The Real Winners and Losers from UFC 246
Some pay-per-view shows are solely about the main event.
UFC 246 on Saturday night was one of those shows.
Even though 20 fighters competed in 10 bouts before the main event ring walks, which began shortly after midnight on the East Coast, only the final result had a chance to make headlines.
Spoiler alert: It did.
Such is the world of Conor McGregor.
Nevertheless, as part of its oath to provide full coverage of events big and small, the MMA team here at B/R headquarters took in the entire night, from the first intro of the early prelims to the last question of the post-main event interview.
And in doing so, we compiled a list of the real winners and losers of the first big show of the UFC's 2020 campaign. Click through to see how your reactions compare with ours.
Winner: Returning Royalty
In less than a minute, the king regained his throne.
McGregor somehow gave veteran Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone something he had never seen—breaking his nose with a series of shoulder strikes and breaking his spirit with a follow-up head kick that led to a whip-crack-fast 40-second TKO stoppage in the main event of the PPV card.
It was the first UFC win in 1,162 days for the caustic Irishman, who established a record for the promotion by recording a stoppage in his third weight division (welterweight) after already ending fights early at featherweight and lightweight.
"I'd never seen anything like that," Cerrone said. "He busted my nose. I got my ass whipped early."
Indeed, Cerrone was gushing from the nose within 15 seconds and was on the floor within 30, and then took a series of hammerfists until referee Herb Dean humanely intervened in two-thirds of a minute.
"Conor looked like a marauder tonight," analyst Joe Rogan said. "He completely dominated an elite, world-class MMA fighter."
Loser: Amanda Nunes’ Interest
Oh sure, former UFC bantamweight champ Holly Holm returned to the win column for the first time since mid-2018, and in doing so probably cemented her No. 3 ranking among female 135-pounders.
But it doesn't seem like champ Amanda Nunes has much to sweat about.
The most dominant women's titleholder in history stopped Holm in a single round just seven months ago, and the 38-year-old ex-champ did little against Raquel Pennington to suggest the script would be flipped anytime soon.
In fact, it says here it's more likely Nunes will try her luck with boxer Claressa Shields than take a rematch with Holm.
"I wish I'd have struck more with [Pennington]," Holm told Rogan. "We have a victory, but I still wanted to do better with my performance."
Holm landed intermittent strikes and spent most of the fight exploiting her strength advantage in clinches against the cage and drawing boos from a frustrated crowd. She conceded the lack of action in a post-fight interview but nevertheless said a reascension was possible.
Holm swept the cards with scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.
"I thought, 'Well, this is working.' I figured, let's just go where the fight's going," she said.
"When something's working, why go away from it? I really do feel like I can be champ again. I'm glad to walk out of here with a win."
Winner: The UFC Welterweight Division
Let's face it: McGregor winning Saturday night was not a huge surprise.
But the method in which he won—a decisive first-round erasure of a battle-hardened foe—is the greatest gift he could have given Dana White's roster of 170-pounders.
Whether he chooses a title chase against Nigerian titleholder Kamaru Usman or a BMF emeritus clash with fellow lightning rod Jorge Masvidal, the reemergence of the "Notorious" brand is a guarantee that UFC merchandise, tickets and pay-per-views will be hitting high notes throughout 2020.
And at this point, whether or not he's a legitimate welterweight doesn't matter.
Because with McGregor, the event is far bigger than the intangibles.
The crowd's energy across the T-Mobile Arena was tangible when Masvidal's face was shown in the middle of McGregor's post-fight "any one of these fools can come and get it" rant, and even though Usman's reaction was a rehearsed yawn, it was clear by the twinkle in his eyes that the interest was evident.
"It's the greatest sport in the world," Rogan said, "and it's even better when Conor McGregor is on top."
Loser: The Picasso of MMA
It's a great nickname.
But when it came to artistry on the mat, Ode Osbourne was quickly brushed aside.
Veteran New Yorker Brian Kelleher offset the Jamaican's speed advantage by getting him on the ground, getting him into a compromising position and getting him out of there in a single round.
Kelleher subtly worked his way into a guillotine position and then fell to his back and locked in the arm-in version of the submission hold, drawing a tap from Osbourne just 2:49 into the first.
Afterward, the bantamweight said unemployment was the lone motivation necessary...almost.
"My back was against the wall in this fight," he told Rogan. "This is all I know. It was my job to keep my job in here. And I haven't got to meet Joe Rogan yet, so that was on the list for sure."
The win was the 20th of his career and his ninth by submission.
"I'm a headhunter," Kelleher said. "If it's there, I'm gonna take it. He came out dangerous. But I felt like I could overpower him."
Winner: The Birthday Boy
It'd be hard to imagine a better birthday present for Carlos Diego Ferreira.
The Brazilian celebrated his 35th with extra-special style in the curtain-raiser to the pay-per-view show, submitting former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis in two rounds for his sixth straight win.
It's the third-longest streak in the lightweight division behind Tony Ferguson (12) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (11).
"I see the process and the results. I'm super happy," Ferreira said. "I've just got to put in more work."
To say he worked Pettis would be an understatement.
Ferreira scored a takedown and controlled the first round against the skidding ex-titleholder, then got Pettis to the ground again early in the second with a right-leg takedown. He got behind his man and cinched in the left arm under Pettis' chin, cranking the neck and drawing the tapout at 1:46.
"That's what we were practicing backstage, me and my coach," Ferreira said. "It's pretty good to see my work got done."
Loser: 'The Future'
Well…so much for "The Future."
Maycee Barber, at 21 years and eight months, reached the Las Vegas stage Saturday night with aims of continuing her drive to be the youngest champion in UFC history (topping Jon Jones' 23 years, eight months).
But Roxanne Modafferi wasn't having it.
A pro since Barber was only five, the Delaware native followed through on her intention to be more than just a veteran gatekeeper, leaving the youngster a limping, bloody mess while scoring a unanimous three-round upset in their flyweight match.
Indeed, Modafferi was a 30-27 winner on two cards and had a 30-26 advantage on the third while handing Barber her first loss in her ninth outing.
The mat was a ghastly crimson from the second round on, thanks to a gash on the left side of Barber's head. And it didn't end there for the Colorado native, who suffered a left knee injury—instantly diagnosed as a partially torn ACL by a ring doctor—and was rendered unable to compete.
"She cried out, but she kept going like a true warrior," Modafferi said after the bout. "In here you've got to be a little merciless until the ref pulls you off."
Winner: Going the Prelim Distance
If you were looking for a quick path from the early prelims to the main card, too bad.
Of the six fights on premium cable before the night's $64.95 portion kicked in, five of them went the full 15-minute distance, giving golden UFC throats like Bruce Buffer and Rogan a full-on workout even before the brightest lights came on.
Aside from the aforementioned upset, a featherweight tussle between Sodiq Yusuff and Andre Fili was perhaps the most compelling of the non-pay portion, ending with Yusuff's hand raised with three matching scores of 29-28.
Also winning by going the full route early were Askar Askarov, Aleksa Camur and Sabina Mazo.
Loser: Mullet Magnificence
If the show's prelim portion had been scored on haircut strength, Tim Elliott wins easily. The fighter out of Lee's Summit, Missouri, was rocking a terrific blond mullet as he entered the cage.
However, Askar Askarov won everything else.
The rugged Russian nearly rendered his foe unconscious with a right hand in the initial round, then continued to strafe the American the rest of the way to secure a unanimous-decision win.
Askarov, now 11-0-1 as a pro, won by scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. He'd been ranked 12th among the UFC's flyweights entering the fight, compared to Elliott's seventh.
Bleacher Report agreed with the 30-27 tally for Askarov.
"That's as close to getting knocked out as I think I've ever seen," said Rogan, referring to a sequence when Elliott was hit square with the shot, then slumped stiff-legged on his feet before snapping back to apparent consciousness. "It's like the lights went out, and they came right back on."
Winner: Southpaw Surprises
Drew Dober and lightweight opponent Nasrat Haqparast were combatively equal for the first 60 or so seconds of their preliminary bout.
And then the left hand landed, and things were no longer equal.
Dober dropped a short, quick shot as Haqparast prepared for a sweeping kick attempt, violently dumping his foe to his back. He followed up with a series of brutal left-handed hammers as Haqparast lay helpless until referee Mark Smith intervened at 1:10 of Round 1.
It was the 22nd professional win for the 31-year-old Dober, who's been competing under the UFC umbrella since 2013. Interestingly, he's now 5-0 as a pro in January.
"I'm happy as hell. I love what I do," he said. "This is not the best me yet. Lightweight division, look out. I will knock anyone out. I enjoyed every moment of this, and there's gonna be more to come."
Loser: American Experience
Justin Ledet's face said it all.
The 31-year-old Texan had his arms raised in anticipation of a winning verdict after a three-round duel with UFC light heavyweight novice Aleksa Camur...but the verdict never came.
Instead, Buffer said Camur's name in conjunction with the phrase "winner by unanimous decision," leaving Ledet with a look best described as slack-jawed surprise.
Camur was awarded with scores of 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 after a 15-minute grind in which he, at age 24, frequently looked tired, confused and simply out-techniqued.
Still, he rallied in the final round with more effective leg kicks and strikes and scored the fight's lone takedown in the final 15 seconds. Camur wound up with an 88-60 edge in overall strikes and an 80-44 advantage in significant strikes.
Bleacher Report apparently agreed with Ledet, seeing him a 29-28 winner.
Winner: Colombian Youth
Colombian fighter Sabina Mazo was bloody and exhausted, but she was happy.
The fifth-youngest competitor under the UFC banner had a particularly difficult night against flyweight rival JJ Aldrich, but she nevertheless emerged a winner after Buffer announced a split-decision verdict in the 22-year-old's favor after three grueling rounds.
Two judges gave her 29-28 scores, while a dissenting judge saw the same score in Aldrich's favor.
Bleacher Report agreed with the minority.
"I feel I got my game going in the third round," Mazo said.
Aldrich, 27, faced disadvantages in height and reach but outworked her opponent with straighter, sharper punches in the opening five minutes. She continued to take the fight to the awkwardly lanky Mazo in the second before the Colombian rallied in the final minute by initiating a clinch and landing punishing knees.
Mazo was then dominant for much of the third with the same strategy and did enough to earn the win and boost her UFC mark to 2-1 and her overall professional mark to 8-1.
"I think I won the last two rounds," Mazo said. "I was expecting to win. It was a close fight."
UFC 246 Full Card Results
Conor McGregor def. Donald Cerrone by TKO, 0:40, Rd. 1.
Holly Holm def. Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).
Aleksei Oleinik def. Maurice Greene by submission (arm bar), 4:38, Rd. 2.
Brian Kelleher def. Ode Osbourne by submission (guillotine), 2:49, Rd. 1.
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:46, Rd. 2.
Roxanne Modafferi def. Maycee Barber by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Sodiq Yusuff def. Andre Fili by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Askar Askarov def. Tim Elliott by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Drew Dober def. Nasrat Haqparast by TKO, 1:10, Rd. 1.
Aleksa Camur def. Justin Ledet by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Sabina Mazo def. JJ Aldrich by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).