History. It was fitting that 23 years to the day since the inaugural UFC event took place, featherweight king Conor McGregor became the first ever simultaneous two-weight UFC champion after he slept lightweight title holder Eddie Alvarez in the second round.
And he barely got out of second gear to do it, putting on a clinic against the champ. From the get go he found a home for his famed left-hand, dropping Alvarez three times in the opening round.
It was utterly one-sided and flawless, against a man who is in the conversation as one of the best lightweight fighters of all time.
“They’re not on my level,” McGregor said. “You’ve got to have size, reach, length. You’ve got to have some attributes. If you don’t, I will rip your head off. That’s what I say every time.”
On this evidence it’s hard to disagree. The final sequence saw him slip an Alvarez right and rip back with a fluid four-punch combination to floor the champ.
It was arguably his best performance to date, nullifying Alvarez completely whether it was in the clinch or from the takedown.
Perhaps defeat to Nate Diaz in March was the best thing to happen to him because McGregor’s evolved since then. History was made, and the Irishman’s legacy is secure.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
Woodley and Thompson must rewind it back
Elite-level MMA, near knockouts, deep guillotines, tremendous heart and controversy.
Tyron Woodley is still the welterweight champion – but only just. The 34-year-old kept hold of his belt after a majority draw. It was only the third draw in UFC history – BJ Penn/Caol Uno and Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard the others – but UFC ring announcer had his own Steve Harvey moment, at first incorrectly declaring it a split-decision win for Woodley.
He retained the belt either way, but the official decision was a draw, which Buffer later corrected.
The fight itself was sensational, building to an explosive crescendo in the fourth round when Thompson was dropped twice by two huge right-hands.
A finish appeared a mere formality, but Thompson hung on and then remarkably survived a tight guillotine later in the round.
It was fitting the fight ended in a draw really and rerunning it back is surely the thought process now.
Demian Maia, therefore, is the biggest loser having been hotly tipped to face the winner.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Jedrzejczyk is running out of challengers
When it comes to fighting, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is a cold-hearted assassin.
And she is fast running out of targets to take out after she picked apart Polish compatriot Karolina Kowalkiewicz on her way to a unanimous decision victory.
The strawweight queen is unbeaten in 13 fights and has cleared out three of the top five fighters in the division.
A dangerous No5-ranked Jessica Andrade looms large having looked impressive since dropping down from 135lbs.
But how do you stop Jedrzejczyk? She has out-landed her opponents 746-245 in significant strikes over her past five UFC appearances.
Even when she was hurt by Kowalkiewicz after a big right-hand landed, she reset and continued to land combinations at a blinding speed.
“You know why I stay a champion? Because I’m humble every day,” Jedrzejczyk said post-fight. “I work hard every day. I’m very focused. I challenge myself every day. That’s why I’m still a champion.”
She may well be the champ for a long time to come.
Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero
Few will envy Bisping’s position right now
Fighters of course do not fear much. After all, they step into a cage to take on some of the best and most feared athletes on the planet.
But there are some fighters who strike fear more than others. Romero is one of them.
Facing former middleweight champ and hometown favourite Chris Weidman, the Cuban countered a takedown attempt with a violent flying knee to flatten the New Yorker in the third round.
In a deep division, Romero now appears at the front of a long queue to face belt holder Michael Bisping, who must be pretty bummed out.
The Brit is now expected to face a specimen, who not only possesses a deadly combination of power and athleticism, but will hardly provide the type of money fight a man with retirement looming large seeks.
Fighters should always be applauded when they walk away at the right time. A standing ovation is needed for Miesha Tate, though.
The former Strikeforce and UFC bantamweight champion announced her retirement shortly after her defeat to Raquel Pennington.
It marks the end of an era for women’s MMA as the division’s establishment begins to crumble away.
Tate is truly a pioneer of the sport, though, as her rivalry with Ronda Rousey from Strikeforce through to the UFC really captured the imagination and the attention.
But now is the right time to say goodbye.
“It’s not my time right now, I’ve been doing this for over a decade,” Tate said. “Thank you so much for being here, I love this sport forever but it’s not my time anymore.”
And she is right, it’s time to pass the torch on. She looked like a shot fighter against her former TUF pupil.
Ponderous feet and slow reflexes, she didn’t seem to have a plan going in. This is not how she will be remembered, but she will forever known be as a UFC champ after her stunning victory over Holy Holm at UFC 196.
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens
Edgar may be the toughest fighter in the lighter divisions
Frankie Edgar has never been knocked out. He probably never will be.
Jeremy Stephens is legit one of the hardest hitters at 145lbs and he provided justification for that after he drilled the New Jersey native with a stinging head kick square on the chin.
Edgar was rocked, on wobbly legs and at the end of the second round didn’t even appear to have his senses together as he returned to the sanctuary of his corner.
But in a fight which provided a microcosm of his career, he rallied back, found another level and dominated the final stanza to take a unanimous decision.
Afterwards, he revealed: “I actually tore my MCL and had to get an epidural in my back, but nothing was going to stop me from fighting in New York City.”
That ladies and gentleman is one tough human being.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson
Nurmagomedov is next in line for the lightweight belt
The Dagestani Cowboy rode Michael Johnson into the abyss. Then he cut a promo which was equal to his performance inside the Octagon.
The 28-year-old stretched his undefeated record to 24-0 after he wrapped up a third-round kimura on a ragdolled Johnson.
Honestly, it was exhausting to watch as Nurmagomedov just completely suffocated his helpless opponent, who it must be said, displayed tremendous heart and a stern chin to even make it into the final round after he was battered senseless.
Nurmagomedov jumped on the mic and swiftly called for his shot at the 155lbs belt now wrapped around Conor McGregor’s waist.
“I want to stay humble but other guys talk too much,” said Nurmagomedov.
“Irish only 6 million, Russia 150 million, I want to fight your chicken. What do you say about 24-win streak? Let’s go, let’s go with your chicken.”
The chicken he is referring to is McGregor and if the UFC lean towards meritocracy then he will get his shot at the Irishman.
Tony Ferguson has a legitimate claim, too. After all, he did just pick apart former champ Rafael dos Anjos last weekend but Nurmagomedov dominated a very tough opponent and made it look like it was child’s play.
The 28-year-old challenger, who went into the fight as the reigning featherweight champion, added the lightweight title when referee John McCarthy stopped the bout with just under two minutes of the second round remaining.
McGregor dominated from the off and had Alvarez on the floor of the Octagon three times in the opening round, with the American wriggling free on each occasion.
The Irishman, with a five-inch reach advantage over his opponent, began showboating in the second, holding his hands behind his back as Alvarez, 32, looked to respond.
It was one-way traffic and the bout was stopped when three consecutive punches knocked Alvarez to the floor and with McGregor ready to pounce, McCarthy dived in.