UFC 264 Takeaways: McGregor leaves on stretcher in wild twist of fate

Conor McGregor holds his right ankle while fighting Dustin Poirier during a UFC 264 lightweight mixed martial arts bout. (John Locher/AP)

“He’s going out on a stretcher in this fight,” is what Conor McGregor told Dustin Poirier as the superstar ramped up the trash talk and vitriol leading up to UFC 264.

In a trenchant twist of fate, it was McGregor who left the cage on a stretcher after sustaining a grisly leg injury and losing via doctor’s stoppage in a brief but thrilling main event.

McGregor came out with a kick-heavy attack and buzzed Poirier with his patented left hand before Poirier managed to land a few solid lefts of his own and McGregor initiated a clinch.

Poirier pushed McGregor to the fence where the former two-weight champion surprisingly jumped on a guillotine choke. For several tense seconds it appeared as though McGregor had a tight squeeze on Poirier’s neck but all that ultimately ended up happening was McGregor allowed Poirier to gain a dominant position.

McGregor tried inflicting damage with elbows and kicks from off his back but he was getting beaten up worse than at any point in his 2018 loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in their infamous UFC 229 battle.

After Poirier’s vicious ground-and-pound onslaught the two wound up back on their feet late in the round. Then, as the two men exchanged punches in the waning seconds, McGregor’s left leg buckled underneath him rendering him unable to continue.

It was a wild five minutes with the conclusion somewhat reminiscent of Anderson Silva’s and Chris Weidman’s memorable in-cage leg injuries, though McGregor’s was not quite as graphic.

UFC president Dana White told reporters McGregor sustained a broken lower tibia and will undergo surgery Sunday.

Poirier theorized McGregor initially injured the leg on a kick he threw roughly 20 seconds into the fight.

We’ve seen McGregor handle losses with class in the past against Nate Diaz in 2016 and even against Poirier earlier this year, but that’s not the avenue he took at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

A seething McGregor got personal and made negative comments about Poirier’s wife like as he did before the fight.

“Karma’s not a bitch, she’s a mirror, and this guy said the wrong [expletive],” Poirier said in his post-fight interview.

Added White: “I don’t like that. That’s not good. Leave people’s wives and family and that stuff out of it.”

Poirier takes the high road

The last time McGregor was defeated following an intense pre-fight buildup where insults crossed the line, Nurmagomedov hopped the fence and chaos ensued.

Poirier remained level-headed and didn’t kick McGregor when he was down, literally or figuratively, once Saturday’s trilogy bout was over.

In addition to comments concerning Poirier’s wife, McGregor said he wanted to inflict fatal damage on Poirier in the cage.

“There’s no holds barred on the trash talk but murder is something you don’t clown around with,” Poirier said. “There’s no coming back from that and this guy was saying he was gonna murder me and all kinds of stuff. He was telling me he was going to kill me and tell me I’m gonna leave here in a coffin and you don’t talk to people like that, man.

“I hope this guy gets home safe to his beautiful family, you know?”

Poirier also spoke about his charity, The Good Fight Foundation, and thanked a young man in the audience who’s battling cancer for being an inspiration.

Poirier, who now holds the record for most KO/TKO wins in UFC lightweight history, should face current lightweight titleholder Charles Oliveira later this year to determine the top active 155-pounder in the sport.

Tuivasa loves bangers and shoeys

Australian knockout artist Tai Tuivasa entered the Octagon with Spice Girls’ all-time great pop banger Wannabe blasting throughout the arena (just days after the song celebrated its 25th anniversary no less. Shout-out to Sporty, Baby, Scary, Ginger and Posh). Tuivasa was loose and dancing as he entered the cage and it put him in the right mindset for his clash with former NFL star Greg Hardy.

Tuivasa looked sharp throwing leg kicks early and after being briefly wobbled by a Hardy right hand he connected on a blistering counter combo as his overzealous opponent rushed in.

He celebrated the biggest win of his career in the only way he knows how: by drinking beers out of strangers’ shoes.

Tuivasa was unranked at heavyweight heading into the event and is now on a three-fight first-round knockout streak. Get that man a top-15 opponent next, plus a tetanus shot or a multivitamin or something after ingesting god knows what from all those random shoes.

‘Sugar’ Sean wins but it leaves sour taste in Moutinho’s mouth

Sean O’Malley was the biggest betting favourite on the card and the popular bantamweight put on a striking clinic against short-notice UFC debutant Kris Moutinho whose fan base undoubtedly grew enormously after putting his mettle on display. O’Malley landed 230 of 318 significant strikes, good for an astounding 72 per cent connection rate.

Almost as impressive as O’Malley’s output and accuracy was Moutinho’s heart and durability. He was dropped late in the first round but for the most part managed to walk through O’Malley’s best strikes. That’s why it was somewhat surprising referee Herb Dean halted the bout with less than 30 seconds remaining in the final round despite Moutinho not hitting the canvas a second time and wanting to continue. It’s tough to fault the ref for the stoppage considering Moutinho was eating unanswered power shots while mounting little offence of his own. Moutinho protested but he was saved from further unnecessary head trauma.

The pair walked away with Fight of the Night bonuses despite the one-sided nature of the scrap.

Du Plessis makes another statement

Dricus du Plessis improved to 2-0 in the UFC with yet another impressive knockout victory. The South African used his left hand to KO Markus Perez in his UFC debut nine months ago. This time he landed a clean step-through right hand that sent Trevin Giles to the canvas and several follow-up shots later the fight was called.

The 27-year-old is 16-2 in MMA with 16 finishes and certainly someone to keep an eye on at middleweight.

“Dricus du Plessis. Remember the name,” du Plessis said. “It will be a household name in the top 10 very, very soon.”

Topuria solves unique Hall puzzle

Ryan Hall has perhaps the most distinct and unconventional style of any fighter on the UFC roster. He rolls for leg locks more frequently than he shoots for conventional takedowns and seems more likely to land a spinning wheel kick than he is a jab. Undefeated as a pro since his MMA debut in 2006, Hall met his match in rising featherweight talent Ilia Topuria on the prelims.

Topuria became the first fighter to finish Hall and did so as Hall left his head exposed after a failed spinning kick attack.

The 24-year-old Georgian who fights out of Spain is now 11-0 in MMA with a well-rounded skill set. He has knocked out three of his past four opponents after the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt began his career with seven consecutive submission wins.

Don’t be shocked if he gets a top-15 fighter at 145 pounds in the not-too-distant near future.

Tavares ties Silva on middleweight wins list

Brad Tavares has been a steady presence in the UFC’s 185-pound division since 2010 and now he finds himself in some elite company thanks to a unanimous decision win over Omari Akhmedov. Tavares improved to 14-6 under the UFC banner, tying Anderson Silva in all-time middleweight wins with only Michael Bisping ahead of him on the list.

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