The biggest clash of cultures and styles in recent combat history came to a head at UFC 229 in Las Vegas on Saturday as megastar Conor McGregor took on Russian threshing machine, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
All of the trash-talk – which has lasted for more than two years, all of the build-up and tense face-offs and even the stark ethical differences collided in a feverish cauldron of passionate support; when McGregor walked out to his traditional Foggy Dew remix, the arena seemed primed to explode.
And explode it did, as the angry and merciless Dagestani fighter couldn’t contain his very real anger at Conor McGregor after the fight.
What was meant to be a crowning evening for the UFC and its lightweight champion Khabib turned into an utter fiasco after submitting McGregor with a stellar performance in the fourth round. The Russian who appeared to be arguing with McGregors cornermen jumped into the crowd and attacked a non-participating team-mate.
To make matters worse, a team-mate of Khabib’s ran into the cage and sucker-punched a defeated and unsuspecting McGregor from behind.
It’s hard to argue that Khabib has lost a huge amount of standing in the MMA community here, and there may be some out-of-the-cage repercussions too if the UFC decides to follow any sort of disciplinary procedure.
To the disappointment, Khabib’s ill-advised actions completely overshadowed a brilliant performance, where he controlled McGregor for three rounds, and stood toe-to-toe for one – a round which he lost handily but didn’t embarrass himself.
MMAs unappealing underbelly was exposed, and the smell will linger for a little while at least.
On the undercard, and in probably the only other truly significant bout on the card, featherweight’s resident weird-and-wild man, American-Mexican Anthony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson took on former UFC lightweight champ, Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis.
Ferguson was on a ten-fight winning streak, and was fighting to stay relevant in the chaotic swirl at the top of the division.
Arguably he had the greatest claim to be next in line, and/but now...
Pettis meanwhile, was merely fighting to stay relevant. ‘Showtime’ may have been champ not so long ago, but lately has been trading largely on his iconic and gif-worthy ‘showtime kick’ knockdown from several years ago.
Ferguson also had the question of his knee; barely six months ago he suffered a catastrophic injury that lost him a title fight against the aforementioned Nurmagomedov; but there was no sign of wariness or fear from the Mexican wildman.
Instead, what ensued was a wild war, which resulted in an absurd amount of blood from both fighters and a broken hand for Pettis.
Ferguson’s insane toughness was on display, as well as all of his old timing and weird creativity – all of Pettis’ spectacular kicks and clean offense couldn’t put him away.
Ferguson is back, and a bout at the top of the division surely awaits.