One of the most hotly anticipated featherweight bouts in MMA history headlined UFC 189, when Conor McGregor met Chad Mendes in a raucous Las Vegas-turned-Dublin-for-a-night match. The fight also served as the most anticipated interim title bout in UFC history, living up to the lofty expectations with an explosive two-round affair.
Eventually, McGregor answered questions about his wrestling and stamina, blasting Mendes unconscious with the left hand that’s become his patent as a UFC combatant. Now set to unify the belts against Jose Aldo later in 2015, here’s what we know going into that meeting after learning a few things on Saturday night.
What We’ll Remember About This Fight
It was the night McGregor truly arrived as an undeniable, top-end UFC talent. People have had questions about the way he was matched, whether he could beat a wrestler and whether he could work hard at a high pace for a long time.
Saturday night was the night that people got their answer. The Notorious is for real.
What We Learned About Conor McGregor
He can beat a wrestler.
The cries of “can he? Can he?” have been alive and well for as long as McGregor has been a UFC athlete, and until he got in the cage and did it there was nothing to tilt the scales in one direction or another. Against Mendes, he conceded some takedowns but was able to get up when it mattered, and when on his feet, he was in another stratosphere.
Can he? He can.
What We Learned About Chad Mendes
He’s a gamer, but trying to beat the best fighters on Earth on such short notice is a tough task for anyone. It’s a lesson that isn’t any sort of secret, but it’s one that the Mendes showing reminded everyone of, regardless.
After a few exchanges Mendes was slowed significantly, and after some wrestling and grappling he looked utterly wiped. When he was so visibly tired, McGregor pounced and put him away violently.
It’s not reflective of Mendes at top gear, but this version simply couldn’t get it done.
What’s Next for McGregor
Joe Rogan called it in the cage, and though it may be debatable, it might as well be true for tonight: the biggest fight in UFC history.
The two men hate each other, and the only thing that will be different in a few months is that they’ve had more time to stew and it will be title versus title.
Buckle up, folks. That’s going to be something.
What’s Next for Mendes
You’d have to think the logical fight for Mendes would be Frankie Edgar, who has been the other wrestle-boxer atop 145 that no one can beat. Edgar also just beat Mendes’ mentor Urijah Faber, so that’s a storyline going in.
That said, the UFC may wish to avoid burning off a contender against Mendes and go with the winner of next month’s Max Holloway/Charles Oliveira tilt instead.