KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV retained his UFC lightweight championship with an excellent performance against former two-weight king Conor McGregor, submitting the former king in the fourth round by neck crank at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
However for Khabib the night was more memorable for the deplorable scenes in the aftermath of his win, where he launched himself at McGregor cornerman Dillon Danis outside of the cage, whilst members of his team jumped the cage to attack McGregor.
The build-up to the fight was volatile to say the least, with political undertones and verbal barbs thrown the champion’s way by McGregor, something the Russian champion had clearly not forgotten even once the job was done and the victory was secured.
Both men were ushered from the Octagon and neither was present for the announcement of Nurmagomedov’s victory, with his title reign now under threat. Members of Khabib’s team were arrested, and subsequently released when McGregor refused to press charges, whilst his purse has been withheld by the Nevada State Athletic Commission pending an investigation.
Khabib could well be stripped of his title after the NSAC investigation and the scenes will be a permanent black mark on his career. UFC President Dana White refused to put the belt around his waist before he left the cage due to fears of igniting the situation further.
It was a dominant performance by Nurmagomedov, who dragged McGregor to the canvas on a few occasions. He kept “The Notorious” down for the majority of the first round, stamping his authority on the fight early on. He didn’t let his hands go often, forcing McGregor to cope with the pressure off his back.
In the second though, it was Khabib’s power that came into play, as he dropped McGregor with a right hand and looked to end matters there and then. McGregor did everything he could to defend the mauling that Khabib was administering and did well to get through a difficult five minutes.
The Irishman let his hands go in the third, with Khabib content to take a rest, trapping McGregor up against the cage whenever the opportunity presented itself. He did get through with the odd shot, however McGregor was the more active fighter in the third and finally got his own foothold in the fight.
It didn’t last though, as Khabib tripped McGregor in the clinch and went to work in top position in the fourth. McGregor scrambled as he looked to escape, however turned too far and Khabib snapped in a rear-naked choke that forced him to tap out and cap his two year return off with a defeat.
Sadly, for Khabib his actions after the contest will be all this night is remembered for.
In the co-main event Tony Ferguson re-affirmed his title credentials in the lightweight division and should be next in line for a shot at the crown, following a great win, six months after a serious injury, over “Showtime” Anthony Pettis, who was withdrawn by his corner after the second round due to a hand injury.
Both men are former lightweight champions, albeit with interim status for Ferguson, and they combined for a gripping second round, which saw Pettis sporting a horrific crimson mask, with cuts on his head and his eye, as Ferguson piled the pressure on.
Pettis dropped him early in the round with a right hand, which was preceded by a reasonably quiet opener, which Ferguson escaped with moves that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a video game, before he got control, avoiding a spinning kick from Pettis, who looks back to his entertaining best following his win last time out over Michael Chiesa.
It looked as if the thriller would continue into the third, however due to his hand, Pettis was unable to continue. Ferguson though reminded us that he is not the forgotten man of the lightweight division.
On the undercard, light-heavyweight Dominick Reyes was forced to go the distance for the first time, but picked up a hugely impressive win over Ovince Saint Preux. Reyes who was handed a big contract recently in the UFC proved he is one to watch with the unanimous decision win, scored 30-27 on all three cards.
Derrick Lewis was on the verge of defeat in his heavyweight clash with Alexander Volkov, until the dying seconds of the final round. Lewis uncorked a tremendous right hand that flattened Volkov, who was 11 seconds away from the biggest win of his career after dominating the contest.
Michelle Waterson opened the main card with a superb win over Felice Herrig in a women’s strawweight contest. Waterson, a former champion in Invicta at atomweight, got the better of the contest on the feet and more than held her own on the ground, as she earned a unanimous decision win, 30-26, 29-28 and 30-27 on the card.
Jussier Formiga moved closer towards a future shot at the flyweight title, as he got past Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision in the headlining bout on the preliminary card. It was scored 30-26 and 29-28 twice in favour of the Brazilian.
Vicente Luque and Aspen Ladd were in no mood to hang about in their contests, both stopping Jalin Turner and Tonya Evinger respectively in the first round. It was a third straight win for Luque, who will now set his sights on a ranked opponent at welterweight, whilst Ladd’s future is less clear, as he really struggled to make the bantamweight limit for the clash with Evinger.
Scott Holtzman was also in impressive form in the prelims, getting past Alan Patrick in exciting fashion, finally stopping him in the third with some vicious elbows on the ground of their lightweight battle.
The Fight Pass portion of the card was headlined by a dull battle between bantamweights, and former Cris Cyborg victims, Yana Kunitskaya, who earned a unanimous decision, 30-27 on all three cards, over Lina Lansberg.
However, there was some excitement provided by lightweight Nik Lentz, who dominated Gray Maynard, before dropping with a head kick in the second round and getting the stoppage. It was an almost identical stoppage to welterweight Tony Martin’s over Ryan LaFlare in the opening fight of the evening, the only difference being that Martin’s came in the third round.