The dust has finally settled after UFC 229 where a post-fight brawl overshadowed what was a memorable fight card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The moment that fans had been waiting for finally arrived as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor were locked in the Octagon together. The Russian dominated from the offset and even won the striking exchanges with the Irishman – who looked a shade of his former self. After brutal rounds of punishment, McGregor eventually tapped in the fourth round.
The events that followed was truly horrible for the sport of mixed-martial-arts. A visibly emotional Khabib jumped the cage to attack McGregor’s training partner, Dillon Danis, and a brawl ensued at cageside. To make matters worse, various members of Team Khabib stormed the cage and attacked McGregor from behind. In a night that was supposed to create history, the carnage grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Nevertheless, here are my matches to make for the winners and losers of the main card action…
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Conor McGregor via fourth-round submission
Nurmagomedov retained the UFC lightweight title and extended his perfect record to 27-0. His actions after the fight may have further repercussions with the Nevada State Athletic Commission rescinding his pay cheque. Dana White also refused to confirm whether he would be stripped of the belt. Away from the madness, the Russian looked exceptional yet again, and a win over the UFC’s biggest star further enhances his reputation.
Speculation of a rematch has already begun but Khabib looked a different level to McGregor and a second fight would more than likely end in the same result. Therefore, the only fight to make is the long-awaited scrap with Tony Ferguson. The pair have been scheduled to fight on five occasions, most recently at UFC 223, but the bout has never came to fruition. Both fighters are riding exceptional win streaks, and the history between the two only serves to make the fight bigger.
On the other hand, McGregor’s next move remains unknown. ‘The Notorious’ looked nothing like the man who dissected Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 – perhaps the two-year hiatus from the cage played a more significant factor than anyone expected. Not regaining the belt leaves the options for his next fight wide open. The matchup that makes the most sense is another rematch with Nate Diaz who will face Dustin Poirier at UFC 230. The current score is 1-1, and McGregor has always insisted the trilogy will be complete. The third fight at lightweight makes perfect sense for both men and the UFC.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Khabib vs Ferguson | McGregor vs Diaz 3
Tony Ferguson def. Anthony Pettis via second-round TKO
In the co-main event of the evening, Tony Ferguson defeated Anthony Pettis in an instant classic. On his return from injury, ‘El Cucuy’ looked phenomenal with ‘Showtime’ unable to cope with his relentless pressure. Both men threw caution to the wind and wore a crimson mask throughout a wild second round. With Pettis claiming to have broken his hand, the fight was waved off before the third round commenced.
The win over the former champion is huge for Ferguson who previously held the interim lightweight belt. He cemented his position as the number one contender at 155lbs and must get the next shot at Khabib despite the fight falling through on multiple occasions. Ferguson-Nurmagomedov is a fight that needs to happen.
Despite the loss, Pettis’ stock remains pretty much intact. He failed to deal with Ferguson’s pressure but did land some clean shots throughout. He bit down on his mouthpiece after he was cut badly and no doubt delighted the fans with his showing. A fight against James Vick could be next for the former champion – Vick was knocked out by Justin Gaethje in his last fight.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Ferguson vs Khabib | Pettis vs Vick
Derrick Lewis def. Alexander Volkov via third-round KO
Against all the odds, Derrick Lewis was victorious over Alexander Volkov to stake his claim for a title shot at heavyweight. Lewis’ cardio looked a problem once again with Volkov stalking his opponent and landing at will. Lewis’ corner demanded a finish in the final round and ‘The Black Beast’ delivered with just a minute remaining; landing a huge shot to send his opponent to sleep.
The heavyweight title picture remains unclear with Brock Lesnar set to face Daniel Cormier for the strap in the New Year. Lewis himself admitted he was not ready to fight for the belt and will no doubt work on his cardio issues. A fight with ex-champion Stipe Miocic makes sense. Miocic hasn’t fought since losing the belt at UFC 220 and is unlikely to be granted an immediate rematch. A fight with Lewis would be a dream scrap for fans with title aspirations for the victor.
Defeat for Volkov was his first in the UFC, and the Russian will be bitterly disappointed after dominating the majority of the fight. If he had survived just one more minute, he would have cruised to a decision victory. The loss could prove costly with a host of fighters likely to leapfrog him in the rankings. With Francis Ngannou meeting Curtis Blaydes later in the year, booking Volkov against the loser seems like a sensible decision.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Lewis vs Miocic | Volkov vs Ngannou/Blades loser
Dominick Reyes def. Ovince St. Preux via unanimous decision
Dominick Reyes extended his unbeaten record in MMA with a dominant decision victory over former title challenger Ovince St. Preux. ‘The Dominator’ looked fantastic yet again and sliced his opponent up with excellent kickboxing as well as brilliant work in the clinch. A late strike dropped St. Preux, but the bell saved him.
A win for Reyes moves him from prospect to contender in the 205lb division. This was his biggest test to date, and he passed with flying colours. He is now 10-0 in his professional career and 4-0 in the UFC; he could be the new blood that light heavyweight has been crying out for. His next fight could be against Jan Blachowicz. The Pole is riding a four-fight win streak, and both men could have a reasonable claim at a title shot with a victory.
St. Preux remains an unknown quantity at light heavyweight, capable of great victories but unable to put it together against world-class opposition. His next fight could be against Nikita Krylov who recently returned to the UFC and lost against Blachowicz.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Reyes vs Blachowicz | St. Preux vs Krylov
Michelle Waterson def. Felice Herrig via unanimous decision
Michelle Waterson looked highly impressive in the main card opener scoring a unanimous decision victory over Felice Herrig. Her opponent attempted to use her grappling and size advantage to pressure Waterson who scored by landing a variety of kicks at will. Mixing in takedowns and effective ground strikes was enough to see the ‘Karate Hottie’ get the nod.
Waterson moves to 16-6 with her second consecutive victory and could fight Karolina Kowalkiewicz who is coming off a loss to Jessica Andrade at UFC 228. The Pole needs a win to get back into the title picture, and a victory over a former title challenger could move Waterson into contention herself.
On the other hand, Herrig is now on a two-fight losing streak, but her loss doesn’t damage her placement in the rankings too badly. Her next opponent could be Alexa Grasso who recently lost to Tatiana Suarez back in May.
MATCHES TO MAKE: Waterson vs Kowalkiewicz | Herrig vs Grasso