By Nick Shimkin
On this day 4 years ago one of the greatest spectacles in combat sports history took place in Las Vegas. And I’m not just referring to the main event, which was spectacular in its own right. UFC 189 top to bottom produced an array of highly technical bangers. If you’ll remember, the main card was stocked with 5 fights that didn’t make it to the final bell, and the time in between was nothing but beautiful chaos. To start off, Thomas Almeida who was in the midst of a meteoric run to the top (which was later stopped but we won’t get into that now) knocked out Brad Pickett with a flying knee from hell. After that, Gunnar Nelson put on a show against Brandon Thatch who did have an extremely questionable ground game. However, to Gunni’s credit he did clock him with a beautiful stroke to get it to the ground. And in the final non-title bout, an absolute war took place. Dennis Bermudez and Jeremy Stephens is one of the most underrated fights of all time in my humble opinion. From start to finish these guys kept a furious pace with a great assortment of both grappling and striking. Stephens finished Bermudez with yet ANOTHER flying knee, and better yet connected while backing up. The point I’m trying to make here is that these fights on any other card would get the recognition they deserve. So I encourage you to go on UFC fightpass or wherever you bootleg your fights (I ain’t no snitch) and please give these another look. Having said that, the Co-main and main event deserve all of the recognition and accolades that they have gotten and then some. Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald speaks for itself. From start to finish these two warriors put it all on the line for our enjoyment and for the UFC welterweight championship. Both of these men were beaten, bloodied, and battered. Robbie’s lip was split all the way across his face, Rory’s nose was three sheets to the wind and yet neither of these guys backed down for a second. One of the most iconic photos in sports history was taken when the horn sounded and the two fighters just stood there and stared each other down. It was one of the most intense and badass things I have ever witnessed. Rory had Lawler on the edge and it seemed as though it was all but won for him, his coach, Firas Zahabi of Tri-Star told him “one more round and you’re the champion”. But he was dealing with a different type of beast. When Robbie enters the final round it’s like a whole different fighter enters the cage. I mean he really doesn’t give a sh*t. When he gets that 5th round look in his eye it seems like there’s nothing anyone can do about what’s going to happen. Robbie came out guns blazing and targeted Rory’s broken nose, landing the one punch he needed and finished the fight to retain the belt. This is the fight I recommend people watch if they’ve never watched fighting before. This is the fight that will create fans. What came after this though, is the FIGHTER that will create fans. Say what you want about Conor McGregor, the man is without a doubt the biggest draw mixed martial arts and possibly combat sports has ever seen. He also has a tremendous skill set that should not be taken lightly. Jose Aldo was the original opponent, for the Undisputed UFC featherweight championship but pulled out due to a rib injury. Instead, Chad Mendes, who many thought would be a nightmare matchup for McGregor, stepped up on 2 weeks notice to fight for the interim title. On fight night, from the minute the two arrived at the arena the atmosphere (at least from my living room) was indescribable. The walkouts were nothing we had ever seen from the UFC. Two incredible live performances from Aaron Lewis singing Country Boy for Mendes and Sinead O’Connor singing The Foggy Dew for McGregor. It was emotional, electric and just plain exciting. The fight started off the way everyone expected, McGregor landing shots on the feet before Mendes got the takedown and started dominating with his wrestling and jiu jitsu. But as the fight went on, you could tell Mendes only had a 2 week camp. Late in the 2nd round, Mendes went for the patented Team Alpha Male guillotine choke to try and close the show but McGregor was able to roll through and it was evident Mendes was drained. Conor started teeing off and landed his money maker, the left hand. With 3 seconds left Herb Dean stepped in and the fight was over. McGregor grabbed his tricolored flag and in a primal moment of raw emotion cried in victory. None of the trash talk, build up or promotion mattered. On July 11th, 2015 at the MGM grand, Conor McGregor was champion.