The inaugural UFC card from Madison Square Garden lived up to the hype and added to the history.
Before a main event that witnessed Conor McGregor obliterate lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to add a second belt to his collection, New York City fans witnessed a shocking knockout, a fantastic fight that ended in an indecisive decision, and a brawl that left two beautiful Polish women looking like two ugly Bowery boys.
In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley caught a Stephen Thomson kick, tackled his opponent to the mat, and pounded his body and face from top position two minutes into the first round until the horn. Thompson stopped the bleeding, literally and figuratively, in a second highlighted by a highlight-reel spinning back-kick to the breadbasket. Wonderboy meted out several stinging combinations in the third; Woodley landed a leg kick that nearly took out Thompson’s legs from under him. The champion’s strikes—perhaps too little, too late to win the stanza—found their mark in the round’s final minute.
Woodley rode that momentum into the fourth. The champion stunned the challenger with a right, sending him briefly down. Woodley unleashed a barrage that sent Thompson down again and again. The Chosen One, who looked close to stopping Thompson on strikes, sunk in a deep guillotine. Wonderboy lived up to his nickname by somehow surviving and ending an amazing round dropping bombs from top position. In the fifth, the #2 contender peppered a gassed and lethargic Woodley with punches and kicks. The bloodied South Carolinian tagged the champ repeatedly in anticipation of the horn.
Michael Buffer, adding a postscript of drama to a dramatic battle, left the cage after starting his announcement only to return to incorrectly read the decision as a Woodley win. Alas, the judges scored it 47-47, 47-47, and 48-47 Woodley for a majority draw. The champion retained his title.
A tough but outmatched Karolina Kowalkiewicz failed to solve the Joanna Jedrzejczyk puzzle. The champion relied on elite boxing, kicks, and takedown defense to dominate her fellow Pole for the first three rounds. But the challenger rocked the champion halfway through the fourth frame with a right flush to the nose. Jedrzejczyk, in trouble and damaged about the face, weathered the onslaught and returned to form in the fifth en route to a fourth strawweight title defense via unanimous 49-46 cards.
Yoel Romero nailed a flying knee out of nowhere to knock out Chris Weidman and let out a cascade of blood. The stoppage came 24 seconds into the final round of a fight in which the former middleweight champion frustrated the Cuban with kicks, feints, and takedown attempts.
The Soldier of God marched and saluted after the victory, shouting: “God is great.” The victory sets up a title fight with Michael Bisping, who gave Romero a thumbs-down gesture that morphed into middle fingers up. Romero turned the other cheek, saying, “I love you.”
Raquel Pennington utilized superior standup to win a clear decision over her former Ultimate Fighter coach Miesha Tate 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27.
“I am announcing my retirement,” the former UFC and Strikeforce bantamweight champion told a shocked audience. “It’s not my time anymore,” she reasoned. “It’s the future’s time.”