The Sunday Aftermath: UFC Dublin

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For five long years the UFC had not visited Ireland, until last night. When the first fight of the evening kicked proceedings off it was as if five years of noise had been stored up and unleashed around the 02 arena in Dublin. A magnificent night was ahead.

Holohan Handles The Gremlin

The recipient of the raucous roars was debuting Dubliner Paddy Holohan. He looked calm before the bell, despite the roars, and looked smooth after it. His opponent, Josh Sampo, traded initially on the feet and had some success against the ultra aggressive Holohan, who had more. Having worked extensively with Conor McGregor on his hands in Iceland leading up to the fight, Holohan let loose and dropped Sampo with a huge right uppercut straight through the high hand guard. Sampo did well to survive but his movement on the ground left openings and Holohan rapidly took his back and sunk in the choke. When the tap came the crowd again went into raptures – and it wouldn’t be the last time that happened. In flyweight, a weak division, an exciting finisher like Holohan is just what’s needed. And for the night that was in it he made a magical start.

Comeback Cathal

The next Irish man on show was Cathal Pendred in his, long overdue, UFC debut. And, as so often is the case, he took the tough route to victory. Pendred came out ultra aggressively and was immediately taken down by his opponent Mike King. When they got back up, King hurt him with one right hand and knocked him down with another. It looked to be all over as King dropped a series of bombs on the ground before sinking in the rear naked choke. Somehow, Pendred survived, escaped and got back to the feet as the round ended. As King plodded back to his corner breathing heavily it was clear what was coming next. Pendred was alive in the second and landed on the feet before getting the fight to the floor. Instead of staying in a safe wrestling position, Pendred took the back and slapped on the rear naked choke – immediately sending King to sleep.

It was one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history and a true representation of the toughness possessed by Pendred. The already maxed out crowd volume was turned up another notch and when Pendred started the ole chants in his post fight interview and “you’ll never beat the Irish” flooded through the arena it felt like something special was inevitable. Add to that Neil Seery winning a unanimous decision over Phil Harris, Norman Parke finishing Naoyuki Kotani and Gunni Nelson submitting Zak Cummings there was only one man left to make it a perfect night.

He’s back.

For the first time in almost a year Conor McGregor stepped into the Octagon. It was evident from second one that ring rust wasn’t an issue. The Dubliner promised he would come out swinging and that’s just what he did as he caught Brandao to the body in the opening exchange. The Brazilian swung back hard and tested the chin of McGregor before having a takedown stuffed. With questions still lingering with the general public over his ground game, McGregor took the fight to the floor and was happy to put damage on Brandao from his guard before passing. When it got back to the feet McGregor went swinging again and caught Brandao flush in the jaw with a spinning back kick. It was the beginning of the end. The Brazilian couldn’t escape from McGregor and had his back up against the cage as he took evasive action. McGregor stunned him with one left hand, dropped him with another and finished him with a barrage on the ground. Another first round victory – as promised.

Unsurprisingly, the crowd erupted to its highest level of the night and beer cascaded throughout the whole arena. An arena which was clearly too small as McGregor eluded to in his post fight interview saying: “What’s next for me is that I’m going to go backstage, sit down with Mr. Lorenzo Fertitta, drink some fine-ass whiskey and talk about football stadiums”. Next up for McGregor is, more than likely, a trip stateside to face Dustin Poirier. A win in that fight would put him smack bang in title contention.

From January 17th, 2009 to July 19th 2014 mixed martial arts in Ireland has come a long way in all aspects. It was evident to everyone watching last night that Ireland has some of the best fans in the world as well as some of the best fighters. Five years was too long between events; but something tells me it won’t be five years until the Octagon visits these shores again.

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma