After weeks of bad blood in the build-up to UFC 229, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor’s rivalry came to a head on Saturday night…. and then again just after the result.
Following a dominant performance that even shockingly saw the champion drop McGregor on the feet, Nurmagomedov routinely held top position against his challenger on the mat before securing a fourth-round rear-naked choke.
With Khabib making true on his words that he would make the Irishman tap, Nurmagomedov threw his mouthpiece towards McGregor’s corner before scaling the cage and looking to fight Dillon Danis.
With the outside of the cage resembling a mosh pit, the inside of the Octagon quickly dissolved into a similar scene as McGregor struck out against a member of Khabib’s team on the cage before another struck the former two-weight champion from behind.
Fortunately with a few days removed the incident, no one was seriously hurt or injured and there shouldn’t be any major repercussions for Nurmagomedov himself. Unfortunately though, the scuffle has taken a lot of the talk away from what was a very good night of fights for the UFC.
In the co-main event, Tony Ferguson’s remarkable return from injury was punctuated with a brilliant win over Anthony Pettis. Ferguson and Pettis battled it out with a relentless pace before Duke Roufus, Pettis’ head coach, brought an end to the bout in between the second and third round.
Elsewhere there were big wins for the likes of Derrick Lewis, Dominick Reyes and Michelle Waterson while the undercard offerings brought a ton of exciting stoppages.
With what could transpire to be the UFC’s biggest ever event in the books, here are five fights that the promotion should make with UFC 229’s big winners:
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson
With Khabib Nurmagomedov’s domination over Conor McGregor, there should only be one fight to make in the UFC’s lightweight division.
The Russian fighter’s performance should put a McGregor rematch on the backburner, despite its obvious big business potential, and a fight with Tony Ferguson has to be made.
‘El Cucuy’ was the UFC’s interim lightweight champion prior to UFC 223 and he never lost his belt inside of the Octagon.
With both fighters on an 11-fight win streak in the UFC, they are unequivocally the two best 155 lbers on the planet and they have to fight next if there is any semblance of meritocracy left in the UFC.
Derrick Lewis vs Stipe Miocic
While it may not have been an impressive performance on the whole, the way Derrick Lewis rallied back to knockout Alexander Volkov with just 11 seconds left was certainly impressive.
With his latest victory, ‘The Black Beast’ has won nine of his last ten at heavyweight and that is a remarkable achievement in the land of the heavy hitters.
Already sitting at #2 on the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, there’s little else that you could see in Lewis’ immediate future than a title shot.
With Daniel Cormier and Brock Lesnar scheduled in for early next year and Cormier’s retirement expected shortly after, a fight between Stipe Miocic and Lewis for a vacant title should be in the UFC thoughts.
Dominick Reyes vs Manuwa/Santos Winner
Praise the MMA gods, the light heavyweight division has a young prospect on its hands.
With his fight with Ovince Saint Preux hitting the 15 minute mark, the first time Reyes has heard the judges scorecards in the UFC, ‘The Devastator’ chalked off his 10th professional win in as many fights.
While Reyes will still need another fight before facing the best of the best at 205 lbs, a fight with the winner of the upcoming Jimi Manuwa – Thiago Santos would make sense in Reyes ascension through the light heavyweight division.
Michelle Waterson vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Michelle Waterson’s work from the bottom was rightly rewarded by the judges on Saturday night as her unanimous decision against Felice Herrig earned the ‘Karate Hottie’ her second win of this year.
While Waterson lost the last two times she fought the better competition at women’s strawweight, this is a do-or-die moment in her career if she is to win a belt in the UFC’s current weight classes.
With Karolina Kowalkiewicz coming off of a devastating KO by Jessica Andrade, the Polish fighter could be Waterson’s best path to a title at 115 lbs.
Vicente Luque vs Gunnar Nelson
Seven wins in the UFC, seven stoppages to his name.
With only a loss to Leon Edwards on his resume since dropping his UFC debut bout, Vicente Luque has made winning in style a nice habit to have in the welterweight division.
Luque, with a KO win over Jalin Turner on Saturday, is now in a similar situation to fellow countryman Elizeu ‘Capoeira’ where both fighters need to face off against bigger names in order to climb the rankings.
With Gunnar Nelson sitting at #14 despite not fighting since July of last year, a fight between Luque and Nelson would determine who deserves to be ranked in a deep division.