Four elbow strikes, one left head kick, a flying knee and a flurry of punches. That’s all it took for Conor McGregor to stop Donald Cerrone 40 seconds into the main event of Saturday night’s UFC 246 in Las Vegas.
Back to the win column after more than three years, McGregor enjoyed his moment and used it to throw a few shots at “so-called experts” who say his primary weapon is a left hand — including Cerrone’s head coach, Jafari Vanier, who said “we just have to worry about a left hand and that first round” in a pre-fight interview.
“You know they say I’ve just got a left hand,” McGregor said at the post-fight press conference. “They’ll have to say I’ve just got a left shoulder as well. A left hand and a left shoulder. The so-called experts of the game, when they’re breaking down my skillset, they’ll be saying I’m just a fighter with a left hand, which is highly disrespectful and uneducated.
“You’d be surprised at so many of the supposedly knowledgeable people, they’ll be claiming it as that. It’s a good shot in the clinch. You can really catch a man. I know I caught him the first one off-guard, and I caught him with one or two more and when we separated, the nose and the eye was busted.”
Shortly after referee Herb Dean started the welterweight contest at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, McGregor and Cerrone clinched in the center of the Octagon. The Irishman then landed a series of shoulder strikes before they separated. That appeared to stun Cerrone, and a left kick to the head signaled the beginning of the end.
Cerrone, who owns the record for most finishes in UFC history, has stopped many opponents throughout his career with a kick to the head, like Matt Brown, Rick Story, Alexander Hernandez, Adriano Martins, Jim Miller and Melvin Guillard. “The Notorious” knew it, and envisioned an opening in that area.
“I knew Donald has the most head kicks,” McGregor said. “That’s the equivalent of a world title to me. I knew this was what Donald would have been envisioning on his team; they would have been practicing how to set me up with high kicks. But at the same time, Donald has many discrepancies and leans that can set him up for the high kick. So the high kick was something I thought I could catch him with.”
Victorious for the first time since a win over Eddie Alvarez three years ago that made him the first two-division champion in the UFC, McGregor reiterated he hopes to have an active year in 2020, and doesn’t really care about who shares the eight-sided cage with him next.
Stepping in to replace either UFC 249 headliner Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson in case of an injury on April 18, or taking on a different foe, he doesn’t seem to bother.
“I don’t think the who matters,” McGregor said. “The lightweight title, that will be there. That will come back around. If this fight does go forward, I’m certainly not going to wait through holidays and injuries, so the who doesn’t matter. I’m looking at dates now. I know March was there.”