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UFC 189: 'Mendes vs. McGregor,' The Report Card

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The modern-day Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a bit like Hollywood.

Year after year, it promises you a summertime blockbuster, and year after year you get lured in by the trailers and advertising and head out and see "Anchorman 2." And every time you drop $100 on Will Ferrell in the hope that he'll finally outdo his "Old School" performance, but fails miserably, you come home feeling cheated and kind of concerned about what you're doing with your life.

The same goes for plenty of UFC events promising the greatest fights of all-time, with intense music and cut scenes to brutal knockouts inviting you to fork over hard-earned rubles, while Joe Rogan screams about how this is the most important fight since Royce Gracie was congo-lining to the cage.

Yeah, and then you get Anderson Silva versus Demian Maia in Abu Dhabi.

Afterward, of course, Dana White apologizes and promises to totally make it up to the fans, which reminds me a lot of the scene in "Shrek 2" when the titular Ogre says, "Someday I will repay you. Unless of course I can't find you ... or if I forget."

Well, last night (July 11, 2015) in Las Vegas, Nevada, White finally gets to say he repaid the fans. I mean, sure, there have been a few decent cards since the travesty that was UFC 112, but nothing like UFC 189. This has to go down as one of the most replayable pay-per-view (PPV) events I can think of in many long years. Every single main card fight ended in devastating fashion, every single main card fight was exciting, and the co-main event delivered in a way not thought possible.

That card was like walking out of "The Godfather" in 1972 and going, damn, that was money well spent.

We don't have very long to bask in the glory that was UFC 189, as in its infinite wisdom the company put TUF 21 Finale tonight (July 12, 2015), but in my MMA-saturated (but sleep-deprived) state of mind, I will attempt to pass judgment on the performances of last night's gladiators.

So, who got top marks and who failed to make the grade this week? Find out in the UFC 189 "Report Card" below:

My prediction: McGregor via technical knockout in round four
Result: McGregor via technical knockout in round two

What's more annoying than an arrogant, loud-mouthed narcissist? Well, it's usually an arrogant, loud-mouthed narcissist who backs up every word he speaks.

McGregor is easy to hate.

He talks like a man with an omnipotent belief in himself, shows contempt for his worthy opponents, and acts in a manner that runs contrary to the spirit of martial arts. Yes, easy to hate, which makes it so difficult to give him his due credit.

McGregor has done nothing but proclaim he is the very best fighter at 145 pounds since entering UFC. And he's done everything to convince fans that he's right. After the initial doubts that he wasn't facing strong enough competition, was being fed opponents who match his style and that he hadn't actually beaten anybody ranked in the Top 10, McGregor made disturbingly short work of No. 1 ranked Chad Mendes.

Mendes engaged McGregor on the feet early in the fight, landing several blistering right hands on the Irishman. But, McGregor shrugged them off, dropping his hands and talking trash to Mendes after every shot, mentally breaking the Team Alpha Male fighter even as he physically punished him to the body and head. Several people suggested after the fight that Mendes looked to be in poor conditioning, surprising even with a short training camp.

But McGregor clarified at the post-fight press conference that it was his body punches that drained the life from "Money."

Although Mendes found success with his takedowns, McGregor was not content to lie back and do nothing, landing vicious elbows from the bottom and waiting patiently for his opportunity to get back to his feet. When that moment came, with 30 seconds left in the round, McGregor pounced on his victim, landing combination after combination until Mendes fell into a heap with three seconds remaining in round two.

Watch Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes video highlights here.

It's hard to argue that McGregor wouldn't be a challenge for division champion Jose Aldo now. The only question seems to be whether Aldo will rise to the challenge.

My prediction: MacDonald via split decision
Result: Lawler via technical knockout in round five

Holy fuck. Was that for real or was I imagining a fight in which MacDonald was exciting?

This was a war, pure and simple. Both men were busted up, bruised, bloodied, battered and more b-words I can't think of right now. This was literally a fight either man could have won, as the back-and-forth action put Lawler ahead before MacDonald rallied only to have "Ruthless" dig deep and finish the toughest Canadian still competing in UFC.

The fight started out innocently enough. MacDonald and Lawler both stood toe-to-toe feeling one another out in a first round that was pretty uneventful. Then in the second Lawler's hands started landing with the full "Ruthless" force of fury, making MacDonald's face look like a blood mask from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The third was more of the same as MacDonald looked to be fading from Lawler's power punches.

And then suddenly, almost magically, almost as though it were scripted in a movie involving an Italian-American boxer from Philadelphia, MacDonald connected on Lawler and had him in all sorts of trouble.

MacDonald pounced on the American Top Team fighter, looking for the finish as Lawler covered up and tried to survive. The horn sounded just in time and Lawler stumbled back to his corner looking a little rough. The fourth round began much like the third round ended, with MacDonald battering Lawler at will, landing head kicks and punches that busted up Lawler's face to match his opponent. During a time span in which MacDonald landed what seemed like 10 head kicks and countless strikes.

Lawler found time to recover. I say again, he recovered while taking a beating.

By the fifth round, Lawler was looking like his old self again, coming on strong and moving as though he'd just strolled into the cage for a quick sparring sesh. His quick hands didn't take long to connect: an absolutely devastating left hand destroyed what was left of MacDonald's face who crumpled to the mat with nothing left.

To watch Robbie Lawler vs. Rory MacDonald video highlights click here.

An incredible fight that will surely go down as one of the greatest in the promotion's history. Afterward, the two went to the hospital and shared a photo reminiscent of the one after Nick Diaz went to war with B.J. Penn.

My prediction: Bermudez via unanimous decision
Result: Stephens via technical knockout (flying knee and punches) in round three

If this were any other card these two probably would have won "Fight of the Night." As it stands it might not have been second best. Poor bastards.

Nevertheless, Stephens and Bermudez punched well above their pay grade on Saturday, putting together an altogether spectacular scrap. This fight pretty much had it all. Scrambles, punishing leg kicks, submission attempts, and a flying knee to cap it all off.

If not for the fact Stephens missed weight this might have been a highlight of his career.

As expected, Bermudez imposed his dominant wrestling on Stephens early in the fight, landing a power double and another moment where he dumped him against the cage. But the resilient and wily veteran recovered each time, weathering the proverbial early storm. Stephens was also forced to overcome the psychological disadvantage of being cut open early.

Overcome it he did.

In the second round, "Lil' Heathen" began landing leg kicks to slow down the offensive output of Bermudez and nullify his wrestling. Nullify might be a strong word. The second round was ridiculous, as each fighter was dropped by the other multiple times. Bermudez actually managed to knock Stephens down twice and still probably lost the round because of the damage inflicted by the heavy-handed Featherweight.

In the third round Bermudez looked to go back to his wrestling advantage against the cage but just as it looked like he might get the takedown, Stephens leaped into the air and landed a knee flush to the chin of Bermudez who crumpled to the mat in defeat. This was a huge win for Stephens, who was rapidly on his way to becoming irrelevant at 145 pounds.

My prediction: Nelson via submission (rear-naked choke) in round two
Result: Nelson via submission (rear-naked choke) in round one

Is there anything sadder than a Hype Train being violently derailed? It was one thing for Thatch to fall to one of the greatest Lightweight fighters of all time, but there's really no sugarcoating this shit sandwich. Especially since Thatch was beaten in his own wheelhouse before he was run over in Nelson's.

Thatch came out looking, as ever, fucking gigantic. He traded for a bit with Nelson, and even engaged in the clinch to land knees that didn't seem to bother the ice-faced Icelander. For a little bit it seemed like Thatch might be able to keep it on the feet. And then Nelson landed a 1-2 that knocked Thatch over like he'd been hit with a confetti canon. Nelson swarmed on top and began looking for the inevitable finish from mount.

Now here's the weird thing. Instead of looking to recover half guard or hip escape, Thatch wasted no time giving up his back to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. I say weird, because "Gunni" hadn't even started beating on him yet. Also weird, because Thatch must've had that Benson Henderson submission loss floating across his eyes as he turned his back on one of the best grapplers in the entire fucking promotion.

Derp.

Nelson looked great in this comeback fight from his loss to Rick Story, using a combination of deadly striking with flawless BJJ. Thatch, on the other hand, could be one more loss away from Uriah Hall'ing his way out of UFC.

My prediction: Thomas Almeida via knockout in round two
Result: Thomas Almeida via knockout in round two

It's nice to be right, but for a while it looked like I was going to be dead wrong.

Veteran Brad Pickett ended a three-fight sojourn at Flyweight to return to the bigger boys at 135 pounds. Early on he looked fantastic, putting Almeida in all sorts of trouble numerous times. A left hand dropped Almeida early and the 23-year-old needed to rely on his excellent ground game to survive. The two were throwing hard punches the entire first round in a fight that oddly favored the English fighter who, although the veteran, was thought to be the lesser fighter on the feet heading into the match.

The second round had just gotten underway when Almeida landed an absolutely crazy switch kick flying knee that floored Pickett (watch the replay here). Although "One Punch" seemed to recover well from the knee, it was clear he had been flash knocked out and the ref called the stoppage. It was a surprising ending to a fight that seemed to be going the way of Pickett, but also demonstrated how devastating the 20-0 Brazilian fighter can be. He also showed that he's got a chin to go along with a Muay Thai attack that has now claimed 15 victims by way of knockout.

Quick Hits From UFC 189's "Prelims" Undercard:

  • What more can you say about Matt "The Immoral" Brown (A) for his gritty performance against Tim Means (B) in a fight where he was hurt multiple times, but used that unbelievable heart he has to pour it on at the end and get the first round finish?
  • Alex Garcia (B) used his Tristar Gym wrestling training to ruin the comeback party of Mike "Quick" Swick (C-) who looked anything but fast out there after a three-year layoff from UFC.
  • John Howard (C+) won a putrid performance over Irishman Cathal Pendred (D) in a fight that was fairly one-sided for "Doomsday," but nevertheless somehow wound up in a "split" decision.
  • Cody Garbrandt (B+) improved to 6-0 against a very tough Henry Briones (B-) in a spirited affair. The Mexican unwisely played defense until the third round before realizing he was down two rounds in the books and poured it on.
  • Louis Smolka (A-) will likely go unremembered from UFC 189, but his performance was quite incredible against the very game Neil Seery (B). Smolka used superior grappling to gain the advantage in a fight that was truly measured in inches.
  • Yosdenis Cedeno (C-) once again allowed his terrible wrestling to cost him a fight he likely should have won against Cody Pfister (B-). Cedeno battered Pfister with leg kicks in the first round but found himself on his back in the second and third and with no solution to the takedown, the Cuban will likely be returning to Raul Castro's paradise shortly.

Well that, as they say at Subway, is a wrap!

See you in a few short hours for TUF 21 Finale: "Ellenberger vs. Thompson". Be sure to join us for all the updates, play-by-play and recaps here on MMAmania.com.

In the meantime, for complete results from UFC 189: "Mendes vs. McGregor" click here.