What Next For The UFC 229 Main Card Winners?
By Jon Prentice
One of the biggest events in UFC history went down this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada as the T-Mobile Arena played host to UFC 229, a card headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov and the returning Conor McGregor who battled it out for the UFC lightweight title.
Despite the post main event drama causing the majority of talking points from the weekend, there is no denying that the octagon action also delivered with a number of fantastic finishes. Let’s take a look at what the future could hold for the main card winners:
Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0):
In the main event of the evening, fans finally got to witness one of the most anticipated match ups in UFC history as unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov squared off with former champion Conor McGregor in a grudge match that has been brewing for some time.
Nurmagomedov once again proved his dominance as he mauled McGregor with his relentless wrestling on his way to a fourth round finish via rear naked choke/neck crank. He executed the perfect gameplan as he took McGregor down in rounds one and two, in addition to scoring a flash knockdown in the second as he wore McGregor down from the first bell and nullified his early knockout threat.
The third round was more evenly matched and played out mostly on the feet with all three judges scoring the round to McGregor. Khabib reverted back to his wrestling in the fourth as he took a tired McGregor down, worked some of his ferocious ground and pound before taking the back and locking in the choke/crank forcing McGregor to tap. It was then after the fight was over that all of the drama ensued.
Following the win, Nurmagomedov jumped the octagon fence and attacked McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis, meanwhile McGregor scuffled with a member of Khabib’s corner on the cage fence before two other members of Nurmagomedov’s camp jumped into the octagon and landed punches on a unexpectant McGregor.
The aftermath to the main could have serious implications on what’s next for champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Let’s say he does not get a suspension when the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) review the post fight antics, in that scenario I would (once again) try to set up Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson. A fight that has been attempted, and fallen through, on multiple occasions, it is the one that makes the most sense with the former interim champion Ferguson defeating Anthony Pettis on Saturday night to extend his win streak to 11. It is a fight that everyone wants to see but everyone are equally as sceptical that it will ever come to fruition.
If the NSAC do deem Khabib’s actions serious enough to warrant a suspension, dependant on how long that is we could well see the UFC strip Nurmagomedov of the title if he is set for an extended period on the sidelines. This is one we are going to have to wait to see how it plays out.
Tony Ferguson (24-3):
The co-main event of the evening saw former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and former champion Anthony Pettis go to war in one of the most entertaining back and forth fights of the year. In a two round war which saw both fighters hurt, it was Ferguson who came out victorious as Pettis could not make it out of his corner for the start of the third round due to a suspected broken hand.
In a frenetic fight, Ferguson pushed the pace early, marching Pettis down over and over again, happy to take a shot in order to land a shot. The high tempo looked to wear on Pettis as he struggled to create any space to utilise his fantastic kicking game.
With the first round going to Ferguson, the second started off with Pettis rocking Ferguson with a big right hand that sent the crowd into a frenzy. With Pettis chasing the finish, the fight went to mat and Ferguson managed to bide enough time to regain his senses and clear his head. As the two fighters made it back to the feet, Pettis began to fatigue as Ferguson continued to pressure, mixing in heavy body shots that continued to sap the energy of the former champion.
As the bell sounded for the end of the second round, Pettis informed his corner that he had broken his hand. Head trainer Duke Roufus therefore refused to allow his fighter to continue with the injury and the fight was waived off much to the crowds disappointment.
Ferguson has now made it 11 straight wins dating back to 2012, a record for the UFC lightweight division. As previously mentioned, I would love to see that long-awaited showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov if the two can make it to the octagon healthy. If Khabib does receive a suspension and is subsequently stripped of the title, I would go with Ferguson vs the winner of Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz who square off at UFC 230.
Dominick Reyes (10-0):
“The Devastator” maintained his perfect professional record as he defeated light heavyweight mainstay Ovince St Preux via unanimous decision (30-27 x3) in another impressive display by the 28-year-old.
Reyes was dominant from the opening bell as he landed some heavy shots in the first round whilst he constantly pressured his opponent, tiring his more experienced adversary as the fight hit the second round. The second round saw more of the same, however both men appeared to slow down yet it was Reyes still forcing the action.
As the fight made its way to the final stanza, it was Reyes who continued to work for the finish which very nearly came in the last 10 seconds as he landed a huge shot that put OSP down. The final bell sounded but there is no doubt this would have ended via TKO had there been 5 more seconds on the clock. There was little doubt as to the winner as the fight went to the judges’ scorecards, with Reyes rightly being announced victorious, picking up his tenth straight win and fourth in the UFC.
Reyes is a serious contender at light heavyweight and it is fantastic to see some new blood emerging in a division that has struggled for challengers over the past few years. A fight with Aleksander Rakic, another top prospect in the division, is one I am extremely excited about in the future, however for now I would match Reyes up with Jan Blachowicz. Poland’s Blachowicz is ranked number three in the division and is riding a four fight win streak. A win for either would put them in prime position for a shot at the belt.
Derrick Lewis (25-1 1NC):
In a battle of huge heavyweights, “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis pulled off a sensational come from behind victory over Alexander Volkov with just seconds remaining on the clock.
Volkov got the better of all three rounds, stunning Lewis on a number of occasions and appearing to damage his eye in the process. It looked as though Volkov could have finished the fight several times when he had Lewis backed against the fence covering up, however, his failure to put him away cost him dearly. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Lewis landed several huge right hands that put Volkov down, and his ferocious ground and pound put him to sleep.
Lewis has now won three in a row and 9 out of his last 10 with the sole loss coming to the dangerous Mark Hunt. Post fight, Joe Rogan entertained the idea of a title fight against Daniel Cormier, however Lewis was not keen on the idea stating his cardio wasn’t up to scratch just yet. At the time of writing this it has been confirmed that Lewis will indeed challenge Cormier at UFC 230.
Michelle Waterson (16-6):
In the opening bout of the main card it was the “Karate Hottie” that came out victorious over Felice Herrig in a battle of top ten strawweights, taking the win via unanimous decision after the fight went the distance.
Waterson did more damage on the feet throughout the contest, nullifying Herrig’s strong clinch game in the process, to record her second successive win having defeated Cortney Casey via split decision in April.
I would like to see Waterson take on former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her next octagon appearance. KK is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jessica Andrade last month at UFC 228, however she had won her last two prior to that, sitting in the divisions top five. A win over KK would really put Waterson’s name on the map as a potential title challenger.