At the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz met in the main event of UFC 202 in what turned out to be one of the cards of the year.
Only three bouts during the entire event went to a decision and the showpiece is already being discussed as a contender for Fight of the Year.
There is plenty to chew on after an action-packed morning and here are four of the things we learned.
MCGREGOR SHOWS A DIFFERENT SIDE
Win or learn. That’s the mantra of Conor McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh and it’s one the Irish superstar clearly heeds.
In the pursuit of redemption, there was no head hunting this time around. When he first faced Nate Diaz, he unloaded left after left until, well, he had nothing left. Not this time, though.
There was a clear tactical, methodical plan right from the first bell, the only question was whether McGregor had the cardio to execute it.
He attacked the legs of the longer Diaz and struck in calculated bursts, dropping his adversary three times. He didn’t rush and stayed patient, even in those moments when he could smell blood.
Crucially, though, he showed a side we’ve never seen from him before.
There it is. It all came down to whether they dished out a 10-8 for that third round. Only one judge did. https://t.co/IS8OEja8Xe— Alex Rea (@AlexReaSport) August 21, 2016
McGregor, it is said, does not possess the style which can last five rounds, especially against a fighter like Diaz who has a gas tank that can last for days.
In the third round, McGregor having taken the first two, that assumption seemed correct. Diaz was dominant and McGregor was clinging on. But he dug deep, deeper than the pockets which this rivalry has lined.
In the championship rounds, the divisive Irishman fought like a champion. He got the job done, finding a second wind to put the pressure on when it mattered most.
Quite simply, he learned. Now, it’s time for the trilogy, after all it’s only one apiece.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Anthony Johnson is frightening. There is no one in the entire promotion who hits harder. And here he proved it by becoming the only fighter in UFC history to earn five KO victories in less than one minute each.
Glover Teixeira has not been finished by strikes in 14 years, yet his lights were shut out after just 12 seconds, Johnson landing a formidable uppercut which practically lifted the Brazilian off his feet.
And the thing is, Teixeira asked for this fight, calling out the fearsome No1 ranked Johnson after finishing Rashad Evans earlier this year.
No one calls out ‘Rumble’ and Teixeira found out why the hard way.
The 205lbs division is in a state of flux due to the enigma that is Jon Jones, but no doubt Johnson has earned a second shot at champion Daniel Cormier, the man he dropped in the first round of their title fight at UFC 187 only to later gas and suffer a submission defeat.
COWBOY RIDING THROUH THE WELTERWEIGHTS
Since moving up to 170lbs, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone has looked imperious, none more so than his stunning second-round finish of Rick Story.
He’s now 3-0 at welterweight since making the move up after a soul-sucking lightweight defeat to former champion Rafael dos Anjos, and he’s looked fresh, quick and confident at the weight.
Why then does he follow up an excellent performance – Cerrone landed a cerebral combination which included a stone-like right hand and a whipped head kick to force the stoppage – by calling out current 155lbs king Eddie Alvarez?
The lightweight division is stacked with a murderous row of talent waiting in the wings to face the new champ.
Cerrone is some way down the pecking order but where he is close to UFC gold is at welterweight. The division is not the deepest and assuming Stephen Thompson gets his chance to take on Tyron Woodley, there’s no one else really crying out for a shot.
Cerrone is on the cusp of title contendership at 170lbs and really should continue to focus his attentions on that.
After all, Cowboy’s riding through the division as it is.
NO LOVE FOR THE DIVISION
Cody Garbrandt is a legitimate contender for Dominick Cruz’s 135lbs crown. It’s a fact now.
‘No Love’ steamrolled steely veteran Takeya Mizugaki in the first round to continue his hurtling hype train and extend his MMA record to 10-0. He did it quicker than the champion, too.
Cruz sensationally stopped the Japanese star in 2014 with a 61-second KO. Garbrandt? 48 seconds. He landed a big straight right and finished viciously on the ground to extend his UFC record to 4-0.
The Team Alpha Male standout now has two money fights at his feet. One, of course, is Cruz, a fight with many angles – the pair have already trash talked and the champ has history with TAM.
A shot the 135lbs champ Dominick Cruz likely up for grabs for Garbrandt here #UFC202— Alex Rea (@AlexReaSport) August 21, 2016
As one of the hardest hitters in the division, could he connect against the best defensive fighter in the UFC, though?
It remains to be seen, and we may have to wait a little longer because Cruz is rumoured to be eyeing a move up to featherweight to take on Jose Aldo in a superfight.
If that’s the case, the second option for Garbrandt is former team-mate T.J Dillashaw.
The No1 ranked Dillashaw had a very public spat with TAM after he left the camp last year and the simmerring bad blood between the former champ and Garbrandt’s team would make for a fascinating match-up.
Regardless, Garbrandt has options and stirring ones at that.
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