Jose Aldo is the greatest featherweight in MMA history. He is undefeated for over 10 years. He is the only UFC featherweight champion there has been. A dynamic striker with excellent takedown defense, athleticism and an underrated ground game, he has beaten the best in the world for years. Conor McGregor has talked himself up like perhaps no other fighter in the history of the sport, declaring his greatness since debuting in UFC and winning all his fights for the organization. Now he has the chance to prove himself the best in the world in front of an arena full of fans who came in from Ireland to sing and root their countryman on.
Round 1. McGregor knocks Aldo out cold with his first big punch. It was a left hook as Aldo came in. He followed with a few punches on the ground but they weren't necessary at all.
Winner: Conor McGregor, KO, round 1. Conor McGregor is one of the remarkable stories in sports. The man came in talking about how great he was from day one, talking himself up like few others ever have. He then proceeded to defeat every opponent and knocked out a dominant champion who hadn't lost in ten years in a matter of seconds. It was like he willed it into being.
UFC Middleweight Title: Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold
Weidman is the undefeated champion, an excellent wrestler who has added strong striking and tremendous submissions as well. He ended Anderson Silva's long unbeaten streak with a knockout and took out the likes of Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort as well. Rockhold has been running through the opposition, winning 13 of 14 including destructions of Lyoto Machida, Michael Bisping and Costas Philippou with his only loss since 2007 coming to a suspiciously large Vitor Belfort. Both men seem to have absolute confidence they will win this fight.
Round 1. Weidman dives in with a hook and looks to take Rockhold down. He leaps up on Rockhold's back with both his hooks in, like we saw earlier with Demian Maia. From that position he lands some punches to Rockhold. Rockhold gets Weidman off his back. They clinch by the cage. Weidman throws a hard shot and dumps Rockhold down with a big takedown. Rockhold briefly looks for a kimura from the bottom but gives that up and stands back up. The fighters trade knees to the body from the clinch. Rockhold grabs a guillotine but doesn't have Weidman's body secured so it's very difficult for him to finish. Rockhold continues to grab the choke, though, and Weidman looks uncomfortable if nothing else. Herb Dean breaks them up and Rockhold lands a heavy kick to the body. Weidman goes for a takedown and Rockhold grabs his neck again. He can't get the choke but ends up in top position and lands a punch at the end. Great round. 10-9 Rockhold.
Round 2. Weidman dives in for a takedown but Rockhold uncorks some big punches and Weidman has to cover up. Rockhold hammers Weidman with another stiff kick to the body. Those come with such power. Weidman throws a body kick of his own. Rockhold then goes high with a head kick. Rockhold overextends on a punch and Weidman looks for a takedown. He doesn't get it. Rockhold throws a body kick and then a head kick. He's taking control of this fight. Weidman clinches but can't do anything with it. Rockhold lands a hard looping punch and another hook a little while later. Weidman continues to move forward but Rockhold is consistently getting the best of the exchanges. Rockhold adds another body kick. Weidman lands a couple low kicks and Rockhold looks at him as if to say, "Is that all you've got?" Weidman lands a nice body kick and chases after Rockhold. Rockhold counters with a straight left hand to the chin. 10-9 Rockhold.
Round 3. Weidman catches one of those hard Rockhold kicks to the body. Weidman clinches by the cage. Rockhold grabs the head. Weidman pulls it out and then gives up the takedown attempt. Weidman gets a takedown by the cage a minute and a half into the round. Rockhold gets back up without taking any damage. Rockhold uses another of those heavy kicks to the body. Weidman answers with three of his own. Rockhold uses a nice two punch combination. As Weidman goes for a spinning kick, Rockhold takes his back and pulls him to the ground. Rockhold quickly gets in his hooks and looks to secure a rear naked choke. He then gives that up and takes full mount. Rockhold just annihilates Weidman from top position with a serious of incredibly brutal elbows that bust Weidman open completely. Weidman just covers up while being butchered from bottom. The referee should have stopped it. 10-7 Rockhold.
Round 4. Rockhold, sensing blood in the water, goes for a takedown early in the fourth. He gets it and has Weidman down by the cage. Rockhold lands punches there and Weidman is in bad, bad shape. Weidman's face is in terrible shape and he's just covering it up. Finally, mercifully, Herb Dean stops the fight.
Winner: Luke Rockhold, TKO, round 4. Luke Rockhold turned in yet another incredibly impressive performance there, the best of his career. He took apart and brutalized a courageous and undefeated champion. That's a great accomplishment and Rockhold deserves tremendous credit for what a fighter he has become.
Court McGee vs. Marcio Alexandre Jr.
McGee, a former Ultimate Fighter winner, has a unique life story as he overcame heroin addiction to become a popular MMA star. He hasn't fought since 2013. Alexandre is a Brazilian striker with real knockout power.
Round 1. The fighters feel each other out early, with Alexandre landing a few nice kicks. McGee looks for a takedown but has it blocked. The fighters clinch against the cage with McGee again looking to set up a takedown. He doesn't come close. Alexandre lands a nice straight punch. McGee goes for a takedown but Alexandre grabs a guillotine choke. It looks pretty tight but McGee is able to fight his way out and lands a few punches as the round comes to an end. Close round. 10-9 Alexandre.
Round 2. Alexandre lands a body kick and McGee answers with a low kick before moving in for another takedown attempt. McGee lands some punches from inside the clinch but has to give up the takedown effort. He goes for another a little while later and again ends up in a stalemate by the cage. McGee simply holds onto Alexandre while landing the sporadic punch. The referee eventually separates them. Alexandre lands a nice straight left hand late. Dull round. 10-9 McGee.
Round 3. McGee comes out more aggressively. He lands a couple punches and finally gets the takedown. He lands some punches on the ground while Alexandre works his way back up to his feet. Alexandre gets away and back into range. However, he isn't pulling the trigger that much with the threat of takedowns from McGee. McGee lands a few punches on the feet and goes for another takedown. McGee gets a takedown with two minutes left in the round and immediately goes to work with punches and elbows on the ground. Alexandre isn't able to do much from the bottom as McGee gets in the best offense of the fight. That was clearly McGee's round. 10-9 McGee, 29-28 McGee.
Winner: Court McGee, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
That wasn't pretty by any means, but McGee took over as the fight progressed and picked up a comeback win against a solid opponent.
John Makdessi vs. Yancy Medeiros
Makdessi is a dynamic striker from Canada. He is coming off a high profile loss to top lightweight contender Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. Medeiros is a well rounded Canadian with a 2-3 (1 NC) record in the UFC.
Round 1. Makdessi opens the fight with a series of kicks, mostly low. Those kicks are generally his calling card. Medeiros seems content to stand and mixes in some kicks of his own. Makdessi as usual is the shorter, more compact fighter and Medeiros is looking to exploit a reach advantage with his jabs and kicks. However, neither man is landing much in general. Makdessi connects with a solid spinning back kick to the body late in the round. 10-9 Makdessi.
Round 2. The fight continues to be a standup affair. Makdessi lands the best shot of the round two minutes in with a spinning kick to the head. Medeiros lands a few nice punches but in general Makdessi is getting the better of the exchanges. Medeiros looks for a takedown with a minute left but Makdessi blocks it. Medeiros does land a spinning back kick to the body on separation. 10-9 Makdessi.
Round 3. Medeiros lands a kick to the body to start the third round. They exchange punches from close range. They continue to throw a lot but neither man is doing a ton of damage with significant strikes. The best weapon of the fight has probably been Makdessi's feet. Makdessi presses the action in the second half of the round, pushing forward with straight punches and kicks from different angles. They trade hard looping punches late and Medeiros drops Makdessi with a punch before the round ends. 10-9 Makdessi, 30-27 Makdessi. It was a more competitive fight than that score indicates for sure.
Winner: Yancy Medeiros, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
The crowd boos the decision but it could have gone either way. To Medeiros' credit, he played Makdessi's game and it was a competitive fight throughout.
Joe Proctor vs. Magomed Mustafaev
Proctor is a tough Ultimate Fighter veteran with a 4-2 record in the UFC but not the most impressive list of wins. Mustafaev is another Russian import, as fighters from that country have increasingly been making their mark on the sport. He won his UFC debut and sports a 12-1 MMA record.
Round 1. Proctor comes in with a combination of looping punches that land hard to the head of Mustafaev. Mustafaev responds by pressing the action himself. He lands some looping punches then a pair of kicks to the body that hurt Proctor. Proctor tries to pretend he's okay but it's clear he's not and Mustafaev moves in for the finish. He lands a pair of knees to the head and then adds additional punches on the ground until the referee stops the fight.
Winner: Magomed Mustafaev, TKO, round 1.
Mustafaev was very impressive there. Once he saw his opportunity, he went for the finish aggressively and got it. He'll be due for a tougher opponent next time out.
Leonardo Santos vs. Kevin Lee
Santos is principally a jiu jitsu artist with a 3-0-1 record in the UFC. Lee is a Detroit native who has won four straight in the UFC.
Round 1. The fight begins with each fighter looking to utilize kicks. Lee has his hands low and looks very confident. Santos has success with some straight punches. He goes for a takedown and briefly has Lee's back but Lee gets out of trouble. Santos drops Lee with a punch and finishes with punches on the ground.
Winner: Leonardo Santos, TKO, round 1.
Santos runs out into the crowd to celebrate following his win. He took it to Lee and proved he was way too long an underdog. He is gathering some solid momentum in his mid 30s.
Warlley Alves vs. Colby Covington
This is a terrific matchup between two undefeated prospects. Alves won the third season of Ultimate Fighter Brazil and has continued to win since then. Covington has a wrestling background and has picked up wins in each of his three UFC bouts.
Round 1. Alves lands a body kick early that sends Covington moving backwards. Alves pursues, but Covington uses the opportunity to take Alves down when Alves throws a knee. Alves quickly returns to his feet. Alves grabs a guillotine choke from a standing position. Covington tries to fight it hard but he's caught and has to tap out.
Winner: Warlley Alves, submission, round 1.
That was a big win for Alves against a really solid challenge. Brazil produces some of the best fighters in the world and he could be one of the top Brazilians in the sport over the next 10 years if he continues to evolve and improve.
Tecia Torres vs. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
Torres has one of the best nicknames in the sport: the Tiny Tornado, after her fast paced style. She is undefeated in official competition with wins over Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant but struggled in exhibition bouts on the Ultimate Fighter, losing twice there. Jones-Lybarger is taking this fight on short notice. She is 6-1 in MMA but hasn't fought the same quality of opposition as Torres.
Round 1. Jones-Lybarger pursues Torres early, principally boxing when she gets in range. Torres isn't throwing a lot early, circling out and avoiding Jones-Lybarger's attacks. She does land a punch here and there but Jones-Lybarger is getting the better of the early going. Torres clinches and presses Jones-Lybarger against the cage. Not a lot is happening in the clinch, with neither woman able to do much damage or set up a takedown. 10-9 Jones-Lybarger.
Round 2. Jones-Lybarger goes back to walking down Torres, landing punches while moving forward. Torres is having trouble getting off, although it's not like she's taking a lot of damage either. Jones-Lybarger pushes Torres up against the cage. They grapple by the cage before finally separating. Jones-Lybarger lands a knee to the body. Torres clinches again and they return to the stalemate by the cage. They may be working, but it's not entertaining. They finally separate and Torres lands a few solid blows. Jones-Lybarger goes for a takedown but ends up on bottom and Torres drops down elbows and then some punches from the top. 10-9 Torres.
Round 3. They return to the clinch. Nothing happens and they separate. Jones-Lybarger returns to her role as aggressor but gets caught with a few counters. The optics of Torres constantly backing off and circling away may not help with the judges. However, she is doing much better in the third connecting when Jones-Lybarger moves in. Torres lands a crisp hook and circles out. Torres, feeling more confident, moves in on Jones-Lybarger. She lands the best offense of the fight, connecting with solid hooks and backing Jones-Lybarger against the fence. Jones-Lybarger is bleeding from around the nose and is struggling with Torres' pace at the close. 10-9 Torres, 29-28 Torres.
Winner: Tecia Torres, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
That wasn't the most impressive of performances, but Torres picked up the win. Torres hasn't looked particularly good her last two fights and will need to impress more to build interest for fights with the best in her division.
Urijah Faber vs. Frankie Saenz
The "California Kid" Faber is one of the most popular fighters in the sport and long one of the best fighters in the lighter weight classes. At 36 and having lost his last fight to Frankie Edgar, Faber can't lose here against a lightly regarded opponent. Saenz is 35 himself but has won his first three UFC fights all by decision.
Round 1. Faber moves in with a leg kick to start. Saenz answers with one of his own. Faber moves in and eats a knee to the body. Faber looks for a takedown but doesn't get it. He tries to transition into a choke but doesn't get that. They scramble for position and end up with Saenz controlling Faber's neck. Faber gets out of that. Faber eats another hard counter moving in, this time a kick to the body. Faber continues to move forward but Saenz is effectively countering when he does. They clinch and trade knees and punches. Faber lands a hard punch in the process. Faber goes for a takedown but Saenz stuffs it. Saenz looks like he might get top position but Faber doesn't allow that by rolling out. Faber goes for another takedown but again it is blocked. Saenz lands a nice knee to the body in the process. He follows with another a little bit later and they clinch by the cage as the round comes to an end. Good start to the fight. 10-9 Saenz.
Round 2. Faber throws a head kick that rocks Saenz. He moves in for the finish and is landing heavy shots by the cage as Saenz tries to hang on. Faber uses a beautiful throw and ends up on top in crucifix position but Saenz uses an awesome sweep to take top position. Faber stands back up. Saenz knocks Faber off balance with an inside leg kick. Faber looks a little tired after exerting so much energy looking for the finish at the beginning of the round. Faber catches a low kick and goes for a takedown but can't finish it. Faber goes for another takedown and Saenz tries to take his back in the process but he cannot do so. That was another exciting round. 10-9 Faber.
Round 3. Faber catches a low kick and uses the opportunity to land a few hard punches to the head. Saenz throws a spinning back fist that misses. Saenz clinches and utilizes a powerful knee to the body. At the halfway point of the final round, this fight is still up for grabs. Faber lands a nice looping punch in an exchange and Saenz lands a solid low kick of his own. Faber prevents a takedown attempt and gets a takedown with a minute left in the round. Saenz attempts to get back up but Faber controls the legs and prevents that momentarily. Saenz keeps working and gets back to his feet. Faber gets a takedown late and Saenz goes for a heel hook as time runs out. The crowd gives both fighters an ovation at the close. 10-9 Faber, 29-28 Faber.
Winner: Urijah Faber, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
That was a solid performance for both men. Faber has lost some of his speed and athleticism over the years but he pulled out a gritty win over a very game opponent. Saenz has nothing to be ashamed of as he pushed Faber to the limit and gave him more difficulty than most expected. Faber is likely at a point in his career where he'd struggle against an elite opponent such as Conor McGregor or T.J. Dillashaw, but that doesn't mean UFC won't try to make those fights.
Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens
Holloway is one of the rising stars of the featherweight division, having won seven straight UFC fights. His striking has been his calling card and he is still only 24 years old. Stephens is a veteran of the sport, having fought in the UFC since 2007. He is a knockout striker and knocked out Dennis Bermudez to win his last fight.
Round 1. Stephens throws a few low kicks early that don't land. He connects with one while Holloway most just looks to measure him. Stephens catches a kick and looks to take Holloway down. They clinch for a little while and then separate. Holloway must have a lot of respect for Stephens' power because he is throwing so little. Stephens goes for a takedown late but doesn't get it. Awful round. 10-10.
Round 2. Stephens lands a body punch early. He continues to throw leg kicks with regularity. Stephens catches a spinning back kick and looks for a takedown. He doesn't get it. Stephens catches another kick a little while later and again looks for a takedown. He doesn't come close and we get another clinch stalemate by the cage. Upon separation, Holloway lands a hard straight right punch to the jaw of Stephens. Stephens grabs a single leg and looks for a takedown. Another really bad round. 10-9 Holloway.
Round 3. Holloway gets a takedown. He lands some punches from the top. Stephens attempts to stand up and Holloway responds by threatening his neck with a choke. Stephens is forced to give up the attempt to stand up and Holloway ends up on top on the ground. Holloway then takes Stephens' back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Stephens gets out of danger and stands back up. Stephens presses forward, knowing he likely needs something big to win. He lands a few good punches and goes for another takedown. Holloway prevents it. Stephens continues to attack at the close. That third round was certainly a lot better. 10-9 Holloway, 30-28 Holloway.
Winner: Max Holloway, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Holloway asks for a fight with Conor McGregor in Hawaii afterwards. That takes quite the nerve, given his performance did absolutely nothing to earn such a big money fight and with a home field advantage to boot. That was a big step back for Holloway, who came into the fight with great momentum and was passive and inactive against a favorable opponent.
Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson
These are two of the best submission fighters in their division. Maia is one of the best jiu jitsu fighters in the entire sport and a former title challenger against Anderson Silva. He has won three straight fights. Nelson is from Iceland and is 14-1-1 in MMA. He is coming off an excellent win against Brandon Thatch. This could be very exciting on the ground but often when jiu jitsu aces are matched up it ends up as a sloppy standup fight.
Round 1. Maia paws with his jab and then shoots for a takedown. Nelson reverses and takes Maia down. Maia then quickly stands back up and they grapple for position by the cage. Nelson looks for a guillotine choke as Maia goes for the takedown but cannot get it. They scramble with Nelson ending up on top. Nelson looks to pass into side control position but Maia has one of his legs trapped. Maia gets back up and then takes Nelson down. Nelson stands up but Maia takes his back with both his hooks in. He lands punches from the back. Nelson tries to scramble out but ends up mounted by Maia. Maia lands some punches and takes the back again. Nelson is forced to cover up and defend. Maia continues to land punches while Nelson concentrates on preventing a rear naked choke from being set up. Maia goes for an armbar and gets the arm extended but Nelson slips out, ends up on top and lands some punches. Terrific opening round with some awesome ground action. 10-9 Maia.
Round 2. Maia lands a nice straight left hand and goes for a single leg takedown. Nelson nicely reverses and ends up in top position but Maia pushes through and returns to his feet. They grapple for positioning there. Maia again gets Nelson's back, just like in the first round. Nelson stands up and he stands by the cage with Maia on his back with both hooks in. Maia lands some punches from that position. Maia pulls Nelson down and lands some harder punches on the ground. The Brazilian crowd, largely drowned out by the Irish, begin to assert themselves. Nelson successfully rolls out of having his back controlled into top position. But then Maia counters with a reversal of his own and gains top position for himself. Maia drops some hard elbows from top position while looking to move into side control. He then bypasses that altogether and mounts Nelson at the close of the round. That was another really fun ground battle. This has been just a great fight. 10-8 Maia.
Round 3. Maia lands a straight left hand and shoots in for a takedown. He gets Nelson down momentarily but Nelson grabs his neck. Nelson can't get a choke and Maia ends up in top position. Maia is in half guard and is dropping down elbows from that position while controlling Nelson. Maia takes Nelson's back yet again and this time locks up a body triangle. Nelson at this point is just in survival mode. Maia lands punches while controlling the position. Nelson does roll into top position at the close. 10-8 Maia, 30-25 Maia.
Winner: Demian Maia, unanimous decision (30-26, 30-25, 30-25).
Maia put on a clinic there. Gunnar Nelson is an excellent submission artist. That's his specialty. Maia thoroughly dominated him at that game. After the fight, he called out the UFC welterweight champion. That was the sort of performance that will make fans want to see that fight.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Yoel Romero
This is an amazing matchup, so good that UFC has rescheduled it twice this year to make sure it happened. Souza is one of the best submission artists to ever enter into MMA and he has added great striking as well. He is dangerous wherever the fight goes. Romero is one of the best wrestlers to ever enter the sport, an Olympic medalist with off the charts athleticism, brutal knockout power and the disposition of a finisher. The winner will be the clear top challenger for the winner of Weidman-Rockhold later.
Round 1. Romero throws a kick to the shoulder to start things off. Souza lands a nice straight punch up the middle. Souza lands a solid body punch. Both fighters are careful early knowing the danger the other man poses. Romero drops Souza with a spinning back fist. He goes down into Souza's guard with heavy punches and is just going to town while trying to avoid any submission attempts. Souza looks to set up an arm bar while Romero continues to throw heavy punches and elbows from the top. Souza goes for another arm bar but Romero is able to pull his arm out of danger. 10-9 Romero. Souza struggled to get back to his corner between rounds.
Round 2. Souza lands a hook and looks for a takedown. Romero blocks it. Souza dives in and grabs a leg but Romero blocks it. Souza keeps working for it but Romero grabs the fence and uses it to take top position. They are returned to their feet with a warning. They exchange punches with Souza going to the body and Romero to the head. Souza ducks down for a takedown but Romero blocks it. Romero lands a nice inside leg kick. Not a lot of action that round. 10-9 Souza.
Round 3. Romero comes out aggressive with some punches up the middle. Souza looks for a front kick that just misses. Romero teases ducking for a takedown and then connects with a straight punch. Souza goes for a takedown but can't quite get it. Romero lands a straight left hand. He's getting off better this round. Souza stuns Romero with a straight punch and opens up by the cage. He adds some additional big punches and takes Romero down. Souza lands some punches from half guard and looks to set up an arm triangle choke. Souza drops a couple elbows and adds some knees to the body. Romero gets up at the close of the round. 10-9 Souza, 29-28 Souza.
Winner: Yoel Romero, split decision (29-27, 28-29, 29-28).
That was a tough fight to score. Romero won the first round big, with the question being whether it would be 10-8. Souza clearly won round three. Round two was a toss-up. On balance, Romero did better and deserved to win but the scoring system made a good argument for Souza. Romero will make an excellent challenger for Chris Weidman or Luke Rockhold.