By: Sean Crose
After an absence of over a year, Conor McGregor returned to the octagon on Saturday night where he met Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in a scheduled five round welterweight bout. The main event of UFC 246 featured a past his prime Cerrone facing the biggest star in the sport, a man who nonetheless hadn’t won a fight, either in boxing or in mixed martial arts, since 2016. The match, which was aired live on ESPN pay per view, was held at the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. Fighting at 170 for only the third time in his career, the 21-4 McGregor was eager to impress against his highly regarded 36-13 veteran opponent.
First, though, fans were presented with the rematch between Ronda Rousey conqueror Holly Holm and a woman she bested by split decision in 2015, Raquel Pennington in a scheduled three round battle at bantamweight. Although both had been bested by the potent Amanda Nunes, a good showing in Vegas would put the winner back in the spotlight. The first round saw the 12-5 Holm maintain range, then work the 10-7 Pennington against the cage. Pennington herself was able to place Holm against the cage by round’s end, though Holm still appeared in control. In fact, Holm was able to keep Pennington in the clinch for most of the second round.
The third round was more competitive than the first two. Still, it was clear that Holm was simply the stronger and more skilled of the two fighters. At 38 years old, the New Mexico native walked out of the octagon with a unanimous decision win. By fighting smartly and employing the clinch effectively, Holm was able to dominate for the vast majority of the bout. “I still want to do a lot better than my performance tonight,” Holm told Joe Rogan in the post fight interview.
It was time for the main event. And a short main event it was. Within seconds of the start of the bout, McGregor sent Cerrone stumbling with a thunderous head kick after possibly breaking the man’s nose with shoulder strikes while in the clinch. McGregor, simply put, then took to punching Cerrone’s lights out. Referee Herb Dean let the beating last for a few moments, the wisely stepped in and stopped the match. “Ireland, baby!” McGregor screamed into Joe Rogan’s mic during the post fight press conference. “Thank you all for the support!” McGregor yelled to the crowd graciously. It was an amazing return for a man whose future had been cloudy after losing to Khabib Nurmagomadov and Floyd Mayweather respectively.
“I’d never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said about McGregor’s shoulder work. “I got my ass whipped early.” In a sign of good sportsmanship, both men shook hands warmly after the fight.