawler lands a hard knee on the exit. One minute to go and Robbie connects on a hard uppercut to the midsection. Body kick answers for Rory and gets a warning from Big John McCarthy for being a bit low. Lawler glances on a right hand. Nice one-two from Lawler. Round ends there. Round was impossible to call so it’s a 10-10 for me.

Round Two and Lawler flicks out the right jab as MacDonald looks for the front kick to the body. Nice jab from Robbie snaps the challenger’s head back slightly. Neither man seems to have gotten their range down perfectly yet. Pair of good straight lefts from Lawler are quickly answered by a combination from Rory. Rory’s left eye is looking marked up pretty badly. Couple of straight rights from Rory set up the body kick again. Beautiful right jab from Lawler answers a right to the body. Big head kick from nowhere from MacDonald but Lawler just about blocks it. Big crowd chant for Rory as he lands the front kick to the body and then a right to the body. HEAVY one-two from Lawler clearly hurts Rory. The Canadian comes back with a combo, but a straight left from Lawler busts his nose up badly. Big one-two follows and Rory visibly checks his nose. Lawler suddenly looks fired up and he lands with another one-two. Combo answers back for Rory but Lawler smacks him with the straight left again. Rory’s face is a mess suddenly. Lot of blood. Front kick from Rory but Lawler lands the left hand once more. Another one-two follows and Lawler’s starting to open up now. Both men land with combinations in an exchange. Left hand again connects for Lawler. Round ends there. 10-9 Lawler on sheer damage alone and this fight is really starting to heat up now.

Round Three and MacDonald fires out some straight punches to open, but a left hand from Lawler lands cleanly again as he fires back. Combo from Rory but Lawler slips a couple of the punches and catches him cleanly with a combo of his own, snapping his head back with the left hand again. Right jabs connect for Lawler and he lands with a combo again. Glancing front kick from the champion. Takedown attempt from MacDonald but Lawler sprawls nicely and lands in the front headlock position, landing some punches underneath before Rory pops back up. Rory is wearing the full CRIMSON MASK now. He seems to be finding it hard to get into range this round too. Head kick glances for him though and Robbie does a good job of just about deflecting it with his arm. Short right hook connects hard for Lawler. Nice jab again from the champ. One-two follows. Right hand answers back for Rory. He’s so bloody it’s insane. Head kick from MacDonald is blocked, but Lawler is HURT and he visibly stumbles backwards! Rory closes in and despite Lawler trying to fire back he’s in DEEP TROUBLE and Rory OPENS UP with another head kick, a flying knee and a series of VICIOUS ELBOWS AND PUNCHES! Lawler looks OUT ON HIS FEET but somehow he swings back and just about survives the round! Holy shit. Now LAWLER is busted up badly, leaking a ton of blood from his head. Round was all Lawler until the last minute but in that minute Rory almost got the finish, so 10-9 MacDonald.

Round Four and after a tentative start we’ve got a truly crazy fight on our hands. Lawler appears to have recovered but after a couple of feeler strikes Rory lands the head kick again and AGAIN Lawler is in trouble! Two front kicks to the body back the champion into the fence and then Rory SWARMS ON HIM with punches and elbows! Knees and front kicks to the body connect for the Canadian too and all Lawler can do is cover up. Looks like Big John might be considering a stoppage for a second, but Lawler tells him he’s fine. Robbie is a SAVAGE. He backs Rory up but eats another body kick and another head kick and suddenly he’s on the fence again. BRUTAL elbows land for MacDonald and Lawler is almost as busted up as him now. He manages to survive again though and circles away from the cage. Couple of punches fire back for Lawler but he takes the head kick again, albeit with less impact this time. Rory slows up his output slightly and that seems to give Lawler a chance to recover, but then he lands the head kick again and follows with a GSP-style superman punch. Right hook answers for Lawler and he follows with a combo and suddenly he’s recovered. Wild trade into the clinch sees both men land hard shots before they separate. Body kick from Rory but Lawler comes back with a nasty elbow and a snapping jab. Head kick is blocked by Lawler and he answers it with a combo, and he’s into RUTHLESS mode now as it looks like he’s snarling. Takedown attempt from MacDonald is stuffed and another combo lands for the champion. Jabs from Rory force Lawler back slightly but holy shit, his nose looks like a real mess. Totally caved in almost. Front kick to the body from Rory is answered by the left hand again from Lawler. Right hook from MacDonald and Lawler has a lot of blood coming from his mouth. Big combination from Lawler with seconds to go. Round ends with a blocked head kick from MacDonald and Lawler SPITS BLOOD ONTO THE FLOOR and then stares the challenger down wildly, and of course Rory STARES RIGHT BACK and Big John has to send him over to his corner. These guys are INSANE. 10-9 MacDonald. That ending was reminiscent of the classic Huerta-Guida pre-third round staredown.

Round Five (!) and both guys look like they’ve been hit in the face by a machete. Glancing left hand opens things for Lawler. Superman punch from Rory but Lawler comes back with a jab and the straight left again. Nice combo from Rory but Lawler tags him with the left. Rory tries a desperate head kick but the champ blocks and stings him with the left again. Front kick from Rory but Robbie SMELLS BLOOD and cracks him with the left once more. Rory is in trouble here and the left connects again for Lawler. Finally a left hand lands DIRECTLY ONTO RORY’S SHATTERED NOSE and after a slight delayed reaction his body just CAN’T TAKE THE PAIN and he collapses, and Lawler FINISHES HIM OFF ON THE GROUND!~!

Post-fight Rory can’t even sit up on his stool he’s in such a bad way, while Lawler celebrates with a GIANT TEAR IN HIS BOTTOM LIP. That’s the price you pay I guess. Fight of the year to me, no doubt. Started off slowly but once they started getting into range it was just a case of which guy could take the most punishment. Lawler’s jab and straight left dominated the second and busted Rory up, and it looked like more of the same in the third until the head kick and then it was Rory’s turn as he almost took the champ out at the end of that round and the start of the fourth. Lawler hung in there like true champions do though and once he landed that final shot on Rory’s nose it was like the Canadian’s body just shut down and said “no more”. Basically both guys are absolutely batshit crazy, both guys are as tough as nails but Lawler turned out to be very slightly tougher. Which isn’t a knock on Rory in the slightest because he probably took more damage in this fight than most MMA fighters do in their whole career and even with that he almost won the UFC title. I do wonder how much this fight will take out of Rory’s career and hell, Lawler’s career too, but that’s something we’ll find out down the road I guess. If this is the peak of the mountain for them then so be it, because there haven’t been many better title fights than this in MMA history.

UFC Interim Featherweight Title: Conor McGregor vs Chad Mendes

So much to say about this one. As I mentioned in the introduction this should’ve been the long-awaited Aldo/McGregor showdown, but when the Brazilian champion had to pull out with a rib injury, former title challenger and consensus #2 145lber in the world Mendes stepped in on just over two weeks notice, making the fight for the Interim title. And unlike with your usual late replacements the hype didn’t really go down because EVERYONE has beef with Conor in that division and he’d been sniping at Mendes for some time, and more importantly, all of Conor’s haters wanted him to fight a wrestler (i.e. Mendes or Edgar) before Aldo anyway and so this was their chance to potentially see the Irishman get exposed. I actually saw it as a tough fight to call – sure, McGregor had never fought a wrestler the calibre of Mendes, but on the flipside, Mendes had never fought a striker – outside of Aldo, who beat him twice – as good as Conor. After all, the guys Mendes had been knocking out were not as good on the feet as the likes of Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver and Max Holloway and all of those guys had been outclassed by Conor standing. Throw in the fact that judging on his previous fights, Conor hits alarmingly hard for a Featherweight, and that Mendes, while a great wrestler, had never really shown a world-class submission game, and I was going for the Irishman within two rounds by a KO, making the Aldo fight EVEN BIGGER down the line.

Entrances here are WILD, as somehow we’ve got Sinead O’Connor singing Conor’s entrance theme – traditional Irish song The Foggy Dew in really haunting fashion, while Mendes has Aaron Lewis from Stain’d to sing his. This is EPIC on a scale never done before by the UFC really. Crowd also seem totally behind McGregor as he’s brought such a massive Irish contingent with him, like Ricky Hatton used to do with British fans back in the day.

Fight begins and the crowd are DEAFENING right away. Conor comes right out with a wheel kick and then tries a flying knee, but Mendes gets him down off it. Conor immediately scrambles up but Mendes clocks him with a right hook and gets to the clinch. Another takedown is stuffed and McGregor taunts him and then lands a front kick to the body. Good combo from Mendes but Conor walks him down and lands the kick to the body again. Left to the body is answered by a Mendes leg kick, but a right hook from the American misses. Spin kick to the body lands for Conor. Couple more front kicks to the body by McGregor and he’s taunting Mendes like he’s Nick Diaz. BIG left hand rocks Chad and the front kick and another two shots follow. Mendes is standing right in front of him. Spin kick to the body and another left hand from McGregor and you can see Mendes breathing deeply already. The body work is taking its toll. Head kick glances for the Irishman and Mendes grins at him, but a one-two follows and there’s no grin from Mendes there. Big one-two from Chad but Conor waves him on. Conor’s chin is insane. Big left hand again from McGregor and he lands the front kick to the body again. Couple more right hands land for Mendes but Conor snarls at him and tells him to bring it on. Takedown attempt from Mendes and he turns the corner and gets Conor on his back in full guard. Thudding elbow from Mendes but Conor scrambles to his feet, only to eat a HUGE COMBO. Somehow Conor shrugs that off, but his right eye is cut. Big right hand from Mendes and Conor eats it up again. Another one follows but he walks through it and lands the left and another front kick to the body. Another one sets up a superman punch and Chad’s body is hurt now. Left hand wobbles Mendes but he fires right back. Uppercut glances for Mendes. Conor is still going to the body with that kick. Beautiful level change sets up a takedown for Mendes and he slices into half-guard and then side mount. Conor scrambles, and manages to get back to half-guard well. One minute to go and now Mendes begins to work the cut with his elbow. Herb Dean also has to warn him for digging the cut with his fingers. Looks like he’s setting up a possible guillotine but Conor avoids that. He’s cut open badly now though. Round ends with Mendes on top. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Mendes as despite being hurt standing, he landed good shots too and did damage on the ground.

Into the 2nd and Conor pushes the pace again and lands the body kick right away. More kicks back Chad up and he lands the spin kick to the body again. Takedown is stuffed by the Irishman and he continues to work the body with kicks. Big left hand and a follow-up combo have Mendes in trouble but he manages to cover up and back out. Big takedown from Mendes and he lands in the guard again. Irish contingent in the crowd are booing wildly for that. Elbows again from Mendes and it looks like he’s targeting the cut eye as you’d expect. Conor begins to answer back with elbows from the bottom and Mendes tries to claim they’re illegal, but as everyone knows, 12-6 from your back is okay. Canvas is covered in blood now although not all of it is Conor’s of course. Really good elbows from Mendes but McGregor doesn’t look hurt and he’s visibly taunting Mendes from his back. Conor has the most insane chin I’ve seen in a long time for none of this to actually be rocking him although the elbows are clearly doing cosmetic damage. Less than a minute to go now and Mendes steps out of the guard and goes for a guillotine, but Conor rolls free and now he’s standing! And immediately he goes on the offensive with the kick to the body and a quick combination that has Mendes covering up. Wild swings from Mendes set up a shot but Conor stuffs it and he’s opening up now. Big combo and a body kick have Chad hurt badly! Front kick to the body sets up a right and a CRUSHING LEFT HAND AND DOWN GOES MENDES! Conor pounces on him and HERB DEAN STOPS IT THERE! Cue MADNESS from the crowd. Amazing.

Post-fight Conor says he’s blown away by the support he has from the Irish fans, and then says he was happy to fight Mendes and prove people who thought he’d been “protected” wrong. He also says he knew that if Mendes got him down he’d be fine, and that nobody can take his left hand, and of course he ends by saying he thinks Jose Aldo went running and in Liam Neeson-esque fashion HIS DAY WILL COME. Amen!

Fight was incredible, naturally. The story of the fight to me was that McGregor knew that Mendes would be able to get him down and obviously prepared for that and prepared to eat some ground-and-pound, and he also knew that with the late notice Mendes’s cardio probably wouldn’t be as good as usual and so he went for the body early and hard, knowing it’d cause Chad to gas out and make him an easier target. The biggest point I took away was the strength of McGregor’s chin – he took some thunderous shots from Mendes and never seemed hurt or even fazed by them, which is crazy given how hard Chad hits. And on the ground it almost felt to me similar to Frank Shamrock against Tito Ortiz, letting the guy on top gas himself out before destroying him once they came back to their feet. I’ll make the bold prediction now and say that Conor does exactly what he’s always said he would and he’ll take out Aldo and claim the title. The hype is real in my opinion. This wasn’t as good a fight as Lawler/MacDonald naturally, but it was still pretty damn awesome.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Brown vs Tim Means

Time left in the show means we get a prelim (no pun intended) and it was no surprise they chose to show this one as the prelim card was actually pretty dull, surprisingly enough, despite having veterans like Mike Swick and prospects like Alex Garcia, Cody Garbrandt and Louis Smolka fighting on it. This fight was the prelim headliner, as Brown – coming off his loss to Johny Hendricks – was looking to get back on the winning trail by halting the momentum of Means, who had reeled off four wins in a row and had looked impressive in all of them.

Fight begins and Means comes out aggressively, forcing Brown back with his strikes and even throwing in a backfist that doesn’t land. Nice counter right hand hurts Brown and he’s on the run, and Means clocks him with a pair of follow-up lefts. Clinch from Brown but he gets hurt by a left hand. He separates and then clinches again to land a short elbow. They break again and Means is still on the offensive with combinations, but he takes an eye poke and referee Marc Goddard has to call time. Means decides he can see and can continue and they restart. Good left hand again by Means but Brown fires back with a pair of right hooks that have him stunned! He comes back with a foot sweep though that sends Brown stumbling off balance. Good knee to the body from Means but Brown hits him with a left hook and then clinches, forcing him into the fence. They jockey for position and exchange some short punches inside, and it looks like Brown might be bleeding. Left hand breaks for Means. Right hand lands for Brown in an exchange and then he clinches and trips Means off balance for a second. Head kick glances for Brown. Big combo follows and Means looks for a takedown, but Brown catches him in a standing guillotine and looks to finish him off. Means defends and so Brown takes him down, but right away Means scrambles back to his knees. He gives his back and Brown lands a knee to the tailbone, but the Dirty Bird pops back up into the clinch. Hard knee inside for Brown and then he exits with a nasty right elbow. Right hand follows but Means uses a front kick to gain some distance. Flurry from Means and a pair of elbows have Brown stunned, and Means forces him into the fence. Takedown attempt by Means is stuffed but he lands with a sharp elbow inside the clinch. Brown returns the favour though with a VICIOUS ELBOW TO THE TEMPLE and Means is hurt! He shoots, but gives his neck up and Brown locks up a guillotine and FORCES THE TAPOUT!~! Crowd go mental as Brown casually wipes away the blood from his eyebrow.

Really fun fight as Matt Brown remains one of the best fighters to watch in all of MMA right now. He actually looked like he was struggling with the reach and angles of Means’s striking here but once he landed that nasty elbow from the clinch he didn’t mess around at all and put Means away seconds later. Don’t see him getting back to the cusp of a title shot as he was in 2014 but he matches up well with anyone in the division just because he’s so aggressive and fun to watch.

-Show ends with a highlight reel and man, what a highlight reel it is.

Final Thoughts….

If you count the prelims then there are a couple of shows better than this one, but judging on main card alone, this show is pretty untouchable and I’d say it’s comfortably the best UFC main card of all time. Not only did every single fight end in highlight reel fashion, but we also got THREE FOTYCs in Almeida/Pickett, Stephens/Bermudez and of course, Lawler/MacDonald which is up there with *the* great MMA title fights. Would it have been an even more epic show with Aldo? Perhaps, but everything went to plan anyway and with Conor’s win over Mendes here, Aldo vs. McGregor is only going to be bigger. This show couldn’t have gone any better for the UFC to be honest. Best show ever? Quite possibly.

Best Fight: Lawler vs. MacDonald
Worst Fight: None

Overall Rating: *****

Until next time,

Scott Newman: