UFC 202: Stars, takeaways and highlights
Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz squared off on Saturday night in a tense rematch of their UFC 196 fight, this time at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. In the lead-up to the fight the usual war of words turned physical when water bottles were thrown and the police were brought on stage to keep the two fighters apart at the weigh-in, where their teams were banned to prevent further altercations.
The rancor in the ring began early in the evening with a fight between Artem Lobov from Team McGregor and Chris Avila from Team Diaz. Lobov dominated the fight, using leg kicks to wear down Avila and getting the unanimous decision victory. After the fight, Lobov said that he was looking to set the tone for Team McGregor, referencing Diaz's preference of not fighting on cards with his teammates, and hoping to do his part to knock Diaz out of his comfort zone.
“To get this win feels incredible. It was the first win of my UFC career and it was a must-win. This week has been a lot about SBG against Stockton so to get the first win was absolutely necessary," Lobov said. "I got the first win and Conor will get the second later tonight. These guys did some dirty and unprofessional things throughout the week, but we will get the wins tonight when it really matters. I don’t feel this win was impressive enough to call anyone out, so I’ll take whatever fight is next. When I get back to knocking people out, I’ll start calling people out.”
The co-main event was over in a flash with, Anthony Johnson knocking out Glover Teixeira in just 13 seconds and then turning his attention toward light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who was seated cageside.
“Oh, was it 13 seconds? I thought they said 30, that’s cool," Johnson said. "There is no secret to power. It’s not about how hard you hit him, it’s where you hit him.
"When I fight Daniel again, the difference will be that I’m going to win. I’m going to whoop that a--. Daniel is a wrestler and a lot of people don’t realize that I’m a wrestler too. I know that grind, I know that struggle. Daniel is a true champion. I respect him a lot and he deserves that title that he has.”
Finally, it was time for the night's biggest matchup. McGregor had predicted a second-round knockout and came dangerously close to achieving the feat, while also knocking Diaz down in the first and twice in the third. The Irishman made the decision to not try and follow with the ground-and-pound in an effort to avoid Diaz's jiu jitsu and a potential submission, and it worked like a charm. But Diaz began to rally in the later rounds and put McGregor in danger, forcing McGregor to alter his game plan, which was originally predicated on using low leg kicks to thwart Diaz's advances allowing McGregor to control the striking exchanges.
As the fight wore on, McGregor resorted to escaping danger and running away from Diaz to reestablish position safely. Diaz grew frustrated with this method and made it known by using his favorite single-finger gesture.
Ultimately the fight went to a decision, which McGregor won with two out of three judges giving him the win and a third judge scoring it a draw.
“Surprise, surprise! The king is back!" McGregor exclaimed during his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, referencing Diaz's famous post-UFC 196 line. "If you want this trilogy, it’s on my terms. I came up to 170, now you’ll come back to 155 and we’ll finish what we’ve started. I knew what I had to do this time around and I did it.”
Diaz, not so shockingly, called for a third bout.
“I came here to fight. I want number three. I gave him number two, so let’s do it," Diaz said.
Stars Of The Night
1. Anthony Johnson - Rumble knocked out Glover Teixeira in devastating fashion in the co-main event to set up a light heavyweight title shot and rematch against Daniel Cormier. He also took his post-fight interview in the cage as an opportunity to call out fighters for their unprofessional behavior.
2. Donald Cerrone - Won his third welterweight fight in a row, and 11 out of 12, the lone loss coming to Rafael dos Anjos in a title bout. Landed a huge kick to Rick Story's head setting up the finish to get the win.
3. Cody Garbrandt - The undefeated bantamweight contender came out and laid claim to the next shot at champion Dominick Cruz, calling for it after in the cage. Garbrandt knocked out Takeya Mizugaki in under 50 seconds for his third first-round knockout in a row.
4. Mike Perry - Perry taunted Hyun Gyu Lim at the weigh-ins and backed it up in the cage with a vicious onslaught of strikes. Perry knocked Lim down three times before finally finishing off the fight.
5. Lorenz Larkin - Larkin defeated Neil Magny, who had won 10 of his last 11, with a first-round TKO.
1. Cody Garbrandt can't be stopped.
The UFC puts up undefeated fighters, then Garbrandt knocks them out. The UFC throws in tough veterans, and Garbrandt knocks them out as well. The most important thing might be that Dominick Cruz is interested in the fight, which could be the key to Garbrandt getting the title shot. This is already a marketable fight given the Cruz vs. Urijah Faber angle, Faber being Garbrandt's mentor at Team Alpha Male. But it might be even more marketable after a reported tense meeting backstage before the event.
2. Donald Cerrone is making a run at a title shot.
Cerrone, nicknamed Cowboy, has strung together three victories in the eight months since he lost to Rafael dos Anjos in a lightweight title bout in December. The stunning part is that all three of those wins have come at welterweight, including a win at UFC 202 over 9th-ranked Rick Story. He's at the back of a long and deep line for a welterweight title shot, and if he sticks in the division he could work his way towards a shot at the crown.
However, Cerrone has instead stated his desire to return to lightweight and challenge newly crowned champion Eddie Alvarez for the belt, saying he can make the weight and feel good. Cerrone might have a wait there, though not as long as he would have at welterweight.
3. This loss won't hurt Diaz too badly
The WWE schedules losses to certain wrestlers in certain ways to protect their in-ring image. That's essentially what happened here. Nate Diaz fought valiantly and nearly won the fight in a five-round war that went to a decision. Diaz came out of the defeat looking almost as good as when he went in, allowing the UFC to continue to push him as a marquee fighter going forward.
Gate: $7,692,010 (Fifth-highest in UFC history)
Fight of the Night: Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor
Performances of the Night: Anthony Johnson and Donald Cerrone
Lorenz Larkin's kicks were too much for Neil Magny.
Cortney Casey's armbar finishes off Randa Markos.
Artem Lobov co-opted the "Stockton Slap" and used it against Chris Avila.
Cody Garbrandt knocks out Takeya Mizugaki in the first round.
Donald Cerrone manhadles Rick Story.
Conor McGregor - Jose Aldo is clearly the next fight for McGregor. Aldo won the interim featherweight championship at UFC 200 and McGregor hasn't defended the belt since winning it in December of 2015. UFC president Dana White said this is the next fight and McGregor needs to return to featherweight after two bouts at a higher weight class.
Nate Diaz - Eddie Alvarez said he wanted the winner of the McGregor-Diaz bout, but with McGregor looking at a rematch with Aldo, that leaves Diaz. Diaz's star will continue to rise with a title shot at lightweight. If he wins, there is now a new wrinkle for the trilogy match as McGregor continues to pursue being a two-weight champion.
Anthony Johnson - This one is easy. Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said he wanted the winner of this bout, and Dana White agreed. Afterwards Johnson and Cormier shared a moment when Johnson talked about wanting a title bout, walking towards the cage with his arms spread out wide.
Conor McGregor def. Nate Diaz via majority decision
Anthony Johnson def. Glover Teixeira via first-round TKO (0:13)
Donald Cerrone def. Rick Story via second-round TKO (2:02)
Mike Perry def. Hyun Gyu Lim via first-round TKO (3:38)
Tim Means def. Sabah Homasi via second-round TKO (2:56)
Cody Garbrandt def. Takeya Mizugaki via first-round TKO (0:48)
Raquel Pennington def. Elizabeth Phillips via unanimous decision
Artem Lobov def. Chris Avila via unanimous decision
Cortney Casey def. Randa Markos via submission (armbar) (R1, 4:34)
Lorenz Larkin def. Neil Magny via first-round TKO (4:08)
Colby Covington def. Max Griffin via third-round TKO (2:28)
Marvin Vettori def. Alberto Uda via submission (guillotine) (R1, 4:30)
The UFC's next pay-per-view is UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. In the main event of that card, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic puts his belt on the line against Alistair Overeem in front of his hometown crowd. This card also sees CM Punk make his UFC and MMA debut against Mickey Gall. The card overall is stacked, including fights with stars like Urijah Faber, Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne all competing.
In between there are two Fight Night cards. The UFC goes to Vancouver next Saturday and the main event is a welterweight contest between Carlos Condit and Demian Maia. That card also includes notable stars like Anthony Pettis, Joe Lauzon and the return of Paige Van Zant.
The following week the UFC goes to Hamburg in an event headlined by a bout between Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett.