Conor McGregor knocked out Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds in epic return to the UFC octagon
The faces in the background are just as notable as the flying knee.Source:Getty Images
Tom Brady is in many Americans’ eyes the greatest athlete who ever lived.
He’s won the biggest event on the US sports calendar – the NFL’s Super Bowl – six times and been one of the league’s best for 20 years.
He’s been in countless high-pressure situations, played in front of the biggest crowds and seen endless violent hits on teammates and opponents.
Still, Conor McGregor made his jaw drop.
Dana White has been in the fight game most of his life. He’s seen Ronda Rousey nearly have her head kicked off her shoulders by Holly Holm, watched Chris Weidman floor Anderson Silva and Francis Ngannou nearly decapitate Alistair Overeem.
Still, Conor McGregor made his jaw drop.
This spectacular image of McGregor following up with a flying knee after wobbling Donald Cerrone with a head kick seconds earlier is the perfect summation of the feeling inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as the Irish star was reborn at UFC 246 on Sunday.
McGregor is a picture of controlled aggression, Cerrone a broken mess and the front row of UFC brass and celebrities awe-struck.
READ: Only solution to McGregor conundrum
READ: McGregor clashes with UFC over Russia
Sitting in the front row, Dana White and Tom Brady could barely believe their eyes.Source:Getty Images
White hailed McGregor’s “fight IQ” in the wake of the bout and it was a pleasure to listen to the former featherweight and lightweight champion break down the 40 seconds of action.
He conceded to making one mistake, in the opening seconds when he rushed out and threw a huge left hand that missed by miles.
But there was an unintended benefit as Cerrone ducked into McGregor’s hip and copped a nasty blow to the head.
“I let that left hand go from the chamber,” McGregor said. “The force of him dipping and me connecting with my hip was even a shot.
“I put that down to 15 months outside of the Octagon … overstepping the shot. I knew Donald would attempt to dip under the left hand, he’s done it to the former champion of the division, Robbie Lawler, he dipped under and secured multiple takedowns. He dipped under Darren Till. (After) 15 months out of the Octagon (I was) a little eager.”
From there the 31-year-old was faultless.
He rammed home the damage his hip caused to Cerrone’s face by repeatedly driving his shoulder into his nose and eye from the clinch.
“They say I’ve just got a left hand, they’ll have to say I’ve just got a left shoulder as well,” McGregor said.
“It’s a good shot in the clinch. You can catch a man. I knew I caught him off-guard with the first one and then he caught one or two more and when we separated the eye and the nose was busted.
“I’ve utilised that many times in the gym … happy with it.”
Cerrone was clearly rattled at this point and like many fighters when they’re under pressure defaulted to their favourite shots. He loaded up a head kick which McGregor saw coming last week and blocked with his hands.
Unfortunately for Cowboy he wasn’t expecting one straight back and was taken out with a shot that all but ended the fight.
The King is back.Source:Getty Images
“I knew he was planning to knock me out with a head kick,” McGregor said. “But at the same time I noticed Donald has many discrepancies – he leans and dips under certain attacks – that can also set him up for the high kick. So the high kick was something I thought I could catch him with also.”
The aforementioned flying knee and a few follow-up punches were enough to force the stoppage.
“I’m happy that (the finish) was clean enough,” McGregor said. “Donald falls into shots sometimes. I was almost anticipating having (referee) Herb (Dean) stop the fight.
“I thought if it goes on here and I catch him with a backhand shot or a lead hook shot coming in and he goes down, I’m not going to follow him. I’d have Herb step in. That’s what I was thinking on the way in.
“So I was happy with how it ended. There was a couple of shots that clattered him to the head and the backhand put him down. He’ll recover and he’ll go again, so I’m happy with that.”
And so will McGregor, and fight fans everywhere – including Brady and White – are happy with that.