Conor McGregor left no room for doubt.
McGregor dominated a world-class, elite MMA fighter in Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246. There were no signs of rust after being away from the Octagon for the past 15 months, and the win marked McGregor’s first since 2016. His dominating performance restores some order to the UFC hierarchy, and presents the possibility for future compelling fights.
McGregor (22-4) decimated Cerrone (36-14-1) in only 40 seconds, controlling the fight with a series of shoulder strikes out the clinch before landing a kick to the jaw and his signature left hand to batter Cerrone’s face.
McGregor earned himself the right to talk more trash with the win. He demolished a future Hall of Famer in a manner that Cerrone had never encountered in his illustrious career. All eyes are now on McGregor’s next fight, and there are a multitude of possible for opponents. UFC could headline a card with McGregor against Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, BMF champ Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz, Justin Gaethje or Paul Felder. Naturally, any conversation regarding McGregor’s future should also include Lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov, who McGregor is determined to meet again in the cage.
UFC 246 also included statement victories from Holly Holm and Carlos Diego Ferreira.
Holm (13-5) was victorious in the co-main event, defeating Raquel Pennington (10-8). This was a rematch from five years ago, when Holm won her UFC debut in a split-decision victory against Pennington. That win led Holm on a path to Ronda Rousey, which was where Holm shocked the MMA world by destroying Rousey and won the Bantamweight title.
Holm exposed Pennington with an intelligent game plan, wearing Pennington down by out-muscling in repeated clinch exchanges. Holm would like history to repeat itself following this win, as she now seeks a rematch with Bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes, who made short work of Holm last July at UFC 239.
For the first time since 2016, Anthony Pettis has lost two consecutive fights. Pettis (22-10) was out-classed by Carlos Diego Ferreira, who has now won six straight fights in the UFC. Ferreira (17-2) celebrated his 35th birthday in style, using a neck crank to finish Pettis just shy of two minutes into the second round, elevating himself a step further in the lightweight division.
Heavyweight stalwart Aleksei Oleinik earned the 46th submission victory of his 24-year career, ending Maurice Greene’s night with a vicious arm bar. Oleinik (58-13-1) is past his prime at the age of 42 and he desperately needed this victory after dropping both of his fights in 2019, but he delivered here. Greene (8-4) fell prey to Oleinik’s takedowns, tapping out 22 seconds before the end of the second round.
Brian Kelleher also returned to action in the lightweight division, making quick work of the inexperienced but dangerous Ode Osbourne. Kelleher (20-10) has dealt with mounting injuries since the beginning of 2019, but he looked healthy and finished off Osbourne (6-3) with a first round guillotine choke.
In the end, the night belonged to McGregor. This was never a fight. It was a beatdown, which was remarkable to witness against Cerrone. McGregor's stunning destruction of Cerrone serves as a not-so-subtle reminder that McGregor remains one of the most elite fighters in the world.
UFC 246’s main event was short but carried a symbolic statement. Conor McGregor is back, and he is once again ready to put the UFC on notice. “The King” is ready to reclaim his throne.
Relive the action from UFC 246 in real time with the live blog below:
Conor McGregor vs. Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone — 12:35 a.m. ET
Conor McGregor is back.
McGregor (22-4) started with a series of explosive shoulder strikes, then finished Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-14-1) less than a minute into the fight.
Cerrone may be the all-time leader in UFC wins, but he was no match for McGregor. A high kick to Cerrone’s jaw was the kiss of death, as McGregor announced his return in a triumphant performance.
The fight world now waits to hear McGregor’s post-fight comments after an absolutely dominating 40-second TKO victory.
Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington — 12:07 a.m. ET
Raquel Pennington finally had her second chance against Holly Holm.
For a second time, the fight went the distance. Holm was once again victorious, this time by unanimous decision.
Holm (13-5) controlled the entire fight, out-muscling Pennington (10-8) and sticking with the clinch for all three rounds.
Holm defeated Pennington in a split-decision five years ago, which was Holm’s UFC debut. It set her up for stardom and led to a career-defining victory against Ronda Rousey. Pennington thought she did enough to win that fight, and the two were supposed to have the rematch this past October. But after Pennington had already arrived in Australia for UFC 243, it was announced Holm was unable to compete due to injury, adding extra fuel to this matchup.
Holm muscled Pennington into compromising spots, wearing her out with an effective mixed martial arts technique. Holm’s performance highlighted her evolution as a fighter since their last fight in 2015, as Holm executed a great strategy built around her dominant clinch exchanges.
Holm will look to use this win as a springboard for another title shot against Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, looking to avenge her knockout loss from July.
Maurice Greene vs. Aleksei Oleinik — 11:28pm ET
Aleksei Oleinik just notched the 46th submission victory in his career.
Oleinik (58-13-1) defeated Maurice Greene (8-4) in the waning moments of Round Two, making Greene tap to a ferocious arm bar.
Two takedowns from Oleinik allowed him to control the opening round from the mat. Greene withstood an incredible amount of punishment, surviving into the second round. Both fighters entered the second round exhausted, but a third takedown from Oleinik put him into position for the win.
The 6’7” Greene looked to have an advantage entering this fight, but he couldn't land any significant kicks to impact the fight. Oleinik has been fighting professionally since 1996. Twenty-four years into his career, it is still impossible to count him out of any fight.
Brian Kelleher vs. Ode Osbourne — 10:58 p.m. ET
Ode Osbourne made his pay per view debut against the veteran Brian Kelleher, which is a very tough task, so a major question entering this fight was how Osbourne would respond to the pressure.
In the end—and it didn’t take long—Osbourne made the mistake of exposing his neck, and Kelleher capitalized.
Kelleher (20-10) used his experience to force the fight onto the mat and win with an early guillotine submission. Osbourne (6-3) couldn't use his speed to any significant advantage in the opening round, and Kelleher looked back in old form after not fighting since December 2018.
Anthony Pettis vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira — 10:39 p.m. ET
Carlos Diego Ferreira celebrated his birthday his 35th in style.
Ferreira (17-2) dominated Anthony Pettis (22-10), earning his sixth consecutive victory with a neck crank to force a quick submission just under two minutes into the second round.
Ferreira was masterful on the ground, forcing Pettis down to the ground, getting his back and squeezing out any possibility that Pettis would return to his “Showtime” form. Pettis has now dropped three of his last four fights, which is an alarming pattern for someone who was once among the most elite fighters in UFC.
Ferreira has not lost since 2015, and he is officially a monster in the lightweight division with this statement against Pettis.
Pre-Fight — 10:07 p.m. ET
Conor McGregor is back.
But will his return be a victorious one? Standing in his way is Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, an MMA legend who is hungry to break his two-fight losing streak and add a noteworthy victory to his career highlight reel. The fight headlines UFC 246, which is a card lacking depth but offers serious starpower on top.
McGregor is an instant draw for the UFC, and a win will catapult him back into title contention or even lead him on a path to face Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title. McGregor is the favorite for good reason, as Cerrone has a chin that is not likely to hold up against an opponent with a left hand that can knock out anyone on planet earth. But if Cerrone can withstand the initial onslaught from McGregor and extend this fight into the second or third round, using his size advantage to dictate the pace of this fight, then McGregor could be in for a very long, and painful, night in this five-round fight.
Raquel Pennington also looks to avenge a loss to Holly Holm. Pennington lost to Holm by split decision at UFC 184 in 2015, then watched as Holm’s career skyrocketed with a victory against Ronda Rousey. Pennington is operating at the highest level of her career, and a win here will establish herself as a top contender in the women’s bantamweight division. Anthony Pettis also looks to stop a moving train in Carlos Diego Ferreira, while Maurice Greene meets Alekski Oleinik in heavyweight action. The last fight on the main card is a late addition of bantamweights as Brian Kelleher fights Ode Osbourne.
The focus for UFC 246 is on the headline. Even without a title on the line, there is a lot at stake for both McGregor and Cerrone, and that is the fight that UFC is hoping fight fans will believe is worth the price of admission.