Who needs takedown defense when you are the most dynamic and hardest hitting striker in your featherweight division? Not Conor McGregor, apparently. Here is my take on the PPV which saw the crowning of the UFC's first Irish interim champion.
Almeida vs. Pickett: The first round was a draw, with Pickett dropping Almeida twice with right hands and Almeida almost catching Pickett with a heel hook. He also dropped Pickett with a right of his own. However, an explosive flying knee by Almeida in the second round put a quick end to Pickett and made this a "changing of the guard" match for the bantamweight division.
Winner: Almeida (KO)
Nelson vs. Thatch: After a left hook-right hook combo, Nelson put on a "BJJ 101" class for the fans. Side control. Transition to mount. Take your opponent's back. Get a body triangle. Soften up your opponent with strikes before getting the rear naked choke and just wait for the tap. The end.
Winner: Nelson (submission)
Bermudez vs. Stephens: The true fight of the night! In spite of getting cut open and completely handled in Round 1, Stephens rallied in a back-and-forth brawl in Round 2 where he hit Bermudez so hard with a left that Dennis "The Menace" actually spun around like a top! That being said, Bermudez was still winning the fight in Round 3 when, out of nowhere, Stephens dropped him with a flying knee when his own back was against the cage and swarmed him on the ground to finish the fight.
Winner: Stephens (TKO)
MacDonald vs. Lawler: Lawler's straight left in Round 5, which caused MacDonald to put his hands on his head and fold backward into a fetal position in the first slomo knockout I've ever seen, was exciting. The rest of the fight was a total snoozefest, with about a minute and 15 seconds of action and almost twenty minutes of them playing octagon pattycake. "Fight of the Night" this was not...
Winner (and still UFC welterweight champion): Lawler (KO)
Mendes vs. McGregor: In spite of absorbing a spinning back kick to the body which seemed to knock the wind out of him, Mendes dominated the fight at first, taking McGregor down 4 times in two rounds and smothering him a la Silva-Sonnen I. Then he went for a guillotine and gave McGregor just barely enough space to escape and pop back to his fight. A one-two combo was all it took for McGregor to knock Mendes out become the interim UFC featherweight champion.
"I was going to prove to the people that I was the true fighter." McGregor said afterwards, acknowledging that he was protected from guys like Mendes on his path to a title shot.
Indeed, the Celtic Warrior has proven that, and I believe that at this point, his fight with Aldo will just be a formality.
Winner (and new UFC interim featherweight champion): Conor McGregor.