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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?..

News: Dana White on making Diaz vs Poirier a five round fight – “I will try to make it”

Over the last 24 hours, UFC President Dana White has been faced with an almost unprecedented amount of backlash from the MMA community following the announcement that a flyweight title contest between Valentina Shevchenko and Sijara Eubanks would be the main event for UFC 230 in New York.

Continue reading “News: Dana White on making Diaz vs Poirier a five round fight – “I will try to make it””

Opinion: Is Nate Diaz a big enough PPV draw to headline UFC 230?

With UFC 230 now less than six weeks away and fans still awaiting an announcement regarding a main event, speculation is rife regarding who could potentially meet the high expectations of headlining a UFC event at Madison Square Garden, New York.

Continue reading “Opinion: Is Nate Diaz a big enough PPV draw to headline UFC 230?”

Report: Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirer at UFC 230

It has now been confirmed that Nate Diaz (20-11-0), after two years out of MMA competition, returns this year at UFC 230 to fight against Dustin “The Diamond” Poirer (24501 NC) at the prestigious Madison Square Garden Arena, New York.

Continue reading “Report: Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirer at UFC 230”

News: Diaz accuses GSP of using steroids

Earlier this week, Dana White dropped the bomb that George St. Pierre vs. Nate Diaz is in the works for August 4th. Via Twitter, Nate has decided to add an extra snap, crackle and pop to procedings and give his side of thought about White’s declaration.

He started the verbal punches by claiming St. Pierre was on steroids during the 2013 bout with brother Nick (where GSP defended his at the time untouchable welterweight championship) with a lop-sided unanimous decision win over the eldest Diaz brother.

A fight between GSP and Nate would argueably be the biggest fight of the UFC year so far, and judging by the first comments from Nate, you can already sense the fire that the press conferences will throw up. The Stockton mentality is something that has been greatly missed in MMA, and Nate has brought it back with a bang in his first public comment.

GSP would be making his lightweight debut, and Diaz would definetly be far from a walk in the park. If the rumoured fight comes to fruition, it seems George may be planning to solidify his name as the “GOAT” by being the first man to win 3 belts in UFC history with the move down to lightweight. If Nate is able to get under the skin of a depleted GSP, this may not be as much of a one sided fight as people think.

One thing is guaranteed, the coming weeks are going to be interesting, and without a doubt entertaining. Let us all hope that the MMA stars align and we see this come together.

Opinion: George St. Pierre vs Nate Diaz: The UFC masterplan

With alot of talk happening of GSP vs Diaz, its clear too see what game the UFC are playing. With the fight happening at lightweight, they are obviously trying to line up a super fight between McGregor and Rush.

In my opinion, that is only one facet of the plan. With a fight of this magnitude, they need to hold the fight in one of the most famous sporting arenas in the world. The MGM grand or Madison Square Garden may be the choice of many a fight fan, but this arena is grander again.

The arena in question goes by the name of Croke Park.

‘Croker’ may not be well known to many off the shores of the emerald isle, but ask any Irish man, woman or child and they will tell you about the folklore and legends that have been created on the hollowed turf.

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Ireland’s finest sporting moments have been seen here, and what finer sporting moment would there be than the fighting pride of Dublin taking on arguably one of the biggest names in combat sports history.

In terms of PPV numbers, GSP vs Mcgregor will be the biggest event ever, a possible 2 million plus buys could be expected for this. The capacity, if this event does happen, will be in excess of 90,000. And with it being held in Conor’s back yard, you can bet your house that the arena will be brimmed. We are quite simply looking at something that could well be the biggest event in sporting history, never mind MMA.

Dana White has teased Croke Park in the past but has never followed through on his word. Possibly because no fight has deserved the right to be held in Croke Park. Not that I am knocking any fighter Mcgregor has fought, but the last fight to be held in “Croker” was a Muhammed Ali fight, so the fight that happens has to be the stuff of absolute legend.

I recently attended Croke Park for a GAA match, and with an attendance of 9000 or so the atmosphere was still electric. I found myself that if McGregor did fight here, there would be an atmosphere that the world would never have seen before, and probably will never see again.

Croke Park is the perfect Arena to house GSP vs McGregor, its just a question of whether everything will fall into place now.

The rocky road to Dublin begins with GSP vs Diaz…

News: Dana White targeting Nate Diaz vs Georges St-Pierre for UFC 227 co-main event

Speaking on the UFC Unfiltered podcast with Jim Norton and Matt Serra, UFC President Dana White confirmed that he is working toward matching Nate Diaz (20-11) and the former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion, Georges “Rush” St-Pierre(26-2). The fight is intended to serve as the co-main event for UFC 227.

At the 1:10:00-1:10:57 of the podcast, Dana goes into the topic of Stockton native where he confirms that his intention is for Diaz to fight St-Pierre at UFC 227 in the lightweight division.

St-Pierre was the most dominant welterweight champion in UFC history. After vacating the title and stepping away from the sport, the Canadian returned in dramatic fashion last year, capturing the UFC middleweight title from then champion Michael Bisping at UFC 217. Should the bout with Diaz materialize, it would be yet another new direction for GSP with him dropping to 155lbs for the first time in his storied career.

Diaz however, is a natural lightweight, spending much of his career in the division prior to embarking on a pair of welterweight scraps with Conor McGregor.  While the Stockton native does have a history of fighting at lightweight, he would be facing the not insignificant challenge of handing St-Pierre his first loss since his stunning loss to Matt Sera more than ten years ago at UFC 69.

Since his pair of fights with McGregor in 2016, Diaz has remained on the sidelines, insisting that he will only get back into the octagon for a big money fight. Sitting at number eight in the UFC lightweight rankings it is unlikely that he would jump the lengthy queue to fight reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. With a trilogy bout against longtime foe McGregor not seeming likely in the near future, there are very few options available for Diaz. A fight with the man many consider to be the greatest of all time appears to tick all the necessary boxes to get the brash talking fan favourite back into the octagon.

 

News: Nate Diaz and the UFC in discussions for August return

One of the sports biggest personalities and polarizing figures may be in line for a highly anticipated return to action this summer, as Stockton son Nate Diaz is reportedly in talks with the Ultimate Fighting Championship regarding a lightweight Octagon walk, after over 18 months away from the sport.

Diaz of course last featured in August 2016, losing a close majority decision to fierce foe Conor McGregor in their five round UFC 202 headliner. Cesar Gracie trainee Diaz was briefly speculated with a siege of welterweight best Tyron Woodley’s title, a bout which ultimately failed to come to fruition late last year. Talks are not believed to be finalized as of yet, but a rumored match up between Eddie Alvarez or Dustin Poirier is on the horizon.

A hugely talented Jiu-Jitsu player, particularly off his back, Nate also represents a tough puzzle on the feet. A stiff boxing typical Southpaw stance allows the younger Diaz brother to maintain range and setup slick one-twos with stinging effect. The Ultimate Fighter victor holds impressive names in his win column, picking up decision wins over UFC stalwart Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, and featherweight striker Michael Johnson, along with submission victories over Jim Miller, PRIDE lightweight best Takanori Gomi, a memorable triangle win over Kurt Pellegrino, Manny Gamburyan and Melvin Guillard.

Undeniably, Nate’s rise to his current stardom was propelled no end by not only his short notice replacing of Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 196 against then featherweight champion Conor McGregor, but his survival of a one sided first round to find his range after the first buzzer, hurting Conor on the feet, forcing ‘The Notorious’ into a frail double leg. Diaz subsequently sprawled, searched for a guillotine before McGregor gave up mount. Posturing up, Nate landed big from the top, with Conor eventually rolling to his back giving up his neck to a vice like rear-naked choke.

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Inflicting McGregor’s premier UFC defeat to date, Nate accepted a rematch, again at welterweight, and after a failed pairing at UFC 200, both men finally clashed at UFC 202. Implementing a less shot heavy and more volume conservative display, McGregor landed an early first round knockdown, followed by two quickfire left hands in the second to force Nate to the canvas for a third time. Nate recovered as so often with both himself and Nick, to pressure Conor for two, arguably three rounds, before the judges awarded the Dubliner a majority decision victory, with a rubber match now on the cards.

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The rumored August return could come at UFC 227, with a bantamweight rematch between T.J. Dillashaw and former Team Alpha Male teammate Cody Garbrandt serving as the main event. Older brother Nick Diaz has also been linked with a huge octagon return after a USADA whereabouts violation was recently cleared up by Jeff Novitsky. It is unclear as of yet if both Diaz brothers will compete on the same card, but with the UFC’s TV deal up for grabs, a Diaz double header would boost ranking considerably.