The Severe Diagnosis: UFC 189 – McGregor vs. Mendes

McGregor Mendes

The MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada was the jam-packed venue, this Saturday night, for UFC 189 – the UFC’s headlining event of the annual international fight week. On paper, this card was undoubtedly the best of the year and, in practice, lived up to all the hype

Magic McGregor

In the main event, the interim featherweight title was on the line as Irish superstar Conor McGregor took on American wrestler Chad Mendes with champion Jose Aldo nursing a rib injury back in Brazil.

Coming into the fight lots of the talk surrounded whether McGregor’s kicking would be on show but that was quickly put to bed as he swung with a spinning back kick to the body right out of the gate. McGregor then threw a high knee but Mendes caught it and, to many people’s wishes, put the Irishman on his back. Mendes landed one shot on the floor but McGregor immediately popped back up before stuffing the next wrestling attempt.

McGregor then attacked the body with kicks and punches while eating a couple of Mendes right hands along the way. With a minute on the clock, a straight left from McGregor stunned Mendes before he attacked the body again – a clear plan on his part. A couple of headkicks from McGregor were on point after that but Mendes quickly got back into it with a lovely takedown. McGregor rose his feet relatively quickly but when he stood up blood poured from his eye due to a well placed Mendes elbow.

A huge right hand from Mendes midway through the round was his best shot of the frame from the American but McGregor ate it without blinking and fired back with a couple of straight shots down the pipe. More McGregor body shots followed that but Mendes managed to get him to the floor again and this time held him down. The Team Alpha Male man was able to pass guard but McGregor established a half guard after a brief period of side control before a guillotine attempt in the final seconds of the round from Mendes fell short.

As they came out for the second round McGregor beckoned Mendes on and attacked the body again with hard kicks before stuffing a takedown from the California man. A hard right hand from McGregor found its home as they got back into range and was quickly added to with a right which got Mendes circling away in terror. McGregor landed one more kick to the body but Mendes closed in on him again and got a tremendous double leg takedown.

On the floor Mendes controlled well and hit McGregor with two stinging elbows immediately. McGregor answered back with a series of elbows of his own from the bottom but Mendes landed with more strikes from both hands. As the round went on, McGregor didn’t look like getting off of his back but he did manage to drive some more cutting elbows right into the top of Mendes’ head. Mendes put more downward pressure on after that which slowed the action although two big shots did keep him scoring.

With a minute left on the clock Herb Dean warned Mendes to keep working and he did just that as he passed McGregor’s guard and latched onto a neck. The guillotine never really looked on for Mendes and it did nothing more than give McGregor and opportunity to stand up – which he duly took.

The first strike in the newly vertical fight was again a body kick from McGregor and when he followed it up with a straight left and an uppercut Mendes looked in big trouble. Another straight left had Mendes swinging back hard and trying to take the Irishman down but McGregor dodged all the advances and swooped in again. This time Mendes could do nothing but cover up as he ate a right and left hook against the fence before exiting stage left.

McGregor wasn’t letting him go, though, and cut off the space by landing with a combination of strikes and a kick to the body which had Mendes out on his feet. Another body kick had Mendes a sitting duck and when McGregor landed a huge left hand right on the chin Mendes went down to the canvas. With nine seconds remaining in the round McGregor had no time to waste and landed four blows to the grounded head of Mendes before referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight.

For McGregor, it was a tremendous winning performance which came after being put on his back multiple times. A fact which makes the upcoming title unification with Jose Aldo an even more mouth watering prospect.

Limitless Lawler

Then the co-main event went down as welterweight champion Robbie Lawler rematched Canadian technician Rory MacDonald in a wonderful display of mixed martial arts.

Like the first fight, the battle for the centre of the octagon was massive from the start. The MacDonald jab quickly got popping while Lawler did plenty of parrying and hand fighting early. A MacDonald straight right was the hardest shot of the opening exchanges as his jab was the real money shot. As the round progressed the pace was extremely slow with that MacDonald jab the only real shot landing while Lawler scanned for openings. A couple of MacDonald right hands scored late in the frame before Lawler stuffed the first takedown of the bout. A uppercut from Lawler four minutes in was his best shot of the five and it was quickly followed by a scoring elbow before round’s end.

The second round started quicker than the first as both men hit with low kicks early. A Lawler jab, followed by another, gave him the centre of the Octagon as MacDonald struggled to get going. A leg kick from MacDonald did score and seemed to get him going as he landed a beautiful combination in the pocket. Two front kicks to the body from Rory were scoring shots midway through the round before he landed a huge head kick which Lawler ate. The American upped the pressure after that and he clipped MacDonald with a couple of nice left hands either side of a Rory left hand of his own. Late in the round both men hit hard in the pocket but Lawler seemed to be getting the better of it as MacDonald’s face was bloodied badly.

A right hand from Rory opened up the third round but Robbie quickly answered back with a stiff left of his own. A head kick from MacDonald came immediately after that before a wild exchange in the pocket saw MacDonald end it with another headkick. Lawler stuffed a big takedown two minutes in which seemed to spur him on as he walked down MacDonald and hit him with a few nice jabs. Another MacDonald headkick was on point after that but a Lawler elbow, jab and left hand put him back in control in the last minute of the round. With time ticking down MacDonald landed another huge headkick which this time badly wobbled Lawler who backed to the fence at a rate of knots. MacDonald attacked with calm shots and had Lawler in bad trouble but the survived and was saved by the bell.

A headkick right off the bat in the fourth had Lawler badly on trouble again as MacDonald walked him down and landed strike after strike. Amazingly, Lawler survived and hit back with a couple of jabs but yet another MacDonald headkick hurt him again. A big period devoid of strikes followed that, but a MacDonald repeated headkick and superman punch landed hard. A Lawler right hand was his first big shot of the round and he added an elbow straight after as Rory came forward. Another MacDonald headkick was for once off the mark before another takedown was stuffed. Late in the round MacDonald got his jab going again but Lawler bit down hard and fought back with everything he had.

The pair touched gloves to start the final round but went straight back to war. A Rory superman punch started the action but Lawler tagged him with three hard shots in between a MacDonald headkick. The tide had clearly turned, though, and as Lawler went full on attack mode the end was near. With MacDonald’s face bloody and badly hurt, Robbie Lawler landed a nose shattering left hand which forced MacDonald to drop down to the floor. Before Lawler had time to inflict more damage referee John McCarthy stepped in and stop the fight. Despite the bookies prices it was an emphatic win for Lawler after one of the fights of the year which sets up a possible trilogy fight with former champion Johny Hendricks.

Mixed Night For Dubliners

Outside of the two title bouts there were three fights with huge Irish interest. The first of those saw SBG student and jiu-jitsu whizz Gunnar Nelson take on striking phenom Brandon Thatch. In a striker vs. grappler match-up, range was always going to be important early and it was very cagey from the off as neither man wanted to commit. A Thatch leg kick got things going and it was followed be a night right hand before they exchanged shots in the clinch. As they circled back to the middle of the cage Nelson dropped Thatch with a huge combination. Thatch was badly hurt and looked done but survived and Nelson ended on top – ominously. Quickly, the Iceland man moved to mount before Thatch turned around and gave his back. From there it was only a matter of time as Nelson sank in under and neck and forced Thatch to tap to the rear naked choke.

Following that, it was the former Cage Warriors welterweight champion Cathal Pendred in action as he came in on short notice against veteran John Howard. A flying knee by Pendred was off the mark from the start as Howard
took the centre of the cage and attacked with leg kicks. A left hook from Howard was the first big shot of the fight and lead to a clinch battle which Pendred controlled for the most part. Once they got back the the striking it was Pendred who got the better of it as he landed a lovely right hand before beating up the body of Howard as they clinched in the middle of the cage. More knees followed from Pendred as he pushed Howard against the cage but the American eventually managed to disengage. A couple of right hands and a left from Howard were successful after that but Pendred clinched up again in the final half minute of the close round.

An early takedown attempt from Pendred was off the mark in the opening moments of the second but he did land a knee as Howard exited. A long period of stand-up followed that where Howard struck with a few nice shots in close but Pendred answered back with right hands from the outside. Another takedown from Pendred was stopped midway through the round but again he managed to clinch and push him against the fence. Another series of knees came from Pendred after that before a separation saw the Dubliner land a few leg kicks and jabs either side of a Howard right hand. A couple of leg kicks from Howard on the last 90 seconds of the round got him scoring while two hard shots closed out another close round.

After instructions from John Kavanagh between rounds that he was trailing by two, Pendred immediately came out and went for the takedown but it was easily stuffed by Howard who took the centre of the cage. A second try was also off the mark but Pendred did push him against the cage for a brief period of control before getting back to open water. Another mid-cage clinch saw another series of knees from Pendred but Howard pushed him against the cage to stop them. From there Pendred pulled guard and looked for the guillotine but it was never there as Doomsday escaped and stopped up. On the feet they traded body shots in the last minute of the round before two hard Howard shots and a wild exchange finished out the action. In the end the decision was split but, correctly, went to Howard who gives Pendred his first UFC loss.

The first Irish fight on the card, though, was Neil Seery and he got a huge ovation from the crowd when he took on Louis Smolka. Seery was the one who started the more confident as the centre of the cage was his from the start. Smolka wasn’t for standing back through the fire and attacked with knees and high kicks immediately. Seery’s shots in the pocket were extremely hurtful from the kick off too and after a head clash he knocked down Smolka with a beautiful combination. Seery dived down looking confident but he was reversed and Smolka controlled on top. Seery, as always, was active and attacked with a guillotine but was unsuccessful as his head spouted blood. A one arm guillotine attempt from Smolka came next and it looked tight but Seery survived both that and a d’arce choke inside the last 90 seconds of the frame although he did take a bit of damage late.

Round two started like the first with Smolka kicking from the outside and Seery throwing hard. It closed up again quickly, though, before a mad minute of scrambles ended in Smolka on top. Seery attacked hard with elbows from his back and almost had an armbar before Smolka ended up on his back. Seery defended well from there as he controlled the hands of Smolka for over three minutes as the American tried and failed the rear naked choke until the end of the round.

Seery went straight forward to start the final round but was taken down instantly after landing a couple of shots in the pocket. Seery again landed a series of elbows off of his back and this time quickly got back to his feet before landing a knee and stuffing two takedowns. From the third takedown attempt, Seery had a tight guillotine which looked on but Smolka escaped and controlled on top. A Von Flue choke, arm triangle and RNC try from Smolka came after that but Seery survived them all. Then, Smolka picked the Dubliner up and slammed him but landed in a Seery guillotine which again didn’t come off. As the seconds went down Smolka had another arm triangle but Seery came through and saw the end. The decision was an easy one as all three judges gave it to Smolka, 30-27 to move Neil Seery to 2-2 inside the UFC

FULL RESULTS:

Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes via TKO – Round 2, 4.57
Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald via TKO – Round 5, 1:00
Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez via TKO – Round 3, 0:32
Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch via submission (rear naked choke) – Round 1, 2:54
Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett via knockout – Round 2, 0:29

Matt Brown def. Tim Means via submission (guillotine) – Round 1, 4:44
Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
John Howard def. Cathal Pendred via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Louis Smolka def. Neil Seery via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Cody Pfister def. Yosdenis Cedeno via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

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