LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor wasted no time reminding people why he is the most exciting fighter in MMA. It took the Irishman just 40 seconds of the first round to dominate Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, earning an emphatic TKO victory in his first fight in 15 months.
McGregor softened up Cerrone with three shoulders to the face during a clinch, then stepped back and delivered a left kick that landed flush on Cerrone’s jaw. Clearly dazed, Cerrone staggered back against the Octagon and slowly slumped to the canvas as McGregor began to land a series of unanswered punches until referee Herb Dean called a quick halt to the fight.
“I made history here tonight,” McGregor said. “I’m the first fighter to secure a victory at featherweight, lightweight and now welterweight. Donald holds the record for head-kick knockouts and to get him down with a head kick, I’m very happy.”
Cerrone, who has now lost three straight fights, never had a chance. He ducked a wild left-hand thrown by McGregor at the opening bell, but took three shoulders to the jaw during the ensuing clinch. That started his trouble.
“They threw me right off guard,” Cerrone said McGregor’s wicked shoulders. “He busted my nose and then stepped back and head kicked me.”
It was an impressive performance by someone who had not been in the Octagon since October 2018 when McGregor tapped out in the fourth round of his UFC lightweight title bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Since then, McGregor had made more headlines for his bad behavior that could have resulted in jail time had he not had the resources to fight serious penalties. The normally bombastic Irishman had presented a more humble persona this week, often saying how appreciative he is for the life and fortune MMA and the UFC have offered him.
He vowed this would be the start of more consistent appearances in the Octagon and perhaps the first of three fights this year. But first things first. He had to put in a good performance against Cerrone, the 36-year-old fan favorite.
The 170-pound weight limit would seem to have favored Cerrone, but McGregor looked solid and insisted he would come right after Cerrone from the opening bell. Cerrone is known to be a notoriously slow starter, and McGregor looked to take advantage early.
“I’m not going to be in a rush, but I’m going to put pressure on Donald,” McGregor said.
The Dubliner did just that, smothering Cerrone instantly and then hurting him with the ferocious head kick.
“I’m very happy,” McGregor said. “I like this weight division. It feels really good.”
If he is a man of his words, this is just the start of a busy year for McGregor, who said he might fight up to three times in 2020.
“You’re going to see a lot of me here,” he said.
McGregor, a former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, said he is open to facing either Tony Ferguson or Nurmagomedov. Those two are scheduled to battle at UFC 249 for Nurmagomedov’s lightweight belt.
“Both men are certainly in the cross hairs,” McGregor said earlier this week.
And don’t be surprised if one of his fights this year is a boxing match. Manny Pacquiao seems to be making himself an option. McGregor has already envisioned fighting Pacquiao in the new football stadium being built for the Raiders.
“I would love to be the first combatant to fight in that arena,” McGregor said.
In earlier bouts on the main card, Diego Ferreira submitted Anthony Pettis in the second round of a lightweight bout; Aleksei Oleinik submitted Maurice Greene in the second round, Brian Kelleher submitted Ode’ Osbourne in the first round and Holly Holm won a unanimous decision over Raquel Pennington in a rematch of Holm’s UFC debut in 2015.
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