The T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was home to a historic night of fights, with seven (T)KOs, one submission, and four decisions.
Tony Ferguson made a triumphant return from injury to not defend his non-existent interim lightweight title against former champ Anthony Pettis, who was pulled between the second and third rounds after suffering a broken hand. Derrick Lewis stripped off after knocking out Alexander Volkov because his “balls was hot,” and prospects Vincent Luque and Dominick Reyes impressed in their respective bouts.
The big story was always going to be the main event though, where the Celtic tiger faced off against the Dagestani bear in a proper (12) battle of wit, will and warfare. Unfortunately, a great fight was marred by some utter stupidity by Khabib Nurmagomedov and his team after the bout. Khabib jumped into the crowd to attack Dillon Danis, and one of his lackeys (Zubaira Tukhugov) jumped into the cage to sucker punch McGregor from behind as Conor was standing passively and recuperating from the bout. Disgusting display.
Performance of the Night: Aspen Ladd, Derrick Lewis
Aspen Ladd and Tonya Evinger got down to business as soon as the gate closed. Evinger started off well with solid work inside the clinch, backing Ladd up against the cage. Then she made the cardinal error of going for a takedown, and everything began to unravel from there. Ladd stuffed the takedown, gained top position and began a nasty striking assault on Tonya. Aspen took Evinger’s back and worked to get a rear-naked choke but decided that her positioning was best served with another punch-fest. At 3:26 of R1, the referee called the fight. Aspen Ladd took the win and a $50K bonus that will no doubt come in handy for the rising prospect.
Lewis vs. Volkov started with Volkov landing almost at will before an apparent eye poke two minutes in on Lewis. Lewis recovered quickly, but Volkov gets a takedown three minutes in, passes to side control and starts landing elbows to body. Lewis tries to stand up in slow motion. Volkov takes his back easily. Lewis spins into half guard in slow motion like the swamp thing and throws big ground and pound with 20 seconds left. Volkov is covering up, Lewis manages 4-5 shots then gets sleepy.
Volkov lights Lewis up early in the second round and has him on queer street. Lewis goes for the world’s slowest ankle pick. He’s already gassed. Volkov continues piecing him up. Straights over and over again, Lewis completely incapable of stopping them and seems too tired to even hold his hands up by his face, or has decided blocking with his orbital bone is more effective than blocking with his hands. His orbital bone absorbs Volkov’s punches and becomes even bigger and more powerful or it swells up from the damage. One or the other.
Volkov continues ever so slowly chopping Lewis down. Lewis’ corner between rounds tells him to pick it up. Presumably “it” is his knuckle, which he’s practically dragging along the canvas at this point. Volkov punches Lewis in the eye. Lewis bends over, holding his eye. Volkov starts punching Lewis to the ribs. Lewis ambles away and Volkov just stops hitting him.
Lewis keeps throwing the same two hooks over and over again. He mixes things up by shoving his hand at Volkov’s neck instead. Volkov, impressed by this incredible strategy, responds by letting Lewis smash the side of his head in with a hook, giving Lewis the TKO victory and $50K in bonus cash.
The post fight interview was, as always where Lewis is involved, gold. Here’s a sample:
Rogan: “Derrick, why did you take your pants off?”
Lewis: “My balls was hot.”
Fight of the Night: Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis
Tony Ferguson seems to be limping a little on his knee early into the fight. He keeps the pressure on Pettis who is fighting with his back against the cage for much of this fight. Pettis is continually throwing leg kicks. Pettis throws a handstand capoeira kick 4:20 in, which is mostly blocked, but looks incredible. Pettis looks for a counter superman punch several times. Ferguson tries to throw the showtime kick at the end of the round, but Pettis blocks it
Pettis lands big shots, Ferguson is dropped and tries to ninja-roll away. Pettis stays on him, hits him again, gets him down. There’s blood everywhere, and it seems to be coming from a small cut on Pettis’ hairline from an elbow from the bottom. Restart comes after the cut, and Pettis goes for another capoeira kick, loses his balance, stumbles against the cage. Ferguson just misses with his follow up, and Pettis runs off with his tongue out. Pettis having success with counter rights over the top, but he’s getting tired.
Ferguson gets Pettis against the cage, bloodies him up good. They’re trading in close quarters, defense isn’t even a consideration. The last 10 seconds of the round sees Ferguson back Pettis against the cage, throwing shots as Pettis defends. Pettis does a cartwheel and sits his feet on Ferguson’s head? What?
After the round ends, Anthony Pettis tells his corner his hand is broken. His coach, Duke Roufus, makes the decision to pull Pettis from the fight. A controversial call, but in a war like this, that hand will end up more and more hurt, or Pettis will be fighting one-handed. Either way, Pettis would take far more damage than necessary and have little to no chance of winning. Roufus makes the brave call.
Both Ferguson and Pettis received $50,000 for their part in an absolute war that had one of the best rounds of MMA in the last decade, never mind a year.