A Preview

Saturday was UFC’s biggest event in 2018, and as figures will either confirm or deny in the follow days, could be statistically UFC’s biggest event of all time. Conor McGregor comes back to the octagon after a near two year absence to face his biggest challenge yet, Khabib Nurmagomedov. McGregor got mixed up in a ton of stuff while gone from the UFC, including a 9 figure boxing match, being charged for assault and launching his own whiskey brand called “Proper Twelve”. His opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov has been longing for a challenge to his 26-0 undefeated record. He holds the Lightweight belt which was handed to him after defeating Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Dana White has been throwing around the prediction that the pay-per-view portion of the card will break 3 million buys, which would be nearly double the current record for UFC PPV buys (1.6 Million buys, when Nate Diaz fought the sequel fight against McGregor). Whether enough hype is there to actually obtain this number is hard to tell beforehand. When talking predictions for the fight, it’s also hard to call. Essentially every analyst has been echoing the same thing: If Conor keeps it standing, he wins. If Khabib brings it to the ground, he wins. Both guys have completely different fight styles.

While the two Lightweights have the spotlight for this card, there are many other interesting fights as well. Before the main event is Anthony Pettis versus Tony Ferguson. Pettis defeated Michael Chiesa via Submission in his last bout, with many people saying the win was very akin to how he fought back in the WEC promotion. Ferguson has been on a winning streak for the longest time and if not for McGregor’s return would have been one of the next in line for a title fight. The next contender for the Lightweight belt could easily be the winner of this bout, unless a different bout gets in the way (e.x. Khabib vs. McGregor 2 or McGregor vs. Diaz 3).

Derrick Lewis fights Alexander Volkov after what was the most disappointing bout of his career last summer. Lewis defeated Francis Ngannou via decision, after they both were booed due to lack of engagement from either fighter. Above them on the card is veteran fighter Ovince Saint Preux versus an undefeated fighter in Dominick Reyes. These fights and many more are just the top half. The evening started at 6PM when the UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims began.

A Recap Of The Show

  1. The first fight on the early prelims was Ryan LaFlare versus Tony Martin. In the first round LaFlare was continually trying for a Superman Punch. There was a pause only after a couple of minutes due to an accidental hit under the belt to Martin. In the second round Martin dropped LaFlare with a right jab. Martin took it to the ground and hit LaFlare with a strike above the eyes that got him bleeding. Martin tried for a D’Arce Choke with over a minute left in the second round, but LaFlare was able to flip out of it. In the final round Martin absolutely took out LaFlare with a leg kick to the head. Apparently he wouldn’t be satisfied with a decision win.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
LaFlare 9 9
Martin 10 10
  1. The second early prelim fight was Nik Lentz versus Gray Maynard in a Lightweight bout. Only a minute in the first round Maynard was shaken up by a strike which made Lentz take it to the ground for a moment or so. Later on when the fight was on the ground once again, Lentz tried for a Guillotine which Maynard slid out of impressively. With under a minute left in the first round Lentz was trying to look for the finish on the ground with strikes, but Maynard survived the flurry. The start of the second round had a pause after an accidental eye poke to Maynard. After being checked by a doctor the fight resumed. Lentz dropped Maynard with a leg kick then finished the fight on the ground.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Lentz 10
Maynard 8
  1. The final early prelim fight has Yana Kunitskaya looking for her first UFC win against Lina Lansberg, who picked up a win in May on a Fight Night card. In the first minute of the fight Kunitskaya did a judo throw to get to the ground. The same thing happened in the final minute of the first. In the second round both fighters were taken off the cage by the referee in hopes of more action in the fight. You could tell from early on that this fight was going to go all fifteen minutes. The commentators emphasized how this fight was expected to have much more kickboxing in it. When the fight went to the scorecard the judges score it in favor of Kunitskaya Unanimously (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Lansberg 9 9 9 27
Kunitskaya 10 10 10 30
  1. When the show moved over to FS1 for the rest of the preliminary bouts, Scott Holtzman faced Alan Patrick. Both fighters were hitting hard in the first round. Holtzman was given a cut beside his left eye. Holtzman was landing lots of clean leg kicks. Patrick tried for a takedown in the second round which was defended very well by Holtzman. Holtzman repeatedly would shrug throughout the fight after Patrick attempted to do anything. Holtzman floored Patrick with a right jab but couldn’t get the finish on the ground immediately. It stayed on the ground for two more minutes until Holtzman landed an elbow that put Patrick out.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Holtzman 10 10
Patrick 9 9
  1. Aspen Ladd and Tonya Evinger faced each other in the Bantamweight division. Early on in the fight the two went into the cage. Ladd got on top and started hailing down strikes. Enough strikes went unanswered, making the ref end the contest.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Ladd
Evinger
  1. Continuing on with the preliminary card, Vicente Luque fought Jalin Turner in a Welterweight fight. Turner is a new pickup for UFC, as he impressed critics on the “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” show. Turner got absolutely floored after a failed spinning back elbow. Luque countered it with a right that took Turner down. The fight was stopped on the ground. This fight proved more than anything that a spinning back fist is a high risk high reward move.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Luque
Turner
  1. In the main event of the preliminary portion of the card, Sergio Pettis (not the only Pettis on the card) faced Jussier Formiga. Both fighters stayed standing for the majority of the round. Formiga was repeatedly landing combinations that passed Pettis’ guard. Pettis showed amazing defence, stopping a takedown in the second round. These two were very evenly matched. Throughout the fight it was only Formiga who showed interest in going to the ground. Most of the third round was up against the cage with Formiga looking for a Rear Naked Choke while standing. Jussier won on the scorecards after the fight clock ran out. While Unanimous, one judge was very different than the others (30-26, 29-28 & 29 28).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Pettis 9 10 9 28
Formiga 10 9 10 29
  1. Starting off the PPV portion of the show was Michelle Waterson versus Felice Herrig in a Strawweight fight. The first round did not have much going on between these two, with Herrig winning by the smallest of margins on my scorecard. Waterson landed a judo throw after minutes of being up against the cage. This was a much better round for Waterson than the first. The referee stood the two fighters up with two minutes left in the final round. The fight went the distance and gave Michelle Waterson a Unanimous victory. After the fight Waterson said that she wants to be the first UFC Champion who is a mom (30-26, 29-27 & 30-27).

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Waterson 9 10 10
Herrig 10 9 9
  1. Derrick Lewis fought Alexander Volkov in the next bout. Minutes into the fight it was already more entertaining than Derrick’s last fight. Volkov was landing more significant strikes and doing more work on the ground. Derrick finished the round somewhat strong but not strong enough to win the round. This whole fight was a battle of range. At the end of the first round when Lewis was standing and trying to hit Volkov who was on the ground, he missed a ton of shots due to Volkov’s legs pushing him so far away. After the first round Derrick’s corner told him that he is letting Volkov control the range. In what was the most embarrassing part of the fight Lewis tried for a takedown and slipped, putting only himself on the floor, on his back. Almost out of disapproval Volkov asked the ref to stand him up. Lewis somehow landed a bomb with 20 seconds to with a left right combination. This was easily one of the best comebacks of the year. Without this moment, Lewis would have easily lost the fight. After the fight Lewis gave an extremely entertaining interview. This was the first time I’ve heard someone say that they don’t want a title fight, specifically because he doesn’t “have that type of gas tank.”

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Lewis 9 9
Volkov 10 10
  1. From one big man fight to another, Ovince Saint Preux fought Dominick Reyes in a Light Heavyweight division fight. This was a fight where stuff happened, but it’s hard to say that any of it was worth mentioning. The crowd didn’t rebel against the fight, but instead sat with their hands on their seats. It felt like the crowd did not care. Ovince Saint Preux got dropped with a second left when the fight ended. There was confusion on the commentary table with Joe Rogan arguing that this was a KO win for Reyes. When the fight finished the scorecards favoured Reyes unanimously (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27). When asked about the finish, Reyes said that it was a knockout.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Saint Preux 9 9 9 27
Reyes 10 10 10 30
  1. In the co-main event slot was Anthony Pettis versus Tony Ferguson. Early into the fight the commentary team broke into discussion about if Ferguson returned too early from his Knee Surgery. Pettis was running laps around the octagon in the first round. Ferguson got in a flurry of offense in the final ten seconds of the first round. After Pettis had a fantastic combination the fight was paused to clean blood off of both fighters. The two bloodied fighters nodded at each other as the fight was about to be resumed. While Pettis seemed to be in trouble a few times deep into round two, he was still hitting Ferguson with combos that were powerful. Pettis was extremely bloody as the round ended. In between round two and three the fight was ended due to Pettis breaking his hand. Ferguson was visibly frustrated by this finish. Respectable to call the fight in-between rounds instead of trying to fight in between rounds. Both fighters gave passionate interviews afterwards.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
Pettis 10 9
Ferguson 9 10
  1. The twelfth fight of the evening was the long awaited main event. Conor McGregor is not champion, so he entered first. He came out to his traditional mix of Foggy Dew and Hypnotize. With the introductions and all this for sure had a big fight feel. When Khabib was introduced he got some boos from the crowd. This wasn’t noticed when Conor had his introduction. Veteran referee Herb Dean was the third man in the octagon for this bout. The two did not touch gloves before the fight began. Only after a few strikes in the fight Khabib went right for a takedown. Once they had been on the ground for a while the crowd began to boo once again. The fight stayed on the ground for the rest of the first round with Khabib on top. At the start of the second round Khabib rocked Conor with a right. This came off as a surprise to some, as going back to stand up was almost a reset for Conor. After both exchanged strikes Khabib landed another takedown. Khabib started to land with his fists while on top, something he didn’t really do in the first round. It started to look like McGregor was really in trouble. Herb Dean was getting closer as Khabib continued his ground and pound. Conor persevered through it as Khabib decided to eventually stop with the strikes. Conor survived the round but could have easily lost this round 10-8 on some judges scorecards. After a minute and a half of stand up fighting, Conor did a good job at stopping a takedown attempt from Khabib. These two traded blows for the whole of the third round. In between rounds Khabib complained that McGregor was holding gloves. In the fourth round Khabib took it to the floor and eventually put in a Rear Naked Choke to make McGregor tap out.w

Right after the fight Khabib was shouting at Conor. He then went for Conor’s corner, throwing his mouthpiece at the cage. He jumped the fence and went after Conors team. While hard to see, it looked like Conor was fighting someone at the same time. Once he was separated, someone jumped the octagon and blindsided Conor. The broadcast went to a shot far away from the octagon where details were hard to see. After a while Khabib was brought back in the octagon. Fellow fighters Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold were talking to Khabib, trying to diffuse the situation. Dana White was also there while dozens of security guards held Khabib back. Khabib was asking for his belt but Dana White said that if he puts the belt on him people in the crowd will start throwing stuff. Khabib left the ring without the belt, and that was the night. Drinks were thrown as he left the arena.

My Scorecard:

Fighter Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Total
McGregor 9 8 10
Nurmagomedov 10 10 9

The Aftermath

There’s no good way to spin this story. What could have been the biggest night in UFC history quickly became one of, if not the worst. If Khabib were able to show restraint and not fight after the sanctioned fight had ended, this would have been an amazing night. What was a fight from Khabib that is worthy of study was tarnished right after. To Khabib this was the boiling point from months of being on the receiving end of trash talk. When not looking at the main event, this actually a really good night. In my personal opinion fight of the night goes to Anthony Pettis and Tony Ferguson. Ferguson should be looking at a title shot next.

There’s MMA fans and those who watch the big fights. Other than that, there’s a big chunk of the population who have a bad perception of the sport. When something like this happens, it only makes the sport look worse. For some, it legitimizes the idea that all of this isn’t a sport in the first place. A big paycheck was made from this event, but at the end of the day it was dirty money.