The Monday After: UFC 229
Source: John Locher/AP
What the hell was that? By far the most anticipated fight in recent MMA memory and Khabib proved that the hype was real...and then some. Going into the event there were a ton of questions coming from all walks of life; Can Khabib drag Conor into deep waters? Can Conor land the left? Will they squash the beef or will bad blood boil over? Well, we got maybe the most definitive answer you could get. It's a shame that after-fight antics got in the way of what was truly an inspiring night though. Tony and Pettis, the Black Beast's hot balls, a new star emerging at 205, all while maybe the brightest star of them all fades, all of it overshadowed. What was supposed to be the UFC's biggest night turned out to be their most controversial. Maybe that's not such a bad thing, controversy creates conversation as they say, and seeing how both #UFC229 and #Khabib were both trending on Twitter Saturday night, maybe the melee wasn't bad for business after all. Still, there are a lot of questions that will be asked so let's see if we can answer some of them. Now normally I would focus on the whole card, but this time we'll just go over the Main and Co-Main events instead.
Khabib Nurmagomedov def Conor McGregor via 4th Round Submission (Neck Crank)
Well, this was a fight that seemed to be 3 years in the making. Twitter barbs turned to face-to-face confrontations, which turned to dolleys being thrown through buses, which eventually led to a fight that in turned into a mini-riot. Make no mistake Khabib was dominating from the get-go, there was zero space for Conor to land his famed left hand and it showed on the "Notorious" one's face. To be honest, did anyone really expect Conor to knock Khabib out? This was and is by all accounts the worst type of matchup for Conor, an extremely talented grappler with a seemingly endless gas tank, and when you add in a two-year layoff from MMA, there was a good reason he was the underdog.
The fight itself was extremely lopsided, from the opening bell Khabib gave McGregor no space to breathe. In the 1st, Khabib lands a quick takedown after a minute or so to gauge what Conor was going to offer stand-up wise. From there he controlled position and won the round. The 2nd provided us the fireworks we had all come to see, except it wasn't Conor landing the big punch, it was Khabib. With Conor stumbling back Khabib takes top control and reigns down the fury that had been pent up from YEARS of trash talk. A 10-8 scorecard was handed out by all three judges, it was that bad. Then in the 3rd, we saw a resurgence from Conor, landing effective body punches. However, it was clear Conor was both rusty and tired. The bell to 4th round dings and Herb Dean tells the fighters to fight. "The Eagle" swooped down, like...well an eagle swoops down upon its prey, takes down McGregor with ease and the proceeds to take Conor's back and immediately apply's the Neck Crank.
From there we see the most bizarre, intense, over-the-top scene in the UFC's history. A furious Khabib snaps! Yells at McGregor while being restrained by Herb Dean, turns to the McGregor camp and all hell breaks loose. In full parkour mode, he runs and jumps over the fence into the crowd in seemingly one motion. Locking horns will Bellator fighter and the BJJ coach of McGrgeor Dillon Dannis, full chaos ensues. Conor tries to jump the cage as well but is restrained, however, he proceeds to fight off three members of Khabib's camp, two of which are UFC fighters (Zubaira Tukhugov and Islam Makhachev). To keep it short both of the prize fighters leave the octagon, Dana White refuses to put the belt on Nurmagomedov. Crazy stuff.
Winner: If Khabib didn't act like a crazy person at the end of the fight he would literally have the MMA world in the palm of his hands right now. However, as it stands now he has to hope the Nevada State Athletic Commission doesn't put him through the ringer. At this point a massive fine is 100% likely, a suspension is probable, even Dana White was hesitant to actually name Khabib the champ, but most importantly his VISA could be in jeopardy as well. Although if Conor gets away with what he did I'm sure "The Eagle" will just fine. But let's say that everything gets worked out, Tony and Khabib have to be scheduled. It's the only fight that makes sense, it's the only fight that is actually compelling, and even though it's been a fight that seems destined not to happen I feel the MMA gods with see it through.
Loser: What's weird is that even in defeat Conor remains the most intriguing side to all of this. Khabib will continue to defend his title, but what is there left for Conor to achieve in this sport? I'm not saying retirement should be plan A, but a man with a resume the size of his ego and a bank account to match it, there is little left to prove. According to Conor's nutritionist George Lockhart, McGregor walked into the cage last night at 171lbs, and apparently cut from that weight as well at the start of camp 10 weeks ago. I think this is interesting to note because we've always known Conor to be the bigger man, in this fight, it was evident that Khabib was much, MUCH bigger. Guys like Ferguson, Lee, Nate, Khabib, they all walk around at the 200 lbs mark before cutting weight. I bring this up because Conor is naturally the smaller man at 155lbs, at 145lbs his power seemed unstoppable, I think a return to his original weight class should be in order. Ridiculous to bring it up because it'll never happen, but I think it's his best bet to restore his lost glory. With that said a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz is up next.
Tony Ferguson def Anothy Pettis via TKO (Corner Stoppage)
The moment the fight ended I'm sure most people were convinced that this fight was the craziest thing they would see all night, oops. Although pretty much everything pails in comparison to a fighter jumping into the crowd to start a melee, this fight definitely stole the show in terms of pure combat, winning Fight of the Night honours. The first round started pretty much the same way all of Tony Ferguson's fights start, constant pressure. backing down Pettis from the start, "Showtime" tested the durability of Tony's surgically repaired knee with swift leg kicks that are only met with an "El Cucuy" smile. Tony then proceeded to piece Pettis up till the end of the round. This had all the makings of a dominant showing for Ferguson until Pettis landed a stunning right hand that literally forced Tony to do cartwheels, however, he got back up and went back to work possibly stealing the round. Going into the 3rd, Pettis revealed his hand had been broken, his trainer Duke Rufus stopped the fight to avoid further damage to his fighter. It was a class move by a world-class trainer, something we don't see often in this sport.
Winner: Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov are going to fight. If there is a god it will happen. Even with Conor eyeing a rematch there is no way this fight can be sidelined. Like I mentioned before it's the only fight that makes sense. There isn't anyone else for Tony to fight.
Loser: Although Pettis is 4-6 in his last 10 fights, he doesn't come out as a loser here, although it's tough to say what could come next for the former champ. A broken hand could put him out for a while, but Kevin Lee has been calling out Pettis for quite some time now and it's a fight that makes sense. However if the "Motown Phenom" isn't around by the time Pettis gets healed up, a fight with real estate agent Al Iaquinta could make sense or maybe a rematch with Eddie Alvarez (if he resigns with the UFC) could be in order as well.