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UFC 229: Knockouts, Grappling, and Post-Fight Drama

Nurmagomedov showed us his best in the octagon, but did his post-fight behavior overshadow his performance?

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Mixed martial arts fans around the world looked forward to UFC 229 the very moment the event’s line-up was announced.

The Main Card for the night went as follows: Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig, Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov, Ovince Saint Preux vs. Dominick Reyes, Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis, and finally, Conor “The Notorious” McGregor vs. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov.

Waterson won her match against Herrig by unanimous decision.

Waterson appeared to be very exhilarated by her win in her post-fight interview with UFC Commentator Joe Rogan, saying, “I’m just excited. I’m excited that I’m able to start utilizing the things I’ve learned at practice under these bright lights.”

Waterson also announced her goals for her future. She stated, “I have two goals. I want to be a superhero in the cage. I want to be a superstar on the big screen. I want to be the first UFC champ that’s a mom.”

Next up was Lewis vs. Volkov, which was one of my favorite fights of the night.

Throughout the match, Volkov dominated. By the end of the first round, Lewis already appeared to be exhausted. It seemed that Volkov would either knock him out or win by decision.  

However, Lewis appeared to suffer from an eye injury in the second round, so the fight was stopped by the referee in order to make sure he wasn’t poked in the eye by Volkov, which would be a rule violation on Volkov’s part.

Apparently, this break gave Lewis the time he needed to regain his strength because he went into the third round with a new pep in his step.

Lewis threw a few misplaced punches before throwing the final punch which resulted in the knockout of Volkov and a win for Lewis.

Following his win, Lewis fell to the ground, apparently out of exhaustion, and then proceeded to take off his fighting shorts for no apparent reason.

Lewis’ post-fight interview was the best of the night and may go down in MMA history as one of the funniest post-fight interviews ever.

My personal favorite part of the interview was when Lewis said he talked to President Donald Trump about his fight. He stated, “A couple of hours before the fight, Trump called me and told me to knock this [expletive] out and make him look bad.”

Following Lewis’ win, was the match between Saint Preux vs. Reyes.

The fight was good, but not particularly memorable. Reyes won by decision.

Next was Ferguson vs. Pettis.

Ferguson suffered a terrible knee injury leading up to his fight with Nurmagomedov at UFC 223. The injury was so devastating that he was unable to participate in the fight.

About six months after his surgery to repair his fibular collateral ligament in his knee, Ferguson returned to the octagon to fight Pettis.

I figured that Ferguson would most likely be off of his game upon entering the octagon, since he had so little time to recover from such a devastating injury. However, Ferguson vs. Pettis was by far my favorite fight of the whole night. In fact, I favored their fight over the main event of McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov.

Throughout the match, Ferguson applied tremendous pressure to Pettis. Ferguson threw consisten punches and kicks to the body, and Pettis tried his best to return them.

After being clipped on the hand by Pettis, Ferguson fell on to the mat. He recovered, but was knocked down again shortly after. When Ferguson fell for the second time, so did Pettis. As Pettis arose, Ferguson, who was already up, knocked him down again.

This action had caused Pettis’ cuts on his left eye and his hairline to open up and the doctor was called into the octagon. Pettis’ blood was wiped from his face with a towel and the fight resumed.

It seems as though this short break gave Ferguson a chance to get his groove back. He returned to the fight with a newfound vigor and appeared to overwhelm Pettis the whole round.

Pettis seemed slow going to his corner and while he was sitting on his stool, it was revealed that his right hand was broken. Pettis’ corner made the decision to end the fight and Ferguson won the fight by technical knockout.

In his post fight interview with Rogan, Ferguson was incredibly satisfied with his win. I had [expletive] fun in there. Nobody was going to take this [expletive] time from me. I went in there and acted like it was sparring,” Ferguson said. “Thank you, UFC. I’m back.”

The match between Ferguson and Pettis was, simply put, incredible. The fight was entertaining, intense, and a perfect match-up when it came to the fighters. Both Ferguson and Pettis were at their very best. I was impressed by how well both of them performed, considering their separate injuries, Ferguson’s being before the fight and Pettis’ being during.

Next came the main event: “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and “The Notorious” McGregor.

McGregor’s entrance into the octagon excited the crowd and it was clear by the cheers of the spectators that he was by far the crowd’s favorite. Khabib, on the other hand, entered the octagon to the sound of boos.

I am a fan of McGregor, and to be honest, I was rooting for him. It’s hard to not love a showman, no matter how controversial he may be. McGregor is controversial because of his pre-fight antics. Arguably, McGregor’s most controversial incident, as of recently, was his attack on a bus, which carried Nurmagomedov and his team, after UFC 223.

Nurmagomedov is a wrestler by nature. He fights on the ground, not on his feet. Although he can be effective on his feet, he is by no means a kickboxer or a puncher the way McGregor is. He tends to win fights by submission rather than by knockout. This method works out incredibly well for him considering he had never lost a fight in his UFC career.

McGregor is a fighter who fights on his feet, not on the ground. He primarily relies on his jiu-jitsu skills during matches and using his strong kicks and punches to his advantage.  McGregor is a very active fighter, meaning he tires easily.

Despite my rooting for McGregor, I knew one thing to be true: the only way he could win would be if he knocked out Nurmagomedov in an early round.

If McGregor did not accomplish the task of knocking out Nurmagomedov early on, there was no doubt in my mind: Nurmagomedov would get him on the ground when he got tired and win by submission.

My theory turned out to be correct, in the end. Nurmagomedov dominated all rounds excluding round three, keeping McGregor on the mat most of the time. In round four, Nurmagomedov put McGregor in a chokehold, and McGregor tapped out. Nurmagomedov won by submission, remaining undefeated.

To be honest, the fight, although good, was nowhere near the quality of Ferguson vs. Pettis. Nurmagomedov and McGregor’s styles differ so greatly that the result was an incredibly awkward matchup.

The real fight between team McGregor and team Nurmagomedov, the one which everyone found to be the most entertaining, actually came after the fight.

Following his win, Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon in search of McGregor’s jiu-jitsu coach, Dillon Danis. Danis was allegedly yelling demeaning phrases at Nurmagomedov during the fight, reportedly yelling anti-Muslim slurs directed at Nurmagomedov, who is Muslim.

During this altercation, McGregor tried to jump out of the octagon, likely to help Danis, but was stopped by security. McGregor then, allegedly, punched Nurmagomedov’s brother Zubaira Tukhugov in the face. After this, Nurmagomedov’s team appeared to try to attack McGregor.

The whole situation was absolute chaos and because of the chaotic state of the arena, as well as the angry fans within the arena, UFC President Dana White made the decision to not give Nurmagomedov his lightweight championship belt on the stage, a good decision on his part.

In the light of this chaos, people’s opinions on the situation differed. Some believed Nurmagomedov should be severely punished for his actions, whereas others believed punishment should be lenient or nonexistent.

I’ll be honest, after Nurmagomedov jumped the octagon, I was angry. I said, “This makes the sport look bad! He’s an idiot!” However, after the heat of the moment had passed and my adrenaline had gone down, I was able to truly think about how I felt about the situation.

Those who defend McGregor, but condemn Nurmagomedov are being hypocritical. And, yes, that means I was a hypocrite.

McGregor has made many stupid decisions in his career, many of which put the safety of others at risk. He has done arguably worse things than what Nurmagomedov did.

He did it when he attacked the bus, he did it when he threw bottles at Nate Diaz, and he did it when he hit Nurmagomedov’s brother.

And every single time McGregor has made one of these decisions, what has been done by the UFC to punish him? Essentially nothing. He’s been admonished, at most, and he has been spoken about unfavorably at press conferences.

Has he been deemed by the general public as a threat to the safety of others? For the most part, no. He’s still the fighter that everyone loves to watch. He was still welcomed into the octagon by cheers of adoration.

Nurmagomedov made a really dumb decision in jumping out of the octagon. He put people in danger. He brought the drama out of the cage when it should have been left inside, but do you know what? McGregor has done worse. He’s never been punished past the point of being reprimanded.

This fact doesn’t make Nurmagomedov innocent, but it does make it hard to proclaim him as guilty.

Brendan Schaub put my feelings into words better than I ever could, tweeting, “I feel bad for Conor, Dana, UFC, and most of all for Khabib. He’s worked his entire life for this moment. One millisecond of emotion ruined it all.”

As Schaub said, Nurmagomedov has worked his whole entire life to get where he is.

He grew up in the Republic of Dagestan, wrestling bears (yes, actual bears) to improve his grappling, training every single day, and dedicating his whole life to his sport to get to this point in his career.

To condemn Nurmagomedov for a single bad decision he made in the heat of the moment is absolutely absurd when the man he fought in the octagon has gotten away with, arguably, worse things.

Nurmagomedov made a mistake, one that should be punished with a light suspension. But the UFC and the general public’s reactions towards McGregor’s antics have set an unfair precedent, which is, essentially: If a fighter is popular enough, then he should be excused when he makes mistakes.

I refuse to accept this precedent as the rule for the game.

Fighters, no matter their status with fans or the amount of money they bring in, should be held accountable for their actions.

That means that Nurmagomedov should be punished. McGregor should also be punished for punching Nurmagomedov’s brother.

Future incidents involving fighters should be treated with the same harshness, no matter which fighter is involved.

The post-match fight at UFC 229 was ridiculous, but in many ways, the aftermath has been worse — the whole situation has been over-dramatized at this point by news agencies, by fans, and by the UFC, who took the incident as a chance to promote a rematch.

Also, Nurmagomedov, in making one dumb mistake, has had his whole reputation permanently tainted in the eyes of many.

However, even if he hadn’t jumped out of the cage that night, I fail to believe that the outcome would have been much different for him.

McGregor is the golden boy of the MMA world.

Dana White loves him, the UFC loves him, UFC fans love him and, despite every bad decision I have cited in this article, even I can’t help but love him.

It doesn’t matter what he does, good or bad, McGregor will always be loved by many.

His appeal is probably because even with his bad manners and his often off-the-wall behavior, he is a true showman and an unrelenting fighter — in and outside of the octagon.

In taking this opportunity to fight McGregor, Nurmagomedov became the bad guy.

It doesn’t matter how fantastic he is at what he does and it doesn’t matter how respectable he may act outside of the octagon, Nurmagomedov is a loser whether he wins or not because McGregor is always the winner.

He is automatically a bad guy because only a bad guy would fight the man that everyone loves, the golden boy.

People love to hate the bad guy — but they love it even more when he’s a winner.

Header credit: Wikipedia

About the Writer
Riley Johanson, Editor-in-Chief

Riley Johanson is a Sophomore at Livermore High School in her second year of Journalism. Riley was the Opinions Editor for The Torch last year and is now...

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