Fit with a new look, live music and a historic night of fights, the long awaited UFC 189 PPV went down Saturday in Dublin..wait..Las Vegas, Nevada where Conor McGregor defeated Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight title, while Robbie Lawler retained his welterweight crown in a fight for the ages against Rory Macdonald.
Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes via TKO – punches (round 2, 4:57)
In the main event of the evening, and what Dana White has called the biggest fight in UFC history, Conor McGregor answered the Mendes wrestling question, knocking out the American in the dying seconds of round two.
McGregor wasted no time in engaging Mendes opening with a spinning back kick before stalking the two-time title challenger around the cage taunting him and working kicks to the body that seemingly began to sap the energy of Mendes. Mendes would land some decent shots, but McGregor walked right through them, and losing the stand-up battle, Mendes would resort to the takedown putting McGregor on his back, attempting a guillotine choke, albeit unsuccessfully.
Mendes would come out in round two again looking to utilize his wrestling, ducking a McGregor hook and landing an early double leg takedown. Mendes would stay in the Irishmen’s half-guard utilizing big elbows, all the while dealing with McGregor talking in his ear the entire time on the ground. Towards the end of the round Mendes would finally make a move, and it would prove to be fatal, as McGregor, able to sprawl back to his feet after a failed guillotine choke, rocked Mendes before landing a one-two combination that dropped Mendes putting him in duck and cover mode and ending the fight.
The win for McGregor sets up what will arguably be an even bigger fight with Jose Aldo, and has not only silenced the doubters who said he couldn’t beat an elite level wrestler, but proved that he is the real deal. For Mendes, it’s hard to see him getting another title shot anytime soon, having now lost three title fights, and we will probably see him fall into more of a gate-keeper role in the featherweight division.
Robbie Lawler def. Rory Macdonald via TKO – punches (round 5, 1:00)
In the co main event and the first of two title fights on the night, Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler and Challenger Rory Macdonald nearly stole the show with arguably one of the best fights in the history of the UFC that seen numerous momentum swings and a late finish by the Champion.
Both men were clearly respectful of one another out of the gate with both fighters hesitant to engage one another, clearly feeling each other out for the better part of the first. Macdonald looked to utilize his long fighting style and leg kicks while a unusually patient Lawler took on a counter striker role utilizing slick combinations that were more controlled explosions than we are used to seeing with Lawler.
Round two would see an increase in pace, with Macdonald landing an early high head kick that rattled Lawler. The champion, shaking it off, would start to find his range and get catching Macdonald off guard with polished striking on the feet, bloodying the Canadian Challenger.
Round three would see the champion continue to find his range staying patient and catching Macdonald in the better of the exchanges in the pocket out of the gate, and stuffing a Macdonald takedown. Just when it would look like Lawler would cruise to an easy 10-9, everything changed. Rory Macdonald landed a head kick that got through the guard of Lawler putting the champion on very wobbly legs. Macdonald backed him against the fence, landing a flurry of punches and elbows that nearly had the UFC crowning a new champion, before Lawler was saved by the bell, noticeably shaken going back to his corner.
Macdonald sensing Lawler was still rocked from the previous round, wasted little time in round four immediately backing Lawler up against the fence with another head kick, again throwing everything he had at the champion, but the ever dangerous Lawler would was far from finished, eventually luring Macdonald into a fight in the pocket, regaining the striking advantage and rocking Macdonald several times before the end of the round, which seen neither men return to their corner, instead standing in the center of the octagon in an intense stare down.
Both men would come out in round five battered and bloody, but it would be the champion who would turn up the aggression, setting a pace that most fighters can’t hold in the first round, stalking Macdonald around the ring. Lawler would continue to work on the badly swollen face of Macdonald before landing a straight left hand that shattered and already broken nose on Macdonald forcing the Canadian to fall back into the mat and cover up, and leading Jon McCarthy to step in and stop the fight.
It was a five round war, and possibly one of the best fights of all time that seen momentum swing like a pendulum, showcasing the true heart of Robbie Lawler required in a true champion. The win likely sets up Lawler vs. Hendrix 3, while it’s back to the drawing board for Macdonald.
Jeremy Stephens def. Denis Bermudez via tko – flying knee/punches (round 3, 0:32)
Neither fighter needn’t bother with the feeling out process in this one, as both men immediately engaged. It was Bermudez landing the first big blow opening up an early cut over the right eye of Jeremy Stephens, upon working his way back to his feet Bermudez again would tag the bloodied Stephens before landing a double leg takedown. Stephens, badly bloodied face and all, worked his way back to his feet where both men again would engage throwing wild haymakers, before Bermudez worked him up against the fence to end the round.
Looking to take his momentum into round two, Bermudez perhaps got a bit overzealous getting tagged shooting in on a takedown with an uppercut that dropped him. Bermudez survived, working his way back to his feet, but would continue to lose the battle on the feet absorbing brutal leg kicks from Stephens that had him noticeably limping. Ever the warrior, Bermudez would fire back dropping Stephens with a superman punch, only seemingly enraging Stephens who bounced back up and engaged Bermudez in a wild exchange to finish the round.
The third round would pick up where it left off in excitement with Bermudez pressuring Stephens up against the fence, but again perhaps a bit too eager to avoid the stand up, he shot for a takedown only to get caught with a perfectly timed jumping knee that landed flush on the chin of Bermudez dropping him and subsequently finishing him with punches on the ground.
Knocking off a perennial contender such as Bermudez will certainly boast well for Stephens as long as he can make the weight.
Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch via submission – rear naked choke (round 1, 2:54)
Coming off a loss in his last fight, Gunnar Nelson looked to get back in the win column taking on the much bigger Brandon Thatch. It wouldn’t take long for Nelson to find his footing, landing an early left hand that put Thatch down allowing who Joe Rogan has called one of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters in the UFC to take half guard, before easily passing Thatch’s guard into full mount. Sensing the finish Thatch turned to his stomach giving up his back to the BJJ specialist, who would set Thatch up with punches before sinking in a rear naked choke and suffering Thatch his second straight submission defeat. The win for Nelson, his 11th career first round finish – should get him back into contention talks and net him a top ten if not top five opponent in his next fight.
Thomas Almeida def. Brad Picket via Knockout – flying knee (round 2, 0:29)
Kicking off the main card veteran Brad “One Punch” Picket looked to prove he still belongs at an elite level of mixed martial arts taking on highly touted prospect Thomas Almeida, who was coming off just a 77 day layoff in between fights. Almeida would come out stalking Picket, with the veteran pushing the pace on the younger Almeida eventually landing a left hook that dropped Almeida, and moments later followed it with a devastating knee that busted the nose of the Brazilian, but it would be the younger Almeida showing his toughness towards the end of the round firing off a straight right that dropped Pickett.
Almeida would carry his momentum into the second, utilizing quick in and out movement to avoid the power of Pickett, before 29 seconds into the round Almeida landed a devastating flying knee perfectly placed on the jaw of “One Punch” knocking him limp, and forcing Big Jon McCarthy to step in before he could absorb anymore punishment. The highlight reel finish should definitely net the Brazilian a top ten opponent in his next fight, as he has walked through everyone in his path in his first few UFC fights.
Matt Brown def. Tim Means via submission -guillotine choke (round 1, 4:44)
Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
John Howard def. Cathal Pendred via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)