In-depth: UFC 229 – The fight and the fallout

On October 6th, Khabib Nurmagomedov exacted a one-sided beating of Conor McGregor over four rounds to make his premier defence of the lightweight championship, but unfortunately, it’s the Dagestani’s actions after Herb Dean peeled him off McGregor that will forever take away from his incredible performance. I will break down the fight specifics, and then detail the confirmed events after the final bell, and what implications and next steps will be on the cards.

The Fight

McGregor, in my opinion, looked almost too tentative to pull the trigger on Khabib. When he wasn’t on his butt at the fence, it was clear he was obviously wary of Nurmagomedov’s incredible wrestling pedigree. However, it was Conor who landed the first real shot of the bout, circling Khabib onto a left hand in the opening seconds. An early, low single dive from Khabib seen him lock onto Conor’s ankle to counteract any immediate danger. McGregor initially defended well, keeping his balance but Khabib eventually elevated his leg and scored his first takedown after scuttling to the fence. Conor was initially controlling the posture of Khabib to prevent his devastating ground and pound. Khabib spent the remainder of the round in Conor’s half guard, with the Dubliner unable to scramble as expected by many.

Conor looked a tad wild with his striking at the beginning of the second, and his usual creative movement was scarce. After a brief exchange between the two, Conor searched for that stiff uppercut implemented against Nate Diaz in their first meeting, but Khabib managed to evade the shot, forcing Conor to the mat for the second time courtesy of a high crotch single leg.

Conor 6

Real trouble set in once again for Conor, as Khabib, now working from a stacked guard, began raining down heavy shots on his opponent forcing him to give up his guard momentarily. Herb Dean watched closely as Conor began to cover up with the finish in sight. Khabib then transitioned to half guard once more, looking to step over into side control where he ate an illegal knee from the Irishman. Pointing out the illegal shot to Dean, the renowned referee called for the action to continue.

The second round again went in Khabib’s favour based on activity, with Conor sneering after defending a single leg before the klaxon.

The third round approached with Khabib bizarrely electing to stand with Conor for the opening exchanges. Conor looked incredibly tentative to throw as Khabib kept inside the pocket where Conor stuffed a double leg attempt before landing an elbow and a knee to the body in the resulting clinch.

Conor 5

Conor was once again forced to defend against the fence, doing so admirably and again found a home for a knee to the body. Khabib then ate an uppercut, showing a granite chin and calling Conor forward after landing a left hand of his own upstairs. Forced to the ground for a moment via an outside trip, Conor eventually got back to his feet and scored another illegal shot, this time landing to the back of Khabib’s head.

Khabib’s decision to stand with the counter striker, ultimately seen his thirty round’s of dominance snapped as McGregor took the third on all three scorecards.

Conor started the fourth (and soon to be fight-ending round) on the front foot, forcing Khabib onto a left hand from the Dubliner. Khabib was certainly affected by those stabbing teep kicks to the solar plexus by McGregor, finding his target early in the fourth, but another solid entry from the Sambo specialist resulted in yet another demoralizing takedown against McGregor.

conor-mcgregor-khabib

Unable to find a way under the neck, Khabib tightened a neck crank with McGregor tapping. Eventually releasing after some prying from Herb Dean, Khabib began talking to a seated McGregor…

The Fallout

After his back and forth with Conor, Khabib fired his mouthpiece towards the fence where McGregor’s corner was seated as he was insulted by McGregor’s BJJ partner, Dillon Danis. The Russian then scaled the Octagon and leaped toward the former Marcelo Garcia prodigy, with a scuffle breaking out among the pair.

Conor 7

Rising back to his feet, McGregor attempted to follow suit and hopped onto the Octagon fence where he was restrained by security, before throwing a left hand at Abubakar Nurmagomedov. Conor then found himself at odds with two more members of the Nurmagomedov camp as an unknown assailant made an attempt to confront the Dubliner, but was met with a left hand.

During this exchange, UFC Featherweight Zubaira Tukhugov made his way over the fence and landed a couple of shots to the back of a defenceless McGregor, who was then eventually tackled by the second member of Team Khabib. Coach John Kavanagh managed to cause some separation.

Khabib’s fellow AKA members, Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier looked to defuse the delicate situation with Khabib, who was now demanding his UFC lightweight championship, something promotion president Dana White refused to avoid any further fracas within the hatred and alcohol-fuelled Vegas crowd. In the meantime, McGregor was escorted out of the Octagon and backstage, opting to miss the post-fight interview.

Conor 3

Khabib eventually left the cage under high-security scrutiny, although without his title with Dana White expecting a raining of objects into the Octagon if the Dagestani was presented with the title, especially due to the large Irish contingency. Instead, Bruce Buffer announced the official decision as the crowd and trio of commentators tried to wrap their head’s around what they had just witnessed.

The Aftermatch and Opinion

As of Monday, Khabib’s cheque has been frozen by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while Conor has been paid his fight purse in full. Three members from Nurmagomedov’s entourage have been arrested and subsequently released after McGregor elected against pressing charges.

However, the NSAC are currently reviewing footage of the incident inside the T-Mobile Arena with a strict punishment expected to be trashed down to Nurmagomedov, particularly after the commission governor was escorted from the building.

Going off my gut feeling, I believe the commission will issue Khabib with some sort of ban and financial sting. A VISA to enter the United States, the home of his occupation has been called into question, with many wondering if the Russian will have his current one revoked or will struggle to receive one in the future.

On the other hand, I fully expect Khabib to be stripped of his lightweight crown – disappointing considering his spur of the moment post-fight antics may have just cost him his well-deserved legacy and the accolade he strived since his Octagon bow.

The next legitimate contender emerged from the fold on Saturday night as well as the former interim king, Tony Ferguson sliced up Anthony Pettis to extend his win streak to eleven straight fights. With a spine-tingling and fight of the night winning performance that had the Vegas masses on their feet, it would be difficult to refuse “El Cucuy” a legitimate shot at the official strap. He will be no doubt held in high regard by the UFC brass after such a positive performance on the opposite side of the UFC 229 spectrum. Don’t be surprised if the UFC book Ferguson vs. McGregor for a vacant title if Khabib gets stripped, a dire straits of a matchup for Conor in my opinion.

tony-ferguson-ufc-229

At this stage in his career, with two losses in his last four Octagon appearances, a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz regardless of the Stockton son’s outcome against Dustin Poirier at MSG in November, not only offers a considerable paycheck, a chance for Conor to ignite the fire that once was before the Mayweather meeting. But not to mention, it would offer also a safer route to UFC immortality.

On reflection, the UFC was undoubtedly dragged through the mud by the incident after the UFC 229 main event. On arguably their biggest stage yet, the promotion may have lost a chunk of hard-earned legitimacy on the world stage, and will feel a dent in the commodity for their lightweight stars should the commission follow through with the strictest punishments possible. In a year of struggle for star power, it will be interesting to see how the next few months play out.

How do you think this will end? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?..

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