The MMA universe saw what will go down as one of the biggest title fights in Ultimate Fighting Championship history in the UFC 229 main event on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Undefeated defending lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov took on Conor McGregor in a grudge match for the ages, which was stained by post-fight antics from both sides.
Nurmagomedov dominated the contest throughout, utilizing a crushing grappling game to plant McGregor on the mat. There, he managed to execute a game plan of superior positioning and heavy ground-and-pound to systematically wear down his opponent as they drifted into the championship rounds, where fatigue played a part in the ultimate outcome. In the middle of the fourth round, Nurmagomedov landed his third takedown of the fight and quickly worked his way to McGregor’s back. From there, Nurmagomedov began working for a rear-naked choke and quickly transitioned to a neck crank that forced McGregor to submit. “The Eagle” retained his title in resounding fashion.
Afterward, Nurmagomedov seemed unready to end the bad blood between himself and Team McGregor. Quickly hopping the Octagon fence, he went straight for Dillon Danis, McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach, and incited a brawl, inside and outside of the cage. Punches were thrown and security entered a mad flurry to get the venue under control. Nurmagomedov and McGregor were escorted out of the arena, and Bruce Buffer announced the decision inside an empty Octagon.
Return of the Boogeyman
Tony Ferguson made his heavily anticipated return to the cage following a knee injury that resulted in his being stripped of his interim lightweight title. He squared off with Anthony Pettis in the co-main event. Ferguson showed no ill effects from his injury, picking up where he left off by taking home win via technical knockout. The end came between the second and third rounds, as Pettis was forced to bow out with a broken hand.
The proclaimed “Fight of the Night” was a mad dash from bell to bell, with Ferguson as the aggressor. As soon as the it began, Ferguson raced across the Octagon to meet Pettis and began firing off combinations, allowing “Showtime” no room to breathe. He tailed Pettis around the Octagon and tagged him with hard, heavy punches and leg kicks while opening a sizeable gash on his scalp. Pettis’ lone shining moment came in the second round, where he landed a huge overhand right on Ferguson, sent him to his back foot for the first time and had him somersaulting out of danger. Ferguson made it to the end of the second round, and as Pettis returned to his corner, he informed longtime coach Duke Roufus of his hand injury. After mulling their options between rounds, the decision was made to wave the white flag.
Afterward, Ferguson took to the microphone to cut a promo on Nurmagomedov and McGregor, declaring himself the true champion of the lightweight division. The win, his 11th in a row, moved him to 14-1 under the UFC flag.
A New Challenger Emerges
Dominick Reyes faced his toughest test to date in a light heavyweight showcase, as he locked horns with divisional staple and perennial Top 10 fighter Ovince St. Preux. The fight was Reyes’ first against a ranked opponent, and after three straight finishes to start his UFC career, he aimed to prove his mettle against one of the 205-pound weight class’ best. Reyes took home the first decision victory of his UFC run, dominating St. Preux and opening the eyes of any observer who had not become familiar with him previously.
Reyes immediately stepped into the pocket with St. Preux and looked to land hard, heavy shots. He showed his superiority in the striking department and forced St. Preux to initiate the grappling exchanges, as the former University of Tennessee linebacker looked to clinch and shoot for takedowns. He was largely unsuccessful. Reyes’ shining moment came in closing moments of the third frame, as he dropped St. Preux with a straight shot that looked to have him down for the count. Only the final horn prevented the knockout.
Afterward, Reyes seemed relieved to have gotten the job done. He proclaimed he was “better everywhere” and put forth his belief that going three full rounds proved he had the gas tank to hang with anyone in the light heavyweight division. Reyes then indicated his interest in facing Jan Blachowicz next, with an eye on a title shot in 2019.
Derrick Lewis delivered yet another come-from behind knockout on the main card. After being thoroughly beaten by Alexander Volkov across the majority of three rounds, Lewis landed a vicious overhand right with under 15 seconds left on the clock. The impact knocked the Russian to the canvas, as Lewis followed up with vicious ground-and-pound that rendered him unconscious … Michelle Waterson outworked Felice Herrig to a unanimous decision victory in a three-round women’s strawweight feature. Waterson succeeded in mixing her striking and grappling seamlessly and seemed to keep Herrig guessing and unable to get a good read on her … Jussier da Silva took home a unanimous decision over Sergio Pettis in a fight where “Formiga” managed to dictate the pace of the fight with his grappling prowess. He took down Pettis multiple times and threatened with submission attempts … Vicente Luque picked up his third consecutive win, as he came through with a fantastic knockout against Jailin Turner on the undercard. Moving ever closer to Top-10 status, Luque has seven wins in the UFC. He has finished all of them … Aspen Ladd remained undefeated by mounting and pounding out Tonya Evinger in the first round, bringing her record to 7-0 -- a run that includes two stoppage wins in the UFC.