There have been so many distractions outside of the octagon over the past couple years, maybe some people forgot.
But facing off with Donald ‘Cowboy Cerrone’ in the main event of UFC 246, McGregor connected with a head-kick in the opening minute and then followed it up with a few well-placed shots and a relentless barrage of punches on the ground. Referee Herb Dean had no choice but to step in and put an end to the fight.
Whatever people think of McGregor outside of the octagon — and there are many reasons to dislike the guy — one thing that has never been in doubt is that when he’s focused and has his timing down, there are few fighters in the UFC with the striking skills he has at his arsenal.
Cerrone is a legitimate opponent who has more finishes than any other fighter in UFC history. He is no slouch.
But unlike when McGregor returned to the octagon to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, the Irishman looked like his old self Saturday night. He looked like the man who became the first fighter to ever hold UFC championships in two divisions at the same time.
He hit Cerrone with a couple shoulders in the clinch in the opening seconds that seemed to shock the American. When Cerrone stepped back, McGregor unloaded the vicious head-kick. That was game, set, match.
“He destroyed the hell out of me and then head-kicked me — what a great gameplan he had,” Cerrone said. “I was like, ‘Man, this happened this fast? This is happening early.’”
There were questions about how McGregor’s power would hold up at welterweight, but he’s clearly answered them. If he wants the biggest payday possible, that’s probably against Jorge Masvidal. The UFC would love to book that fight. Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is an option, too, and would give McGregor the chance to become the first fighter ever to win UFC championships in three separate weight classes.
There are lingering legal issues that could stand in his way, but McGregor proved Saturday that he’s still just as dangerous as he was in 2016 when he beat Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title. Finishing Cerrone in 40 seconds is no joke, and now that McGregor’s insisting on getting back to a more active schedule, it’s worth wondering whether the best is yet to come.
Holly Holm won the fight, but she lost the crowd along the way.
Fighting Raquel Pennington in the co-main event of UFC 246 on Saturday night, Holm played it safe and repeatedly held her opponent against the cage. It was more than enough to earn her a unanimous decision win, something she definitely needed after getting knocked out by multi-division champion Amanda Nunes last year.
January 18, 2020; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Holly Holm moves in for a hit as Raquel Pennington defends during UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-422802
Mark J. Rebilas /
It was mostly more of the same in the second and while she opened up her striking a little in the third round, the fight never turned into a barnburner and neither Holm or Pennington ever found themselves in any real danger.
Winning is the point, and that’s especially true when you’re coming off a bad loss like Holm was on Saturday night, but the UFC was surely hoping for more action from a fight they slotted in as the co-main event of a high visibility card headlined by McGregor.
“I feel like I dominated, but I just didn’t do enough damage, that’s what I want to do – damage,” Holm said.
Holm controlled 90% of the fight and has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. She’ll get another big-name opponent next, and calls for her to retire will rightfully fade away. She’s still a big star and people are going to want to see her fight.
For Pennington, the loss is tough, but she remains a top-five contender and will have ample opportunities to bounce back.
One thing that’s for sure is nobody is going to be demanding another rematch between the two.
IS WHAT IT IS
You can’t really call Anthony Pettis a contender anymore.
The former lightweight champion is way past the point in his career where anyone seriously believes he’s capable of beating a top-5 fighter at 155 lbs. Earlier this week, he admitted as much. He just wants to keep fighting.
Pettis had a couple fun moments, as anyone who has followed his career would expect. He nearly hit Ferreira with an incredibly creative kick from the ground at the end of the first round that might have made things interesting if it had landed flush.
It didn’t, though, and in the second round, Ferreira got back to work and took the fight to the ground, securing a rear-naked choke and forcing Pettis to tap.
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Ferreira is in an interesting spot. His only losses came to Beneil Dariush in 2014 and Dustin Poirier the next year. Neither of those really count as bad blemishes on his resume. Good fighters lose to tough opponents and Poirier and Dariush are definitely tough.
But Ferreira is also 35 years old and is not ranked in the lightweight top-15. Beating Pettis may be enough to get him there, but if he’s going to go on a run and try to get fights against the best fighters at 155 lbs., it ne to happen now. Beating Pettis was a good start.
Pettis, meanwhile, is who he is. He’s an opponent with real name recognition who can be slotted into fights with just about anyone. Prior to Ferreira, his three last fights were against Nate Diaz, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Tony Ferguson. Those are huge names in the MMA bubble.
Pettis won’t be going anywhere just because he lost to Ferreira but it’s likely best to appreciate him for what he is: An always-fun fighter who doesn’t belong anywhere near the top-5.
Barber has been tapped as a future star, and at 21-years-old she’s got a long career ahead of her. But Modafferi is a veteran who has been training for longer than Barber has been alive and she delivered a masterclass on Saturday night.
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Modafferi controlled the fight on the ground for all three rounds and opened up a deep cut on Barber’s forehead midway through the second round. Barber also appeared to injure her knee early in the second, limiting her ability to fight anywhere other than the ground where Modafferi had the clear advantage.
That knee injury also led to a strange moment at the beginning of the third round when the ring doctor entered the octagon to examine Barber and ensure that she could continue. That’s unusual, although he did ultimately rule that she was OK to continue.
It led to another dominant round for Modafferi, though, who is ranked No. 7 in the UFC’s official rankings but should be getting a big opportunity soon. Beating the previously undefeated Barber is no joke, and making it look easy suggests Modafferi may be a legitimate contender.
It might be time to really start paying attention to Sodiq Yusuff.
There will be some disappointment with the way the young Maryland native took his foot off the gas in the third round — and that criticism is valid — but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Yusuff was thoroughly dominant for the first 10 minutes of a fight against an established and exciting veteran.
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Yusuff got the better of the standup exchanges in the opening two rounds and was active and aggressive on the ground. He seemed to be close to getting a finish when he nearly locked in an armbar in the first round, but even without the finish, Yusuff left little doubt about who was the better fighter on the night.
“I wish it could have been a little more action-packed in the third round because I did what that fight of the night bonus, it would help out my family a lot,” Yusuff admitted. “This is definitely the biggest win of my career, I think Fili is right up there close to the rankings, so this should put me close to the top-15 and then I’ll start climbing that ladder.”
UFC 246 Main Card
Holly Holm def Raquel Pennington via unanimous decision
Aleskei Oleinik def. Maurice Greene via second-round submission
Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis via second round submission
Sodiq Yusuff def. Andre Fili via unanimous decision
Askar Askarov def. Tim Elliott via unanimous decision
Aleksa Camur def. Justin Ledet via unanimous decision
Sabina Mazo def. JJ Aldrich via split decision