It was the night of the two title fights, but who would emerge as the kings of their divisions? That was what I was hoping to find out by watching UFC 189, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.
The show began in the bantamweight division as Brad Pickett took on Thomas Almeida.
This was a great way to start the main show. The first round was fought at a very frantic pace. Pickett enjoyed some success early on when a couple of big lefts swelled Almeida’s right eye, and a few moments later a knee gave him a broken nose for his troubles as well. The Brazilian managed to get in a few decent blows of his own, although it was obvious to everyone that the Londoner has clearly won the round.
Pickett fans were probably hoping for more of the same as the second round began. Sadly for them they didn’t get it, because after just 29 seconds Almeida connected with a flying left knee to chin. Pickett fell like the proverbial sack of spuds as the referee stepped in immediately to give Almeida the knockout win.
Welterweight action followed as Gunnar Nelson faced Brandon Thatch.
If you’ve read my reviews before you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Gunnar Nelson, and once again the man from Iceland put in a top notch performance. When the action began it looked like we were going to get a lengthy feeling out period. That was until Nelson connected with a left/right combination that sent Thatch crashing to the canvas.
Nelson followed him down and was all over him like a cheap suit. It wasn’t long before he took Thatch’s back, and after delivering a few well-placed blows he synched in a rear naked choke. Thatch had no choice but to tap out, giving Nelson the highly impressive submission win.
Then it was on to the catchweight encounter between Dennis Bermudez and Jeremy Stephens. Originally this was meant to be a featherweight fight, but when Stephens failed to make the limit he decided he’d rather forfeit some of his purse instead of trying to make the weight.
The first fight of the show to make it to the final round was a riveting back and forth affair with both fighters putting in great performances. The first round clearly belonged to Bermudez. An accidental clash of heads opened up a cut near Stephens’ right eye, and Bermudez took advantage of that with some crisp striking allied to some nice ground work as he took control of the action.
However, it was from the second round onwards that Stephens began to impose his will on the game. His striking definitely looked a lot better. His left hook gave Bermudez no end of trouble and staggered him on more than one occasion, while his kicks to the lead leg gave him quite a bit of trouble as well. Bermudez was still getting in his fair share of good shots as well, but Stephens was clearly on top when the round came to an end.
The fight didn’t last much longer. Thirty seconds into the final round Stephens connected with a jumping right knee to the head. Bermudez crashed to the mat, and after Stephens followed him down for a spot of ground and pound it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to give Stephens the TKO win.
The co-main event saw Rory MacDonald challenge Robbie Lawler for the Welterweight title.
You know, as good as the first three fights were, these guys were in a whole different class. For just over four rounds they gave us what would be best described as a war, a gruelling and sometimes brutal back and forth encounter with both fighters leaving it all in the cage.
The feeling out process lasted for the majority of the first round, although MacDonald did have some success with his front kick to the bread basket, a kick which did tend to stray south of the border on occasion. It was a whole different story when the second round started though. Lawler really upped his game as he put on an awesome striking display, and it wasn’t long before his challenger was wearing the crimson mask.
The traffic would soon go in the opposite direction though. Although Lawler managed to partially block a right high kick from MacDonald in the fourth it did enough to stagger the challenger. Lawler looked in a right state as MacDonald went in for the kill, and when the round ended and Lawler survived that particular onslaught the staredown between the two of them spoke volumes.
It looked like both men had everything to play for when the final round began as Lawler, possibly spurred on by the beating he’d just received, began to unload on MacDonald again. A left hand to the already-damaged nose saw the Canadian slump to the mat. Lawler followed him down for a few more blows before the referee stepped in to give Lawler the TKO win.
The main event saw Chad Mendes taking on Conor McGregor for the Interim Featherweight title.
This was the icing on the cake, and when McGregor began his night’s work by rushing over the cage and attempting a spin kick you just knew what kind of fight you were in for.
The Irishman did a great job early on, using his reach advantage to good effect as he kept Mendes at bay with a few choice blows to the body. It was more or less target practice for McGregor, until Mendes scored with the takedown and opened up a cut above his right eye with a slashing elbow. This was how the rest of the round played out, with McGregor getting in some nice blows while Mendes scored with some nice takedowns.
Mendes really upped his game as the second round began. It wasn’t long before he took the fight to the ground again, but although McGregor had managed to escape before Mendes kept him grounded this time around. He was more than happy to stay in McGregor’s guard and deliver a few choice blows. But when a scramble saw Mendes going for a guillotine McGregor took his chance and got back to his feet.
Then, with the round entering it’s final seconds, McGregor began to unload with the heavy leather. A left to the jaw sent Mendes crashing, and after a few more blows the referee stepped in to give McGregor the TKO win.
In conclusion – you know what? This may just be the best UFC show this year.
From top to bottom we were treated to some tremendous fight action. Every fight delivered big time, and as the night went on you just couldn’t help but feel the emotion of the two title fights, especially when Conor McGregor won his battle. It was the kind of action that made you forget about Jose Aldo and his apparent injury problems.
Also, mention must be made of the somewhat subtle changes to the overall feel of the show, from the new on-screen graphics to the new Reebok kits that the fighters were wearing. It gave the show a fresher feel, and it doesn’t hurt to change things up a little every now and then.
As for my fight of the night no-prize, those in the know opted for the Lawler/MacDonald Welterweight title war, but the Celtic DNA in me is going to lean heavily towards the McGregor/Mendes battle.
So with all of that out of the way there’s just one more thing left to do, and that’s to give UFC 189 the big thumbs up.
By day I‘m an unemployed retail worker, and at weekends I volunteer in a local museum, but by night I’m the author of The Two Sheds Review, Britain’s longest running professional wrestling and mixed martial arts blog. It’s been online in one form or another since June 2000!