McGregor started the fight aggressively, coming forward and throwing a straight left. Cerrone slips that one and McGregor gets into a whizzer.
And this is where I think Cowboy is fighting a very strange fight. McGregor is just unloading on Cowboy with shoulder strikes and Cerrone doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t throw a single punch. He doesn’t go for a takedown. He then lowers his head, almost inviting Conor to knee him in the face.
It was strange behavior for any professional fighter, in my opinion, let alone one of the most experienced fighters in the sport (even a slow starter like Cerrone).
By the time they break the clinch, Cerrone was already bleeding; perhaps from the shoulder strikes. And then we have the one strike thrown by Cerrone in the entire fight: this right high kick to the face which McGregor comfortably blocks.
Then McGregor tags Cerrone’s chin with a high kick of his own.
At this point, the fight is over. The rest is a formality. Cerrone is wobbled and backing up against the fence. He goes into a defensive shell, gets knocked down, and after some follow up strikes Herb Dean decides to mercifully end it.
So, what does this mean? Not that my thoughts matter, but as much as I expected a one-sided bout (as indeed this was booked to be one-sided), I did not expect Cowboy to get dispatched in 40 seconds.
The surprise of Cerrone’s 40-second loss, coupled with his complete lack of resistance in these 40 seconds, as well as his history as a “company man,” led my initial reaction to be one of suspicion; what if Cerrone threw the fight? But then again, I may just be predisposed toward such “conspiracy theories” because of my West Asian genetics.
Assuming the contest was legitimate, what does it mean? It certainly means that McGregor is not washed. Cerrone may be well past his prime – and make no mistake: this was a tune-up fight for McGregor, and a parting gift for Cerrone, who has loyally served the UFC for nearly a decade. But McGregor dealt with him swiftly and decisively. He did what he was supposed to do.
He hadn’t won a fight in over three years; he was dealing with various legal and substance abuse issues. A lot of people doubted if he would ever compete again. He has now made it clear that: yes, he is still a high-level fighter. No, his career is not finished. Now, does this make him deserving of a title shot? In terms of merit, obviously not. But in terms of money, there is no bigger money fight right now than Khabib vs. McGregor 2. So if Khabib beats Ferguson, this will surely be the fight that the promotion will be pushing the most.
If I were McGregor, I would listen to his coach, John Kavanaugh. I would be looking to book the Gaethje fight. Gaethje has a lot of hype behind him, and he’s a favorable matchup for the rangy southpaw who thrives against overly aggressive volume strikers. Beating Cowboy has people talking about McGregor as a fighter again; beating Gaethje would have people talking about him as a title contender again.