5 Takeaways From UFC 246 – Is Conor McGregor Even Better Than Previously Advertised?
He may have said that he would try and accumulate some time inside the Octagon, but “The Notorious” Conor McGregor needed all of 40 seconds to complete his comeback and finish Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the UFC 246 Pay Per View main event.
Fighting for the first time in 15 months, McGregor looked massive and powerful at welterweight, controlling Cerrone for the entire bout.
MIssing on an initial left hand, McGregor landed a quick knee before clinching with Cerrone. McGregor then showed off a new weapon in his arsenal, implementing rarely used shoulder strikes to stun “Cowboy” while the pair were tied up in the center of the Octagon.
With “Cowboy” dazed, McGregor landed a left high kick, catching Cerrone’s chin, before pouring on the strikes. McGregor was relentless in his pursuit of the finish, throwing punches that caused Cerrone to crumple and cover up.
It was a flawless performance from “The Notorious,” who earned his first victory since November 2016.
With McGregor seemingly on a collision course to fight UFC BMF champion Jorge Masvidal later in 2020, there are numerous options for “The Notorious” and the UFC. The biggest star in the history of MMA is back, and with his comeback complete, it’s time to look at some of the fallout from UFC 246.
McGregor Once Again Goes “Mystic Mac”
McGregor trolled us. Hard.
Using the days leading up to the fight to talk about how he wanted to take his time inside the Octagon and feel out Cerrone, McGregor set the trap, leading the public to believe that the UFC 246 main event would go at least two rounds.
Instead, McGregor smoked “Cowboy” in less than a minute, recording the second fastest stoppage of his UFC career.
While McGregor’s ruse fooled anyone who believed this fight would go the distance, he did make good on another prediction when he recorded the knockout.
Mentioning that he would KO Cerrone in nearly every interview leading up to UFC 246, McGregor made good on his prediction, recording the eighth knockout of his UFC career.
This Version of McGregor Really May Be the Best One Yet
“I’d smoke that guy,” McGregor can be heard saying in a UFC 246 promotional video, referring to his reinvention and ability to beat the 2016 version of McGregor who won the UFC lightweight title. Even McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh offered some insight leading up to UFC 246, expressing that “The Notorious” has more fight knowledge than everyone else combined.
Skeptics heard these statements and figured it was just pre-fight posturing, but as it turns out, a healthy and motivated Conor McGregor at welterweight is a powerful and dangerous beast. It may just be his best version yet.
Becoming the first UFC fighter to record knockouts across three different weight classes, McGregor showed that his power translates up at 170 pounds. Guess he’ll have to reconsider his whole “timing beats speed. Precision beats power” statement from 2015.
The whole bout only lasted 40 seconds, so we can’t take this as concrete evidence that McGregor is ready to test the deepest waters in the welterweight shark tank, but his use of shoulder strikes, the flying knee, and the headkick are intriguing new wrinkles in the McGregor tool kit.
So, while he may not be as fast as he was at featherweight or lightweight, this new welterweight Conor McGregor may just know how to implement all of his weapons simultaneously.
Who Says Submissions are Down?
There’s some poorly substantiated rhetoric that submissions are down in the UFC. As MMA evolves from era to era, there are natural changes in the way fighters compete, but UFC 246 was a stark reminder that mixed martial arts is still very much about grappling and submissions. Just take a look at the UFC 246 Pay Per View main card on ESPN+.
With lightweight Diego Ferreira earning the biggest win of his career by tapping out former champion Anthony Pettis via second round rear naked choke (it was really a neck crank and it’s possible that the Nevada Athletic Commission will change their verdict), bantamweight Brian “Boom” Kelleher capitalized on his late addition to the main card (he was bumped up to the PPV after the Claudia Gadelha vs. Alexa Grasso fight was scratched) by submitting Ode Osbourne with an arm-in guillotine choke, even forcing Osbourne to tap out with his feet.
And then there was Aleksei Oleinik, the first athlete to hold professional MMA wins across four different decades.
One of the most experienced and accomplished grapplers in heavyweight MMA, Oleinik recorded his sixth submission inside the Octagon. It was a clinical performance from the Russian fighter, who essentially threatened with submission attempts for nearly the entire bout. And, with a win over Maurice Greene on the UFC 246 PPV main card on ESPN+, Oleinik is ready for another primetime booking, perhaps against former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum.
Anyway, the submission skills on UFC 246 are a blatant reminder that jiu jitsu still rules inside the Octagon. It’s also a reminder that tapping out competitors is good for business, as Oleinik, Kelleher, and Ferreira all took home an additional $50,000 and Performance of the Night bonus checks.
A Changing of the Guard at Lightweight
Just a few days ago, on this very site, I wrote that Anthony Pettis doesn’t lose to unranked lightweights, and despite bouts of inconsistency for the last five years of his career, Pettis always shows up and wins the fights he should. Perhaps this just wasn’t one of them.
Listed as the underdog, Pettis still felt like a favorite. He’s spent his entire career facing tougher competition than Diego Ferreira, his UFC 246 opponent, and this should have been a taekwondo clinic from Pettis, who is known as one of the most devastating kickers in MMA.
Instead, Diego Ferreira went out and delivered at UFC 246. He came up huge during the biggest fight of his career (which coincidentally was on his birthday) and submitted a former UFC champion with a choke that was somewhere between a neck crank, rear naked choke, and an arm triangle. It was some pretty excellent jiu jitsu from the Brazilian.
It’s not as if Pettis didn’t have his moments. Pettis landed clean punches and kicks on Ferreira, who pressured forward throughout. Pettis continued to back up and attempt kicks, but when he ran out of real estate inside the Octagon, Pettis was forced into the clinch by Ferreira, a BJJ black belt, who took Pettis’ back with ease.
The performance was as important as it was impressive for Ferreira. And, with six straight wins in the lightweight division, it’s clear that Ferriera is in, and, well, Pettis is out.
It’s a true changing of the guard moment, and it’s probably time for Ferreira to fight someone like Islam Makhachev or Alexander Hernandez.
Derailing the Maycee Barber Hype Train
Heading into UFC 246, there were fewer fighters more talked about than Maycee Barber.
An undefeated prospect with loads of potential, Barber has been pegged as a future champion ever since her appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. She was angling for a flyweight title shot by the end of 2020, but after UFC 246, it’s clear that it will be a while before she’s fighting for a UFC belt.
Barber looked all sorts of out of it during her UFC 246 bout against Roxanne Modafferi. Spending the majority of the first round on her back, Barber never found her rhythm inside the Octagon. She also tweaked her knee in the second, which looks like it may be a more serious injury. And then there’s the consideration that she is no longer undefeated. Her air of invincibility is gone.
It will be interesting to see how Maycee Barber comes back from this devastating loss. She was thoroughly beaten for the entire contest, wearing a mask of her own blood after Modafferi landed a series of powerful elbows from the mount position. The whole ordeal was completely unexpected (Barber was the biggest betting favorite on the card), and is another reminder that hype is really just there to be derailed.
Whatever is next for Maycee Barber, the UFC will need to rebuild her with confident and sensible matchups. And for Modafferi, she’ll continue to be a major player in a division where the UFC needs challengers for champion Valentina Shevchenko.
UFC 246 Official Results
- Conor McGregor def. Donald Cerrone via TKO (punches) R1, 0:40
- Holly Holm def. Raquel Pennington via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Aleksei Oleinik def. Maurice Greene via submission (armbar) R2, 4:38
- Brian Kelleher def. Ode Osbourne via submission (guillotine choke) R1, 2:49
- Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis via submission (rear-naked choke) R2, 1:46
- Roxanne Modafferi def. Maycee Barber via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Sodiq Yusuff def. Andre Fili via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Askar Askarov def. Tim Elliott via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Drew Dober def. Nasrat Haqparast via TKO (punches) R1, 1:10
- Aleksa Camur def. Justin Ledet via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Sabina Mazo def. J.J. Aldrich via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Dan Shapiro is a writer, editor, musician, and producer currently based in Los Angeles. In addition to covering some of the biggest fights in combat sports history, he’s also hunted down the world’s best sushi, skied the northern hemisphere in July, and chronicled Chinese underground music for publications like CNN, the New York Daily News, VICE, and Time Out. Dan also conjured up a ghost at the Chateau Marmont while out on assignment for RoadTrippers. Follow him on Twitter here.
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