Conor McGregor put an exclamation point on perhaps the most spectacular main card in mixed-martial-arts history with a come-from-behind TKO of Chad Mendes at UFC 189.
The Irishman used his length to keep Mendes at bay early in the first round through a series of kicks and punches. The strikes found their mark on the Californian’s body, leaving a grimacing Mendes in search of air. The wrestler rebounded by taking McGregor down and imposing brutal ground-and-pound that opened up a cut near the Notorious One’s eye. McGregor returned to his corner beaten and bloodied.
Mendes imposed his will in the second round. He took down McGregor with ease and unleashed elbows on his opponent’s face that temporarily silenced his mouthy foe and his rowdy fans. But an ill-advised choke attempt with seconds left in the round allowed McGregor to escape.
On the feet, McGregor let loose his hands. Mendes crumbled. King Conor landed three unanswered shots on a turtled-up Mendes that forced Herb Dean to call a halt to the proceedings.
The win gives McGregor the interim featherweight title and sets up the biggest little-man bout in mixed-martial-arts history in a Jose Aldo-Conor McGregor battle of champions that likely happens this fall.
The bout followed a main card that ranked up with any in the 22-year history of the promotion.
Robbie Lawler retained his welterweight title with a gutsy fifth-round knockout of Rory McDonald, well ahead on the cards but his face a crimson mask at the time of the stoppage. A similarly bloodied Jeremy Stephens upset Dennis Bermudez in their featherweight tilt with a flying knee that left his opponent limp. The opening bout featured a nearly identical ending, with undefeated Brazilian Thomas Almeida knocking out Brad Pickett, who had dominated in the first frame, with a big knee in the second. Gunnar Nelson coaxed Brandon Thatch to tap on a rear-naked choke after a combination dropped the Coloradan.