It has been more than two weeks since Khabib Nurmagomedov humbled Conor McGregor inside the cage at UFC 229 with a fourth-round submission victory.
McGregor hasn’t shied away from the spotlight since the loss, but hadn’t gone into much detail publicly about what specifically went wrong for him during an excellent lightweight title bout that was sullied by the post-fight chaos that ensued.
For all his wild public antics, McGregor is a cerebral martial artist at his core and the former two-weight champ posted his thoughts on the fight early Tuesday in a lengthy Instagram post in which he gives round-by-round analysis.
Here’s a refresher on what happened in each round with some highlights, GIFs, stats courtesy of FightMetric, plus McGregor’s take on each stanza.
Predictably, Nurmagomedov wasted no time shooting for a takedown and spent the majority of the round in top position establishing dominance on the ground. McGregor landed 39 of 40 attempted total strikes, most of which were insignificant, while Nurmagomedov connected on 18 of 21 strike attempts in addition to landing one takedown on two attempts and securing one registered guard pass.
McGregor’s analysis: “I believe from a sport standpoint, round [one] was his. Top position against the fence. Zero position advancement or damage inflicted. But top position. From a fight standpoint the first round is mine. Actual shots landed and a willingness to engage. Straight left early. Knee to the head on the low shot. Elbows in any and all tie up scenarios. Opponent just holding the legs against the fence for almost the entire round.”
McGregor breaks it down accurately here. Nurmagomedov clearly wins the round and took it 10-9 on all three judges’ scorecards but was at no point close to finishing the fight or putting McGregor in serious danger.
This is the round in which McGregor supporters, and any casual viewers unfamiliar with Nurmagomedov’s MMA skill set, realized why so many fighters have hesitated to take fights against the dominant Dagestani over the years.
Heading into the bout, conventional wisdom had it that McGregor’s advantage on the feet would be as one-sided as Nurmagomedov’s would be on the ground. Few were thinking the best strike landed during the match would come courtesy of Nurmagomedov but that’s exactly what happened.
Aiding Nurmagomedov here is the fact McGregor is mindful of the takedown after what had just transpired in the opening round. Nurmagomedov dips his head ever so slightly, feigning a takedown attempt, as he begins throwing his looping right that sent McGregor to the canvas. It’s a right hand no striking instructor would tell you to emulate yet an effective punch is one that lands, not one’s that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Nurmagomedov used the punch to set up his next takedown and he spent the remainder of the round on top blasting McGregor with a heavy ground-and-pound barrage. All told, Nurmagomedov landed 58 strikes in the round and was talking to McGregor the entire time.
At the end of the round the rivals stood forehead-to-forehead along the fence as referee Herb Dean separated them. This is when McGregor can be heard saying to Nurmagomedov, “It’s only business,” presumably referring to some of the personal insults (and metal dollies) that were flung by McGregor in the pre-fight hype.
Each judge did score the bout 10-8 for Nurmagomedov.
McGregor’s analysis: “He is running away around the cage before being blessed with a right hand that changed the course of the round, and the fight. It was a nice shot. After the shot I bounced back up to engage instantly, but again he dipped under to disengage. That is the sport and it was a smart move that led to a dominant round, so no issue. Well played.
“If I stay switched on and give his stand up even a little more respect, that right hand never gets close and we are talking completely different now. I gave his upright fighting no respect in preparation. No specific stand up spars whatsoever. Attacking grapplers/wrestlers only. That won’t happen again. I also gave my attacking grappling no respect. To defence minded. Lessons. Listen to nobody but yourself on your skill set. You are the master of your own universe. I am the master of this. I must take my own advice.”
McGregor rebounded nicely in the third stanza. The fight took place on the feet where McGregor is most comfortable. He outstruck his opponent 44-17 and successfully defended all three of Nurmagomedov’s takedown attempts. Did Nurmagomedov take this round off? Some think he did. Was he simply in recovery mode and conserving his energy after his high-tempo output in the previous round? Regardless of why Nurmagomedov slowed down, McGregor ended up becoming the first fighter to win a round against Nurmagomedov in the UFC and carried some momentum heading into the fourth.
McGregor’s analysis: “After the worst round of my fighting career, I come back and win this round. Again walking forward, walking him down, and willing to engage.”
McGregor preaches being efficient with his energy yet in recent years he has faded late in fights with Nate Diaz and Floyd Mayweather and it happened again against Nurmagomedov. After Nurmagomedov was able to trip McGregor to the mat, once again along the fence, he worked his way onto McGregor’s back and eventually sunk in a modified rear-naked choke.
McGregor’s analysis: “My recovery was not where it could have been here. That is my fault. Although winning the early exchanges in [Round 4], he dips under again and I end up in a bad position with over [three minutes] on the clock. I work to regain position and end up upright, with my back to the fence. A stable position. Here however, I made a critical error of abandoning my over hook at this crucial time, exposing the back, and I end up beaten fair and square.”
It was the fourth loss of McGregor’s MMA career, all of which have been via submission.
It’s unclear when both McGregor and Nurmagomedov will return to competition. Both are facing possible sanctions from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for their roles in the post-fight shenanigans.
McGregor has stated his desire for an immediate rematch but he now sounds open to a different opponent. Could a trilogy bout against Diaz be around the corner? Nurmagomedov’s next title defence could be against Tony Ferguson, but the UFC has yet to make any decisions regarding the elite of the 155-pound division.
McGregor’s final message: “What can I say? It was a great fight and it was my pleasure. I will be back with my confidence high. Fully prepared. If it is not the rematch right away, no problem. I will face the next in line. It’s all me always, anyway. See you soon my fighting fans I love you all.”