All of the conflicts between Conor McGregor and the fighter who replaced him as UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, come to a head Saturday night in Las Vegas when they step into the T-Mobile Arena Octagon in pursuit of the same glory at UFC 229. McGregor (21-3) is a slight underdog against the unbeaten Nurmagomedov (26-0) in one of the most hotly anticipated bouts in UFC history. Join us here at the Los Angeles Times as mixed martial arts reporter Todd Martin provides round-by-round coverage of each fight on the UFC 229 card.
UFC lightweight title: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor live round-by-round coverage
Conor McGregor is probably the biggest superstar in the history of MMA, the Irish icon who talks a big game and consistently backs it up. He returns to MMA after a nearly two year hiatus including a boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather. He seeks the UFC lightweight title he never lost in the Octagon. Khabib Nurmagomedov captured that title and is undefeated over the course of his career. This is a major clash of styles as the striker McGregor will look to keep the fight standing while Nurmagomedov will look to take him down and punish the Irishman on the ground.
Round 1. There is plenty of security between the fighters during the referee instructions to make sure nothing happens. McGregor walks in and lands a left hand. Khabib goes for a takedown. Khabib blocks the takedown but Khabib keeps control of a leg and secures it by the cage. Khabib controls McGregor’s legs but isn’t doing any damage yet. McGregor looks to stand up but Khabib prevents that. Khabib has McGregor’s legs nicely controlled but he isn’t able to do much damage in the process. Halfway through the round, Khabib starts to land a few punches. McGregor uses a bufferfly guard and lands a few punches from the bottom. The crowd boos, hoping to inspire a standup. Khabib lands some punches late in the round from half guard. 10-9 Khabib.
Round 2. McGregor comes out with his hands low and throws some wild strikes. Khabib knocks McGregor down with a heavy punch. He hurts McGregor with another punch and then slams McGregor down. Khabib gains full mount position quickly but McGregor then regains guard. Khabib lands some hard punches and elbows from inside McGregor’s guard. Khabib lands a stiff short elbow. McGregor is eating heavy punishment and McGregor is just covering up. Khabib is landing punch after punch from a standing position and it looks like the fight could be stopped at any time. Khabib changes tactics and looks for a kimura submission. Khabib gives that up and McGregor returns to his feet. The fighters exchange words after the round ends. 10-8 Khabib.
Round 3. McGregor comes out with his hands higher. McGregor lands a few punches. Khabib responds with some punches of his own. Neither man is landing anything big. Khabib shoots for a takedown. It is blocked and McGregor lands an elbow. However, Khabib then lands a strong punch of his own. McGregor blocks another takedown attempt. McGregor lands an uppercut and starts to throw more. Khabib is standing with McGregor and they’re both landing punches. McGregor is mixing in knees as well. Khabib goes for a takedown late. McGregor is briefly down but pops back up. 10-9 McGregor.
Round 4. McGregor lands a nice punch early. McGregor also mixes in a couple front kicks to the body. Khabib goes for a takedown a minute into the round. He gets McGregor down next to the cage. McGregor gets up briefly but Khabib pulls McGregor back down. Khabib lands some punches from top position. Khabib grabs a choke from the back. It might be more of a neck crank. Either way, McGregor taps.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov, submission, round 4.
After the fight, a wild scene breaks out. Khabib continues jawing at McGregor after the submission. Khabib then starts yelling at McGregor’s corner and throws his mouthpiece in that direction. Khabib then jumps the Octagon and goes after Dillon Danis, McGregor’s coach. While that’s going on, one of Khabib’s corner leaps the Octagon and attacks McGregor from behind with punches. a brawl breaks out in multiple spots around the Octagon. This is complete madness and it’s going to be difficult to sort out.
Dana White has Khabib Nurmagomedov leave without putting the title on him, saying that there might be a negative reaction from the crowd.
Tony Ferguson vs. Anthony Pettis live round-by-round coverage
The top contender for the winner of tonight’s Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor main event is Tony Ferguson. Ferguson is an excellent striker with dangerous submission skills and he has won 10 fights in a row. His opponent is Anthony Pettis. The former lightweight champion has won two out of three but has generally struggled since losing the lightweight championship.
Round 1. Pettis lands a couple hard leg kicks on the leg Ferguson was out of action for. Ferguson switches stances a few times after that. Ferguson continues to move forward, as Pettis mostly circles back. Neither man is landing all that much to the head. Ferguson lands some big punches at the end. Tough round to score. 10-9 Ferguson.
Round 2. Pettis drops Ferguson with a right hand and swarms on him looking for the finish. Pettis throws a series of big punches trying to bring the fight to an end. Ferguson survives. In the process of Pettis attacking, he gets cut open badly on the skull and is bleeding all over the place. After a brief break to check the cut, Ferguson attacks aggressively, throwing punches to the body and looking to answer back for Pettis’ earlier offense. Ferguson is really going to town, attacking the head and body. He forces Pettis to fire back. Pettis is now cut on the other wide of his head near the eye and he is a bloody mess. Ferguson is really pummeling Pettis by the cage as the round comes to an end. That was an unbelievable round.
The fight is stopped after the second because of a broken hand on Pettis. Usually fighters continue even with broken hands but that was a horrendous beating Pettis took in the second, he was bleeding badly in two spots, and it was going to be tough to continue in that state with a serious limitation. It was a good decision to stop the fight on the part of Pettis’ corner.
Winner: Tony Ferguson, TKO, round 2.
That was a crazy fight and Tony Ferguson solidified his reputation as a wildman. Hopefully Ferguson will get his fight against the winner of Nurmagomedov and McGregor because he certainly deserves it.
Dominick Reyes vs. Ovince St. Preux live round-by-round coverage
Once the sport’s glamour division, the light heavyweight division has struggled in recent years. Dominick Reyes is one of the young hopes of the division, 9-0 with three first round finishes in the UFC. He gets a significant test tonight in Ovince St. Preux, a respected veteran who has fought many of the division’s best and has won 3 of his last 4 fights.
Round 1. Reyes comes out aggressively, landing some kicks and jabs. His best shots have probably been looping punches which he throws with power. St. Preux looks for a takedown but it is blocked. St. Preux attempts it again and Reyes opens up with a series of hard elbows to the head. St. Preux gets the takedown but Reyes rapidly returns to his feet. St. Preux keeps looking for the takedown and Reyes tries to make him pay with punches and elbows. Reyes opens up with punches by the cage and has St. Preux in big trouble. St. Preux has to retreat in order to regain his senses. Reyes eases up a little but then goes back to work with punches including a strong right hook. and left high kick. 10-8 Reyes.
Round 2. As Reyes throws a knee, St. Preux catches it and goes for a takedown. Reyes is still able to stop the takedown and they end up in a clinch against the cage. They break and Reyes goes back to his kicks. Reyes has slowed down but St. Preux isn’t capitalizing. St. Preux looks for a takedown but doesn’t come close. 10-9 Reyes.
Round 3. St. Preux lands a high kick early. St. Preux throws a few jabs. Reyes responds with a few kicks of his own. St. Preux moves in and gets caught with a counter uppercut. Reyes lands an elbow that cuts open St. Preux badly. Reyes also continues to throw his kicks. Reyes drops St. Preux at the very end. St. Preux is able to stand up and so the referee lets it go to a judges’ decision rather than calling it a TKO. 10-8 Reyes, 30-25 Reyes.
Winner: Dominick Reyes, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
That was an important test for Dominick Reyes and he came through in a big way. He dominated St. Preux throughout and nearly got the finish at the end. He definitely slowed down as the fight went on and it’s possible that could become an issue against someone pressing the action hard later in the fight, but tonight was another big step forward for Reyes.
Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov live round-by-round coverage
Derrick Lewis is a big personality with knockout power. He has won 8 of 9 but his momentum was diminished in his most recent win, a dreadful fight against Francis Ngannou. Alexander Volkov has won four straight in the UFC including a knockout of former champion Fabricio Werdum. Both men are hoping for a title shot with a key win or two.
Round 1. Volkov hurts Lewis quickly with some kicks and punches to the body. Volkov swarms looking for a finish and Lewis fires back. That forces Volkov to back off but Volkov hurts Lewis again and has him in some trouble. Lewis goes for a strange looking takedown but can’t get it. Lewis tags Volkov with a hard right hand and Volkov responds by taking Lewis down. Volkov has side control and lands some elbows. Volkov takes the back but Lewis nicely rolls out and takes top position. Lewis lands some heavy punches from top position late in the round. 10-9 Volkov.
Round 2. Volkov opens up with strong punches early. Lewis swings wildly in response, forcing Volkov to exercise caution. Volkovv follows with a two punch combination that lands solidly. Volkov goes for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Volkov is getting the better of the action but clearly has a lot of respect for Lewis’ power. The action slows and the Irish fans begin to sing. Lewis launches a wild punch here and there but is mostly missing and he is tired. 10-9 Volkov.
Round 3. Lewis goes for a weird takedown and doesn’t come close. Volkov seems to know he has a big advantage and isn’t taking any risks. Volkov lands some solid punches and Lewis has to cover up. Lewis survives and Volkov slows down. Lewis clutches his eye after a punch and is clearly having a lot of trouble with the area around his eye, potentially an orbital bone injury suffered in the first. Volkov lands a series of low kicks. Lewis moves in firing big punches but nothing connects. Lewis drops Volkov in the final seconds. He lands punch after punch on the ground and it is stopped. Well, that was something.
Winner: Derrick Lewis, TKO, round 3.
That was one of the more noteworthy MMA comebacks. Derrick Lewis was down big, he’d been swinging wildly throughout and missing, but he managed to land at the very end and got the finish at the very end to secure a very important win.
Lewis also delivered a wild, comical interview after the fight complete with profanity, drug references and strange jokes. It was quite the night for Lewis in both good and bad ways.
Michelle Waterson vs. Felice Herrig live round-by-round coverage
Michelle Waterson, popularly known as the “Karate Hottie,” has been featured prominently since debuting in the UFC. She is 3-2 thus far while competing against high level opponents. The outspoken Felice Herrig has won 4 of her last 5 but her most recent fight was a split decision loss so she’s hungry for a win here.
Round 1. Herrig pursues Waterson early, closing range while Waterson attempts to counter. Waterson has the different stance and is throwing a lot of kicks while Herrig is more conventional. Herrig connects with a solid right hand in the middle of a combination and clinches. They end up mostly in stalemate late. Close, uneventful round. 10-9 Herrig.
Round 2. The fighters end up back in a clinch early in the second, fighting for position. Waterson uses a judo throw to take Herrig down and lands some elbows from half guard on the ground. Herrig secures full guard but she is mostly just holding on rather than threatening with submissions or moving to stand up. 10-9 Waterson.
Round 3. Herrig instigates another clinch early but Waterson backs away. Waterson and Herrig scramble and Herrig gets top position. Waterson throws some hard elbows from the bottom. Herrig answers with some punches from the top. Waterson goes for an omoplata but Herrig gets out. Waterson continues to land shots from the bottom and the referee stands them up. On the feet, Waterson goes for a takedown but doesn’t get it. Waterson lands a nice front kick and they trade knees in a clinch. 10-9 Waterson, 29-28 Waterson.
Winner: Michelle Waterson, unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 30-27).
The difference for Waterson was her conditioning. She just had more energy as the fight progressed and that allowed her to do more.
Jussier Formiga vs. Sergio Pettis live round-by-round coverage
This is the most important bout of the prelims as Formiga and Pettis look to earn a flyweight title shot. Jussier Formiga is a submission expert and has competed against many of the division’s best competitors. He is 21-5 for his career. Sergio Pettis is 17-3 and is coming off the most important win of his career against Joseph Benavidez.
Round 1. The fighters trade jabs early. Neither is able to gain much of an advantage although Pettis is a little longer which works to his advantage. Formiga goes for a takedown and Pettis is down briefly but he gets back up in a hurry. Formiga secures a takedown with a minute and a half left. Formiga works with punches until the round comes to a close. 10-9 Formiga.
Round 2. The standup is much like in the first, tentative and mostly focused on the jab on both ends. Formiga looks for a takedown but Pettis defends well. Formiga then gets the takedown with less than two minutes remaining. Pettis gets up at the very end. 10-9 Formiga.
Round 3. Formiga goes for the takedown early and gets Pettis’ back. Pettis does stand up in the process but Formiga has a body triangle while Pettis is standing. Formiga looks to sink in a choke. Pettis defends well against that but in the process is trapped in a bad position down solidly in the fight. Formiga remains on the back all the way to the end. 10-9 Formiga, 30-27 Formiga.
Winner: Jussier Formiga, unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28).
Having Sergio Pettis on his win list is a nice feather in the cap of Jussier Formiga. He is definitely in the top mix for a title shot. However, it wasn’t the sort of exciting performance that will make fans clamor to see him get that championship opportunity.
Vicente Luque vs. Jalin Turner live round-by-round coverage
Vicente Luque began his MMA career an unimposing 7-5-1 but since then he is 6-1 in the UFC with all those wins coming via finish in the first or second round. He’s clearly a much improved fighter. Jalin Turner won on Dana White’s Contender Series and now will get his opportunity in the UFC.
Round 1. Turner has some success with straight punches early. Luque knocks Turner back with a right hand. Both men are throwing with a lot of power. Turner throws a spinning elbow but Luque lands a stiff punch in the process. Luque follows with additional punches and Turner goes down. Luque opens up with brutal punches on the ground and knocks Turner clean out.
Winner: Vicente Luque, KO, round 1.
Vicente Luque continues to roll. It’s not just that he keeps winning; it’s the way that he wins. That was a scary finish as Jalin Turner got an unkind welcome to the UFC.
Aspen Ladd vs. Tonya Evinger live round-by-round coverage
Aspen Ladd has a perfect MMA record of 6-0 with 5 finishes. She has a tough challenge in former Invicta champion Tonya Evinger, who has only lost one bout since 2011 (and that loss was to Cris “Cyborg” Justino).
Round 1. They come out throwing, with Evinger attacking the body well. Evinger looks much bigger than Ladd and she muscles Ladd up against the cage. Ladd turns Evinger around and gets Evinger down. Ladd lands some punches from the top and is generating plenty of power to the side of the head. Ladd takes the back and transitions into back mount. Ladd opens up with punches there in rapid succession and the fight is stopped.
Winner: Aspen Ladd, TKO, round 1.
That was a phenomenal win for Ladd, who showcased her excellent finishing ability and varied skills against an accomplished veteran of the sport. With the women’s bantamweight division thin at the moment, Ladd delivered the sort of performance that could put her in the title picture very soon.
Alan Patrick vs. Scott Holtzman live round-by-round coverage
Alan Patrick is 15-1 in MMA with most of his wins coming via decision. At 35 years old, he likely needs some impressive wins in the next year or two if he hopes to make it into the title picture. Scott Holtzman is 4-2 in the UFC and like Patrick has won mostly via decision.
Round 1. Holtzman lands a hard hook early. Patrick appears dazed but Holtzman makes no effort whatsoever to capitalize. Patrick lunges in with a nice straight left hand. Patrick’s movement is so unusual. Holtzman connects with a right head kick. Patrick seems fine but he does shoot in for a takedown moments later. Holtzman defends well. Holtzman is bleeding near the eye from a head butt. Holtzman lands a straight right hand and then clinches. Holtzman catches Patrick moving in with a leg kick, knocking Patrick down. Holtzman postures up, prioritizing power in his ground and pound as the round concludes. 10-9 Holtzman.
Round 2. Patrick gets a takedown but only for a moment as Holtzman gets right back up. Holtzman attacks the leg with some low kicks, looking to limit Patrick’s movement. Holtzman has Patrick’s unique footwork pretty well figured out. Holtzman gets a takedown and lands some punches by the cage. He generates a lot of power on the ground. Patrick gets back up and lands a couple of nice punches there. Patrick goes for a takedown late but doesn’t get it. 10-9 Holtzman.
Round 3. Hotlzman lands a heavy right hand early. Holtzman drops Patrick with a big straight right hand and looks to finish Patrick on the ground. Patrick is not defending well at all and appears in big trouble. Holtzman moves into mount. Holtzman lands some punches and elbows there and knocks Patrick out.
Winner: Scott Holtzman, KO, round 3.
That was the most impressive win of Scott Holtzman’s UFC career. He wasn’t troubled by a unique and successful fighter, landing the best shots throughout and getting the finish late as well.
Lina Lansberg vs. Yana Kunitskaya live round-by-round coverage
Lina Lansberg is a Swedish competitor with a kickboxing background while Yana Kunitskaya is a Russian fighter with a similar affinity for striking. Lansberg is 2-2 in the UFC while Kunitskaya is 0-1.
Round 1. Lansberg catches a kick and clinches. Kunitskaya uses a judo throw to take Lansberg down. Kunitskaya first is in half guard and then full guard, while throwing some punches. Lansberg is able to work back to her feet and they continue to work in the clinch by the cage. Kunitskaya uses another throw to take Lansberg back to the mat. She lands some punches and elbows as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Kunitskaya.
Round 2. Kunitskaya goes back to the clinch and throws some knees there. Kunitskaya can’t set up a takedown and they separate. Lansberg just can’t get going standing, perhaps because of the threat of the takedown. Kunitskaya goes back to the clinch. Lansberg attacks the neck but isn’t in a position to properly secure a choke. 10-9 Kunitskaya.
Round 3. Lansberg comes out throwing but isn’t able to land much. Kunitskaya returns to the clinch. Kunitskaya isn’t able to accomplish a lot there and eventually backs off, landing a punch in the process. Shortly thereafter, they end up back in the clinch. Kunitskaya lands some knees there. They are separated. Kunitskaya gets a late takedown. 10-9 Kunitskaya, 30-27 Kunitskaya.
Winner: Yana Kunitskaya, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
That was a clear, if dull, victory. Kunitskaya instigated clinches consistently and was active in throwing light blows to the body until time ran out.
Gray Maynard vs. Nik Lentz live round-by-round coverage
Gray Maynard debuted in the UFC in 2007. Now 39, the former college wrestling standout is likely nearing the end of his MMA career. Maynard is best known for his classic title fights with Frankie Edgar but struggled afterwards. He has rebounded to win 2 of his last 3. Nik Lentz’s fights are rarely pretty but he is an effective grinder with 12 UFC wins to his credit. He has tended to fall short when matched against elite opposition.
Round 1. Lentz lands a nice leg kick early and then a couple of hard punches. He stuns Maynard with another punch and then clinches. Lentz lands additional punches from close range by the cage. They separate and Lentz lands another hard hook. He follows that with knees and some punches by the cage. Lentz then takes Maynard down and grabs a guillotine choke. Lentz can’t finish the choke but he does roll over in the process so he has top position. Lentz immediately lands elbows and punches from there. Lentz postures up and goes to town with vicious punches. Maynard is taking tremendous punishment. Maynard stands up but eats a knee in the process. 10-7 Lentz.
Round 2. Maynard lands a few punches early. Maynard appears to have Lentz in a little trouble but Maynard moves in and gets countered with a series of hard counters. Lentz lands a head kick and Maynard goes down. The referee finally stops it.
Winner: Nik Lentz, TKO, round 2.
It’s two straight head kick knockouts to start the card. Lentz deserves a lot of credit for the improvement in his standup game. He was once heavily reliant on his ground game but he was comfortable and formidable standing in that bout.
Ryan LaFlare vs. Tony Martin live round-by-round coverage
UFC 229 kicks off with a welterweight bout pitting Ryan LaFlare against Tony Martin. LaFlare is an impressive 14-2 in MMA competition including seven UFC victories but is still looking for his first UFC. Tony Martin is a submission grappler with four wins in his last five bouts.
Round 1. Martin presses forward to start the fight, throwing lead jabs. LaFlare looks to counter with a number of kicks. They clinch two minutes in and Martin pushes LaFlare against the cage. Martin can’t get in position for a takedown and he backs away. Martin is occasionally landing a solid straight punch, but LaFlare’s kicks, particularly to the leg and body, tend to be the best blows. Martin knocks LaFlare down with a punch, but LaFlare is quickly back up. LaFlare looks for a takedown late but cannot get it. Close round. 10-9 LaFlare.
Round 2. Martin drops LaFlare with a big punch, and LaFlare is in trouble. Martin looks to finish with punches on the ground. LaFlare appears out momentarily but then recovers his senses. LaFlare is bleeding. Martin nicely takes LaFlare’s back, but LaFlare is able to turn out. LaFlare is briefly on the bottom and as he tries to get up, Martin grabs a D’Arce choke attempt. LaFlare is able to slide out of that and return to his feet. Martin catches LaFlare again with a punch coming in. 10-8 Martin.
Round 3. Martin catches LaFlare with a heavy leg kick. LaFlare goes down hard, and Martin adds further punches on the ground until LaFlare is out.
Winner: Tony Martin, TKO, round 3.
That was a tremendous win for Tony Martin. He showcased excellent stand-up skills to go with his already-established ground game. He may have earned himself a relatively high profile spot on a card next time out.
Ireland’s Myles Price believes Khabib Nurmagomedov will beat countryman Conor McGregor
Ireland’s Myles Price has trained and sparred with Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, observing both during the stress of career-building moments and the everyday behavior that defines character.
Using that insight, Price predicts that Russia’s Nurmagomedov will defeat fellow Irishman McGregor during UFC 229 on Saturday.
“Just because we are Irish doesn’t mean we have to support our own,” Price said.
The Bellator MMA fighter was in McGregor’s SBG gym in Ireland from 2009 to 2013, and he now trains alongside UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov at San Jose’s American Kickboxing Academy.
There was a time Price believed that he was regarded as the best lightweight in Ireland when McGregor, who first became a UFC featherweight champion in 2015, viewed himself as a lightweight.
“We clashed a lot because Conor didn’t know how to differentiate between me being a threat and competition — and as a teammate,” Price said. “It caused tension between us in the gym, especially if I got the better of him in a spar. Maybe now he deals with it a little bit better, but he has a lot of yes men and maybe they tolerate that a little bit better than I would have.
“That’s maybe because of his status now … it wasn’t the reason I left SBG, but it was definitely the icing on the cake.”
UFC President Dana White compared Conor McGregor to Muhammad Ali
UFC President Dana White, in the strongest endorsement yet that Conor McGregor retains the passion for fighting that made him the organization’s most prominent athlete, said Thursday , “there hasn’t been anything like this since Ali.”
White spoke to the Los Angeles Times hours before the final UFC 229 news conference as former champion McGregor ends his almost two-year layoff from the octagon to fight lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
In daring to end his hiatus and selecting Nurmagomedov as the foe, McGregor (21-3) risks a defeat like the one that sent former UFC star Ronda Rousey to retirement two years ago.
McGregor is confident in his decision of an opponent, White says. “He is one of the all-time greats, the best in the world,” White said.
A returning UFC champion can’t afford to come back against someone perceived as a softer touch, White contends.
“You don’t do that,” White said. “You guys are all soft from years of boxing. You think that because you took time off that you should be thrown in with a lesser opponent? What if you get beat by that lesser opponent? What does that do to your credibility and your stock and everything else? Just don’t do it. That’s not what we do here. That’s not the business that we have built, and that’s not the way we operate.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov has plenty on the line when fighting Conor McGregor at UFC 229
All of the conflicts between Conor McGregor and the fighter who replaced him as UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, come to a head Saturday night when they step into the T-Mobile Arena octagon in pursuit of the same glory.
For the power-puncher McGregor, returning to the UFC at age 30 after taking nearly two years off, the opportunity at UFC 229 is to reestablish himself — in what he said could be a $50-million payday — as the organization’s biggest draw and most entertaining star.
Russia’s far more stoic wrestler Nurmagomedov (26-0) is a slight betting favorite, and a victory would extend the success that encouraged the UFC to expand the international reach of its roster.
Before Friday’s ceremonial weigh-in before an estimated 6,000 at the arena, the pair delivered a final statement by not saying a word.