UFC 189 Results: The Real Winners and Losers from McGregor vs. Mendes Fight Card
Maybe you've heard a little something about this Conor McGregor.
Since he broke into the UFC two years ago, the Irishman's fights have quickly become appointment television. Ditto his interviews; if there's a better talker in MMA right now than McGregor, I have no idea who it is.
Contrary to some sentiment that McGregor is an empty shell of hype, the guy can really fight. He has a deep gas tank and a brilliant array of striking attacks, which he strings together in creative ways. At the end of it all is a lethal left hand that has had a starring role in 13 of his knockouts as a pro.
That said, hype certainly plays a big role in his profile, and it all came to a raging boil Saturday night in Las Vegas, which became Dublin West when McGregor took on Chad Mendes for the interim featherweight belt.
It was a shame that Jose Aldo broke his rib and had to withdraw from this fight. But the lineal champ will have his day, and in the meantime, Mendes and his power wrestling game made for a more than worthy challenge for McGregor.
But there was a lot more to this card than just McGregor and Mendes. In the co-main event, Rory MacDonald challenged Robbie Lawler for the welterweight title. And the card went deep, too, with seven of the evening's 11 contests arguably having some kind of immediate implication for the UFC's collective title picture.
As always, the final stat lines only reveal so much. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 189.
And if you're one of those literal-minded folks, full results appear on the final slide.
Winner: Conor McGregor
Ladies and gentlemen, your new interim UFC featherweight champion: The Notorious Conor McGregor.
With a deafening Irish fan contingent looking on, McGregor started the fight full of adrenaline, sending a steady stream of trash talk toward Chad Mendes as he measured him for spinning kicks.
But as the fighters settled in, Mendes gained the upper hand. He landed his first four takedown attempts, and McGregor was unable to get up or do much of anything from his back. After a while, Mendes didn't even bother to pass McGregor's guard, but instead stayed inside full guard and pounded McGregor from there.
It looked like the second round would end that way, just as the first one had. Mendes went for his fifth takedown attempt but was beginning to tire. McGregor stuffed it.
And just like that, the tide was turned.
Mendes stood in front of McGregor, and the striker licked his chops. That notorious left hand found its home, and McGregor hit the canvas. A few frenetic ground shots later, and with three seconds remaining before the horn, referee Herb Dean waved off the bout.
"Nobody can take that left-hand shot, it's as simple as that," McGregor told broadcaster Joe Rogan in the cage after the fight. "Everyone breaks, and he broke."
With the belt around his waist, McGregor buried the hatchet with Mendes, with whom he's had some chippy exchanges. Then, the question turned to his next steps. What of Mr. Aldo?
"In my opinion, Jose went running," McGregor said of the injured champ. "If he wants to come back, he can come back, but I swear to God his day will come."
So we will see. Imagine the two of them headlining a card in Dublin. Imagine that after they coached opposite each other on a season of The Ultimate Fighter. There are lots of possibilities. Frankie Edgar, who exchanged a few friendly words with McGregor after the fight, is another (and ESPN analyst Chael Sonnen fueled that speculation).
For now, though, we know one thing: The UFC's new golden goose is as good as gold.
"I could go all day, Joe. I swear to God. I can go all day."
Loser: Chad Mendes
After the fight, McGregor told Rogan that "I've been hearing all the time about the style of opponent, and that I've been gifted a title shot...I knew I was going to prove to people that I'm a true fighter."
Is McGregor a true fighter? Yes. Is he a wrestler? Uh, no. That's the style mismatch that detractors say is McGregor's key weakness. And for a while on Saturday, Mendes slammed home that point with authority.
But he gassed, and then he walked away from his game plan just long enough to get caught.
"I don't have any regrets," Mendes told Rogan afterward. "Conor is a guy I knew I'd be fighting eventually. You get in here and do it."
Props to Mendes for stepping in for Aldo on just two weeks' notice. If he had stayed with the takedown-rinse-repeat strategy and had just a bit of a deeper gas tank, he'd probably be holding the strap right now.
Winner: Robbie Lawler
I do not want to see that replay anymore. You know, the straight right hand at the beginning of the fifth round that collapsed Rory MacDonald's nose, and MacDonald himself seconds later.
I do not want to see MacDonald anymore, overcome by pain, sitting dejected in a pool of his own blood.
But you know what I do want to see? Robbie Lawler, defending his UFC welterweight title, forever on an endless loop. On a special card and a special night, Lawler's performance (and MacDonald's, too, for that matter) stood out as one for the ages.
I mean, did you see him spit out his own blood at the end of the fourth round, then he and MacDonald glared at each other for several seconds after the horn? Who does that? It's crazy.
Who's next for Lawler? Hard to say. It's a pretty stacked division, but MacDonald was the clear top contender. Perhaps a rubber match with Johny Hendricks?
That's a question for another day. But for now, the belt will stay with a brutal violence artist in Lawler. And for that, fans should be happy.
Loser: New UFC Uniform Kits
Here's the preemptive answer to a trivia question no one will probably ever ask you: On Saturday night, Cody Pfister became the first fighter to wear the UFC Reebok uniform kit in the UFC Octagon.
The kits, which were unveiled in late June and made their live-action debut at UFC 189, actually didn't look half bad. The white shorts were a little, uh, sheer, but nothing major. From a visual standpoint, it was more or less a success, especially compared to the disastrous rollout.
But the kits are still a loser. Why? Because the apparel deal with Reebok bars fighters from sporting other sponsor logos in the cage, either on shorts or banners. According to quite a few fighters and managers, the deal takes money out of a lot of fighters' pockets. And those pockets weren't exactly lined with gold to begin with.
Until fighters feel they are getting a fair shake, these kits are going to leave a bitter taste in a lot of mouths.
Winners: Dennis Bermudez and Jeremy Stephens
Forget Fight of the Night. This one's on the short list for Fight of the Year.
For 10 minutes and change, Dennis Bermudez and Jeremy Stephens literally knocked each other around the cage. Stephens was cut early from an accidental head butt and pouring blood. But he rallied, as it is often possible to do when you have a cinder block where most people have a right hand. Stephens dropped Bermudez multiple times in the second round. Bermudez was only too happy to return the favor.
There were punches, there were kicks, there were elbows, there were takedowns. And a few seconds into the final round, there was a knee. A jumping knee. It came from Stephens and it put Bermudez down. Bermudez got up from a lot of wicked stuff throughout the fight, as did Stephens, but this kept him down for good. A few ground strikes later and it was over.
If you missed this fight, do yourself a favor and remedy that, post-haste. You'll be glad you did.
Winner: Brad Pickett
About 30 seconds into the second round of the pay-per-view opener, Thomas Almeida landed a jumping knee on Brad Pickett's jaw. Referee John McCarthy was waving off the bout before Pickett even hit the ground.
It was business as usual for Almeida, the Brazilian super prospect who, at the ripe age of 23, is now 20-0 with 15 wins by knockout.
So why is Pickett a winner? Frankly, the Englishman fared better than expected. In his first bout back at bantamweight, Pickett had his power back and landed hooks at will. Pickett dropped Almeida like a bag of dirt more than once in the first round and appeared to fracture Almeida's nose.
At 36 years old, Pickett is no spring chicken, and that's especially problematic at the lower weight classes. But he showed Saturday against a very tough opponent that he's still capable of reaching back and bringing the heat.
Loser: Matt Brown's Elbows
There ain't no party like an elbow party. It's unfortunate that this elbow party had to stop.
Perhaps sensing that a dull prelim card needed a jolt of electricity, Matt Brown and Tim Means put on the proverbial show in the undercard main event. Both men are ill-tempered and tough, so the bout was promising, and they delivered on the promise.
Both men exchanged punches, but the elbows were in long supply. Means appeared to wrest control away when he cut Brown open with a nasty step-in elbow strike about halfway through the first round.
Turns out Brown had Means right where he wanted him.
Brown got hold of Means' neck and dropped down for a guillotine choke. It was deep, and Means tapped. As Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting described it on Twitter, "That's the Marcelo Garcia special right there. To perfection. Matt Brown is your god."
After a slow and sloppy undercard, it sure felt that way.
Losers: John Howard and Cathal Pendred
John Howard won the fight by split decision. But in reality, the big winner here was a big absolutely nobody.
Cathal Pendred has earned a reputation as a bit of an unexciting fighter. He essentially uses his size to push other welterweights against the cage fence and hold them there.
The odd thing is he somehow lures opponents into dancing the clinch dance with him. Howard was another example. Both men appeared to be fighting in marmalade, with slow punches and shuffling foot movement throughout.
It brought the prelim card to a grinding halt (pun most definitely intended) and kept it there. It even spread its boring germs to the next bout, a promising contest between Alex Garcia and Mike Swick that never really got going.
Not what anyone was hoping for out of Dublin native Pendred and a former knockout artist in Howard.
Full Card Results
Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes by TKO, 4:57, Rd. 2 (for interim UFC featherweight championship)
Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald by TKO, 1:00, Rd. 5 (for UFC welterweight championship)
Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez by TKO, 0:32, Rd. 3
Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:54, Rd. 2
Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett by knockout, 0:29, Rd. 2
Matt Brown def. Tim Means by submission (guillotine choke), 4:44, Rd. 1
Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick by unanimous decision
John Howard def. Cathal Pendred by split decision
Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones by unanimous decision
Louis Smolka def. Neil Seery by unanimous decision
Cody Pfister def. Yosdenis Cedeno by unanimous decision
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. For more stuff like this, follow Scott on Twitter.