The UFC is off to a great start in 2020 already following UFC 246. What better way to kick off the new decade than a Conor McGregor main event. The UFC’s biggest star made his return after taking all of 2019 off following a title fight loss to the champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. In his return, McGregor would face off against a fan favorite and ‘Octagon Legend’, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. McGregor entered the fight looking for his first win since 2016 when he dominated Eddie Alvarez for his second title. Meanwhile, Cerrone looked to snap a two fight losing streak after dropping his previous fights to top contenders, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson.
The night’s co-main event featured a rematch in the women’s bantamweight division. Former titleholder, Holly Holm, made her UFC debut in 2015 when she faced off against Raquel Pennington. Both women fought a close fight that would see Holm ultimately come out on top with a split decision victory. Nearly five years later, the two would meet again as Holm earned another win, this time by unanimous decision.
Overall, the fight card was entertaining enough after being underrated heading into fight week. Looking back at each fighter’s performance, it is time to put together the three Standout Performances. In order for a fighter to make this list, their performance must stand out among their peers. This could be quick finishes, flashy knockouts, great submissions, dismantling an opponent, or providing an all-around exciting fight.
UFC 246 Standout Performances
#1 Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor def. Donald Cerrone via TKO (Punches) at 0:40 of Round One
Since Conor McGregor became UFC lightweight champion in November 2016, it seemed like we would see less and less of him as time progressed. He would go on to get the boxing fight with Floyd Mayweather that following August, which saw him lose by round ten TKO. He would then be out of competition for yet another year before he got an immediate title shot upon his return to the cage in October 2018. His return came against Nurmagomedov in what turned into one of the biggest rivalries in the UFC’s history. Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round before igniting a post fight brawl between both parties. After another year away from the cage, McGregor’s return was finally announced as he was paired with Donald Cerrone.
Entering the fight, it seemed like McGregor had reinvented himself after the loss to Nurmagomedov. There was a lot of mutual respect between McGregor and Cerrone entering their fight, which seems to never be the case with McGregor’s opponents. McGregor entered the bout very focused. During fight week, he mentioned that he eliminated a lot of bad practices from his last camp this time around. This included drinking during fight week as he claimed he had been doing so leading up the Nurmagomedov fight.
Entering the fight as focused as we have seen him in a while paid off big time for McGregor. As the fight began, he lunged forward with his signature left hand, but Cerrone ducked under it and initiated the clinch. Once here, McGregor utilized the shoulder strike in a way, personally, never seen before. He popped Cerrone with four shoulder strikes immediately and the damage was quickly noticeable. As they broke apart, Cerrone’s face was already badly bruised and his nose was bloody and likely broken.
Now back at striking distance, Cerrone was able to throw his one and only strike which was a head kick blocked by McGregor. McGregor then came back with his own head kick that made Cerrone stumble backwards. Followed up by a close flying knee and two left hands, ‘Cowboy’ crumbled to the mat. McGregor unleashed the ground and pound before Herb Dean was forced to end the fight. It took just forty seconds, but Conor McGregor was back.
When looking at what could potentially be next for Conor McGregor, it seems that the possibilities never end. Assuming he stays active in the UFC and does not pursue another boxing fight anytime soon, that rules out Mayweather and possibly even Manny Pacquiao. Now comes the question of what weight he will continue to fight at. With the win over Cerrone, UFC President Dana White has mentioned he’d like McGregor to go back to lightweight and face off against Nurmagomedov again, assuming ‘The Eagle’ defeats Tony Ferguson in April. White has said that if Nurmagomedov and McGregor were to fight again it could be the biggest fight in UFC history. Nurmagomedov has been clear that McGregor would need to pick up more wins before he agrees to fight him again. A couple of potential names he could face would then be Ferguson if he loses to Khabib and Justin Gaethje.
But what if McGregor decides to stay put at welterweight for now? Possibly the biggest option for him outside of the Nurmagomedov rematch fights at 170. A title shot against Kamaru Usman is probably one or two big wins away from him. He could finally settle the score with Nate Diaz after they each defeated one another during their 2016 rivalry. But that biggest option is none other than the BMF, Jorge Masvidal. Masvidal rose to superstardom in 2019 and a fight between him and Conor McGregor would put up massive numbers.
#2 Drew Dober
Drew Dober def. Nasrat Haqparast via TKO (Punches) at 1:10 of Round One
Over the last two years, Drew Dober has put together an impressive résumé, only suffering one loss since 2017. That one loss came to UFC veteran Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 146 as Dariush finished him with an arm triangle. Outside of that loss, Dober put together four wins, including two KO/TKO wins over Josh Burkman and Marco Polo Reyes. Entering UFC 246, Dober was fresh off a TKO win over Reyes at UFC on ESPN 1.
His opponent would be Nasrat Haqparast, winner of his last three straight. Prior to UFC 246, Haqparast put together three straight wins over Marc Diakiese, Thibault Gouti, and Joaquim Silva. Haqparast looked like he was in the process of putting together a very impressive run with some speculating he would be top fifteen sometime soon. That was until he met Dober.
As the fight began, it seemed that Dober became the aggressor early. He quickly took the centre of the cage and was putting out more volume than Haqparast. As the two circled the cage, both men were beginning to feel each other out. Just less than a minute in, Dober was able to survive a quick flurry of punches from Haqparast. He would then continue to back Haqparast up before connecting with a left hand that dropped Haqparast as he moved forward for a leg kick. Dober pounced on his downed opponent and landed a number of unanswered shots before the referee finally called the fight.
Dober has now put together two straight wins since his loss to Dariush which puts him at 5-1 in his last six. While he has put together an impressive list of wins, Dober doesn’t seem top-fifteen ready just yet. With that being said, giving him someone just right outside of the top fifteen or close seems like the right way to go. One name that comes to mind in Mairbek Taisumov. From 2014 to 2018, Taisumov put together an impressive six-fight win streak with wins over Damir Hadzovich and Desmond Green. His only appearance in 2019 took place at UFC 242 when he faced Diego Ferreira. He would lose by unanimous decision and of course, Ferreira would go on to defeat Anthony Pettis to earn a number next to his name. A fight between Dober and Taisumov would put the winner in position to fight a ranked opponent and earn a ranking of their own.
#3 Diego Ferreira
Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:46 of Round Two
Entering UFC 246, Diego Ferreira was about to face off against his toughest opponent yet. Standing across the cage from him was former UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis. Prior to facing Ferreira, Pettis had gone 2-2 in his last four. His two most recent fights before Saturday came against a couple of huge names at welterweight as he took on Stephen Thompson and Nate Diaz. He defeated Thompson, knocking him out in the second round, drawing Diaz at UFC 241 where he would lose by unanimous decision.
Going into Saturday night, Ferreira was coming off a five-fight win streak. Among the names, he defeated include Mairbek Taisumov, Rustam Khabilov and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Earning a big win over a former champion like Pettis would surely put Ferreira in the top fifteen at 155.
Ferreira opened the fight by taking control of the centre of the octagon. He began to pressure Pettis, marching towards him. The first grappling engagement took place after Pettis threw a body kick which was caught by Ferreira. Ferreira grabbed a hold of Pettis and attempted to drag him down. Pettis defended the takedown well, before breaking the clinch with a knee to the body. Once separated, Ferreira continued to pressure and began throwing more shots, seeming to utilize the body kicks.
The two would be caught in the clinch again just a little under halfway through the first round. Ferreira attempted to take Pettis down again, this time hiding his takedown behind a short combination. But Pettis defended the takedown well once again until Ferreira wrapped his legs around Pettis’ and climbed up on his back. Once he got his back, Ferreira just had to push off the cage and pull Pettis down to the mat. Once on the ground, Ferreira looked to be trying to pass into top mount before Pettis reversed him, ended up on top, and got the fight standing again.
It wouldn’t take long for Ferreira to look to get it to the ground again as he closed the distance quickly and began searching for a takedown. Pettis continued to defend the initial entry well at first. Ferreira kept trying, however, eventually getting Pettis down once again before the end of the first.
As the second round started, it didn’t take long for the fight to be taken to the mat. Ferreira caught another body kick fired from Pettis and was able to drag him down once again. Pettis had given up his back again and Ferreira was searching for the choke before trying to pass to top mount. As that happened, Pettis nearly got himself free before once again getting his back taken. This time, Ferreira was able to lock in the submission and force Pettis to tap, picking up the biggest win of his career at UFC 246.
Diego Ferreira has now won six straight, picking up a big win over a former champion, and earning a ranking next to his name next week. Looking ahead for Ferreira, there is one name that comes to mind due to how entertaining the possible fight could be. That name is Islam Makhachev. While this would technically be a step back in competition rankings-wise, a fight between Ferreira and Makhachev would make for a very entertaining grappling match up. Since his first loss in 2015, Makhachev has not lost again, putting together a six-fight win streak. Among those include wins over Davi Ramos and Nik Lentz. Whoever were to come out victorious between Ferreira and Makhachev would surely earn a top ten opponent as a result.
Coming up next week, the UFC travels to Raleigh, North Carolina for UFC Fight Night 166. In the main event, former UFC heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos takes on another top contender, Curtis Blaydes. Plus, in the co-main event, former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos takes on Michael Chiesa. Be sure to check back here next week to get UFC Fight Night 166’s standout performers.
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