The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was the jam-packed venue, this Saturday night, for UFC 189 – the UFC’s headlining event of the annual international fight week. On paper, this card was undoubtedly the best of the year and, in practice, lived up to all the hype
In the main event, the interim featherweight title was on the line as Irish superstar Conor McGregor took on American wrestler Chad Mendes with champion Jose Aldo nursing a rib injury back in Brazil.
Coming into the fight lots of the talk surrounded whether McGregor’s kicking would be on show but that was quickly put to bed as he swung with a spinning back kick to the body right out of the gate. McGregor then threw a high knee but Mendes caught it and, to many people’s wishes, put the Irishman on his back. Mendes landed one shot on the floor but McGregor immediately popped back up before stuffing the next wrestling attempt.
McGregor then attacked the body with kicks and punches while eating a couple of Mendes right hands along the way. With a minute on the clock, a straight left from McGregor stunned Mendes before he attacked the body again – a clear plan on his part. A couple of headkicks from McGregor were on point after that but Mendes quickly got back into it with a lovely takedown. McGregor rose his feet relatively quickly but when he stood up blood poured from his eye due to a well placed Mendes elbow.
A huge right hand from Mendes midway through the round was his best shot of the frame from the American but McGregor ate it without blinking and fired back with a couple of straight shots down the pipe. More McGregor body shots followed that but Mendes managed to get him to the floor again and this time held him down. The Team Alpha Male man was able to pass guard but McGregor established a half guard after a brief period of side control before a guillotine attempt in the final seconds of the round from Mendes fell short.
As they came out for the second round McGregor beckoned Mendes on and attacked the body again with hard kicks before stuffing a takedown from the California man. A hard right hand from McGregor found its home as they got back into range and was quickly added to with a right which got Mendes circling away in terror. McGregor landed one more kick to the body but Mendes closed in on him again and got a tremendous double leg takedown.
On the floor Mendes controlled well and hit McGregor with two stinging elbows immediately. McGregor answered back with a series of elbows of his own from the bottom but Mendes landed with more strikes from both hands. As the round went on, McGregor didn’t look like getting off of his back but he did manage to drive some more cutting elbows right into the top of Mendes’ head. Mendes put more downward pressure on after that which slowed the action although two big shots did keep him scoring.
With a minute left on the clock Herb Dean warned Mendes to keep working and he did just that as he passed McGregor’s guard and latched onto a neck. The guillotine never really looked on for Mendes and it did nothing more than give McGregor and opportunity to stand up – which he duly took.
The first strike in the newly vertical fight was again a body kick from McGregor and when he followed it up with a straight left and an uppercut Mendes looked in big trouble. Another straight left had Mendes swinging back hard and trying to take the Irishman down but McGregor dodged all the advances and swooped in again. This time Mendes could do nothing but cover up as he ate a right and left hook against the fence before exiting stage left.
McGregor wasn’t letting him go, though, and cut off the space by landing with a combination of strikes and a kick to the body which had Mendes out on his feet. Another body kick had Mendes a sitting duck and when McGregor landed a huge left hand right on the chin Mendes went down to the canvas. With nine seconds remaining in the round McGregor had no time to waste and landed four blows to the grounded head of Mendes before referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight.
For McGregor, it was a tremendous winning performance which came after being put on his back multiple times. A fact which makes the upcoming title unification with Jose Aldo an even more mouth watering prospect.