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UFC 246: Fight-by-fight recap

Conor McGregor delivers an overhand left against Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone only seconds into their UFC 246 fight on Jan. 18, 2020, in Las Vegas.
Conor McGregor delivers an overhand left against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone only seconds into their UFC 246 fight on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

The UFC kicked off its 2020 lineup with a pay-per-view from Las Vegas headlined by the return of the biggest star in the sport, Conor McGregor. The Irishman McGregor (22-4), engulfed in recent years by serious allegations of misconduct, picked up his first win since 2016 with a 40-second TKO of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-14, 1 no contest).

Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone

Conor McGregor rose to superstardom with his mouth and his fists. The past few years he has continued to make massive amounts of money but he has not provided as many memorable moments when it comes to his fighting. Donald Cerrone has struggled in recent fights so it’s imperative McGregor performs impressively here if he hopes to reclaim his lofty reputation inside the Octagon.

Round 1. McGregor runs forward and throws some shoulder strikes from a clinch. McGregor stuns Cerrone with a head kick and knocks him down with further punches. Cerrone is just covering up and the fight is stopped.

Winner: Conor McGregor, TKO, round 1.

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It’s hard to know how much to make of that performance given Cerrone has not looked good at all in recent performances and didn’t look good at all again there but McGregor was as impressive as he could have hoped and clearly will be in good position for some big fights in the near future.

Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington

Holm and Pennington fought once before. It was Holm’s UFC debut and she was a heavy favorite. Pennington made that a very close fight and Holm got the narrow split decision. They now meet years later moving in opposite directions. Holm has lost five of seven since knocking out Ronda Rousey while Pennington has won five of seven since losing to Holm to then fall to 5-5.

Round 1. There isn’t a lot of engagement early. Pennington charges in with a punch and then the fighters clinch. They end up in something of a stalemate in the clinch although both fighters are clearly spending energy working for a better position in the process. Pennington looks for a takedown at the close while Holm grabs a guillotine. 10-10.

Round 2. They quickly end up back in a clinch by the cage. They are really working to out-muscle each other but neither is succeeding in accomplishing basically anything. The crowd finally becomes restless and starts to boo and they were nice to wait as long as they did. The fighters separate and Holm immediately attacks with a head kick that misses before they return to the clinch. Pennington lands a couple knees to the body. 10-10.

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Round 3. Holm throws a few punches before Pennington instigates a clinch. Nothing happens there and so they break. Pennington clinches again and looks for a takedown. They end up back in yet another stalemate. Neither fighter was able to accomplish anything over the course of 15 minutes. 10-10, 30-30 draw.

Winner: Holly Holm, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).

Judges have historically rewarded fighters for instigating clinch stalemates and they did again there. Holm-Pennington I underwhelmed and the second version was no better.

Aleksei Oleinik vs. Maurice Greene

Aleksei Oleinik is a rugged veteran with a remarkable 71 professional fights and 57 wins. When he wins it is usually by submission and when he loses it is usually by knockout. Maurice Greene is much less experienced with an 8-3 record including three UFC wins.

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Round 1. Oleinik falls down as Greene catches him with a leg kick. Greene keeps throwing kicks until Oleinik gets a hold of him. Greene looks for a kimura but has to give it up as they tumble to the ground. Oleinik takes side control on the ground. Greene gets guard and looks for a triangle choke that Oleinik avoids. Greene again goes for a triangle and Oleinik again avoids it. Greene stands back up but Oleinik pulls him back down. Oleinik takes full mount and lands a few elbows before looking for a scarf hold. Greene is able to survive the round. 10-9 Oleinik.

Round 2. Greene comes out aggressively with some punches while Oleinik’s punch attempts are weathered and slow. Oleinik clinches but eats a heavy knee to the head. Oleinik looks for a takedown. Oleinik gets it and tries to set up an Ezekiel choke before giving it up. Greene looks for a kimura from the bottom but gives that up. Oleinik attempts an armbar and gets the submission from an awkward angle.

Winner: Aleksei Oleinik, submission, round 2.

It wasn’t pretty, and it rarely is with Oleinik, but it was another submission win for Oleinik. He’s a unique figure with his fighting style and he’s as effective as ever now in his early 40s.

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Brian Kelleher vs. Ode Osbourne

Brian Kelleher was a well traveled veteran when he finally got his chance to compete in the UFC and he made the most of the opportunity with wins over Iuri Alcantara and Renan Barao. After two straight losses he didn’t compete in 2019 and he will look to regain some of his previous momentum here. Ode Osbourne makes his UFC debut here after earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Round 1. Osbourne comes out on his hands and knees before leaping up with a diving Superman punch that connects. Kelleher goes for a takedown and secures it by the cage. Osbourne uses full guard as Kelleher lands some punches from the top. Osbourne looks to stand up but Kelleher grabs a guillotine choke in the process and pulls Osbourne back down. Osbourne is forced to submit.

Winner: Brian Kelleher, submission, round 1.

That was a beautiful submission by Kelleher. He took advantage of a small opening and got a win over a confident, young opponent.

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Anthony Pettis vs. Diego Ferreira

Anthony Pettis is a former UFC lightweight champion who has largely struggled since losing the title, losing in 7 of his last 11 fights. Diego Ferreira has quietly accumulated a 16-2 record and gets a big name opponent after five straight wins.

Round 1. Ferreira presses forward with some weird stances before clinching and looking for a takedown. Pettis defends that well. Pettis cracks Ferreira with a few punches. Ferreira again clinches and works for a takedown. He pulls Pettis down and gets Pettis’ back in the process. Ferreira has control of the body and looks to attack the neck. Pettis spins out and stands up. Pettis throws a head kick and lands a couple punches before Ferreira again clinches and looks to take the fight to the ground. Ferreira doesn’t get the takedown but he lands a couple punches and again looks for the takedown. He gets Pettis down and secures side control. Close round. 10-9 Ferreira.

Round 2. Pettis lands a body kick but Ferreira catches the leg in the process and drags Pettis to the ground. Ferreira again secures Pettis’ back and looks for a rear naked choke. Pettis slips out but Ferreira takes top position. Ferreira then regains the back. Ferreira squeezes the chin and Pettis taps.

Winner: Diego Ferreira, submission, round 2.

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Ferreira made that look relatively easy on the ground. Pettis has proven difficult to submit over the years and Ferreira got the job done. This was an affirmation of the ability Ferreira possesses, something that hasn’t been widely known because of the opponents he has been matched against.

Maycee Barber vs. Roxanne Modafferi

Maycee Barber is considered one of the top prospects in the sport and the unbeaten 21-year-old is viewed as a potential superstar. She is 8-0 thus far with 7 finishes in those 8 wins. She fights the popular veteran Roxanne Modafferi, 16 years her senior. Barber is the heavy favorite in this bout.

Round 1. Modafferi clinches early and looks for a takedown but she gives up the effort quickly. Modafferi lands a few solid punches early and then takes Barber down. Modafferi is in half guard and she looks to pass unsuccessfully. Modaferri isn’t able to do a lot of damage from the top but she retains control over time. Barber looks for a guillotine choke but doesn’t get it. Modafferi finally gets side control and then takes full mount but she can’t control the body when Barber turns and Barber takes top position to close the round. 10-9 Modafferi.

Round 2. Modafferi lands a punch and Barber grabs her knee and goes down at the start of the round. Modafferi works her way into full mount. Modafferi lands some punches from there. Again when Barber turns she is able to take top position from Modafferi but Barber is bleeding badly. Barber lands some heavy punches from top position. Modafferi looks for an armbar and in the process is able to reverse and regain top position mount. Modafferi opens up with some punches from there. Barber looks for a kimura from the bottom but doesn’t get it at the close. 10-9 Modafferi.

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Round 3. Barber is limping on that leg and clearly compromised. A doctor took a look at the leg and let her continue. Modafferi lands some solid punches on Barber, who is having trouble defending herself. In a scramble, Barber takes top position and looks for an Americana. She can’t get it and instead looks to land some elbows. Modafferi is able to reverse and regain top position. She lands some punches at the close on the bleeding, injured Barber. 10-9 Modafferi, 30-27 Modafferi.

Winner: Roxanne Modafferi, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).

That was a brutal night for Barber. She came in a 9-1 favorite talking about setting records and she left bloodied, injured and defeated. For Modafferi, it’s another upset win in a career where she has at many points defied expectations.

Sodiq Yusuff vs. Andre Fili

This has the makings of an exciting bout between two action fighters. Sodiq Yusuff is 3-0 in the UFC since winning on Dana White’s Contender Series and he gets his biggest name opponent yet in the exciting Andre Fili, who has won four of his last five.

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Round 1. Yusuff comes out aggressively and lands a few quality punches. Fili answers with a strong hook that forces Yusuff to show him more respect. Yusuff then appears to stun Fili with a couple punches of his own. Fili looks for a takedown. He gets Yusuff down briefly but Yusuff returns to his feet. Fili shoots for another takedown. He gets it but Yusuff quickly pops back up. In the midst of a wild exchange, Yusuff appears to hurt Fili only to have Fili then hurt Yusuff as Yusuff looks to capitalize. Yusuff looks for a kimura from the standing position and he cranks it all the way to the ground before giving it up. Fantastic round. 10-9 Yusuff.

Round 2. Yusuff knocks Fili down with an early leg kick. Yusuff takes top position and looks to score with some strikes from there. Yusuff takes side control and lands some knees to the body from there. Yusuff continues to attack from knee on belly position. Yusuff takes full mount late but Fili pushes him off and returns to the feet. Fili gets a takedown of his own but Yusuff gets right back up. 10-8 Yusuff.

Round 3. The fight slows down noticeably early in the third. Yusuff connects with a hard right hand. Fili lands a few solid left hands. Fili continues to control the action as the round progresses. It’s obvious doesn’t have the same energy level after his output in the first two rounds. Fili gets a takedown at the close. 10-9 Fili, 29-27 Yusuff.

Winner: Sodiq Yusuff, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

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That was a tale of two fights for Yusuff. He was very impressive in the first two rounds, putting it on Fili and looking dangerous throughout. However, he slowed significantly in the third round, suggesting a potential vulnerability for future opponents.

Tim Elliott vs. Askar Askarov

Tim Elliott has been a top flyweight for years, competing against many of the division’s biggest names. He is 5-3 in his last 8 fights. Askar Askarov is an unbeaten Dagestani with finishes in all of his wins, a rarity for the smaller weight classes.

Round 1. Askarov nails Elliott with a beautiful three punch combination early. Elliott throws a few leg kicks and Askarov responds with a head kick. Askarov looks to grab a guillotine from the standing position but doesn’t come close. Askarov hurts Elliott with a two punch combination and pursues Elliott to the ground. Askarov lands a few punches and elbows from the top while Elliott defends with a butterfly guard. 10-8 Askarov.

Round 2. Elliott scores a nice early takedown and looks for a guillotine choke but Askarov gets out and returns to his feet. Askarov clinches and looks to put the pressure on Elliott but neither man is able to get much accomplished in the clinch. Upon separation, Askarov connects with some crisp punches but Elliott again takes Askarov down. Askarov pops back up in no time. Elliott uses a third takedown and this time he secures top position. Askarov attacks with an armbar but Elliott gets out. Askarov looks for a triangle but Elliott gets out of that and takes side control. Askarov regains half guard from there. Askarov returns to his feet in the final minute. Askarov looks for a takedown but doesn’t get it. 10-9 Askarov.

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Round 3. Elliott looks to pressure Askarov in the third. Elliott presses forward but Askarov is effective with his boxing and punishes Elliott for his aggression. Elliott lands a few nice punches from close range and calls for Askarov to attack him back. Askarov responds with some strong punches to the head. Elliott is tough but he is eating a lot of punches. 10-9 Askarov, 30-26 Askarov.

Winner: Askar Askarov, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).

Askarov wasn’t able to get the finish for the first time in victory but that was still a very impressive performance. He showcased his striking on the feet and submission game on the ground, while not tiring out from Elliott’s aggression and his own efforts to finish the fight.

Nasrat Haqparast vs. Drew Dober

Nasrat Haqparast is a knockout artist with 9 knockouts in 11 MMA victories and 3 straight wins. He is a German competitor who is the son of Afghan refugees. Drew Dober had a rough start to his UFC career with only one win in his first five fights but since then he is 6-2 including three first round knockouts.

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Round 1. Dober drops Haqparast with a straight left hand as Haqparast is throwing a kick. Dober then follows with a repeated series of punches on the ground until finally the fight is called off.

Winner: Drew Dober, TKO, round 1.

That was another impressive win for Dober, who has been fighting at a high level the past few years. He showcased his power as a significant underdog and could have put himself in line for a higher profile opponent next time out.

Aleksa Camur vs. Justin Ledet

Aleksa Camur is an unbeaten prospect who trains with UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and is making his UFC debut after knocking out every previous opponent. He takes on veteran Justin Ledet, who is looking to rebound from consecutive losses that are the first two of his career.

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Round 1. Camur lands a few low kicks early. Ledet connects with a clean punch to the chin that Camur doesn’t react to. Ledet lands another and that one wobbles Camur. Camur is aggressive with his punches but he isn’t connecting all that often as Ledet’s defense has been solid. 10-9 Ledet.

Round 2. Both fighters mix in some kicks and body punches in the first half of the second round, diversifying their offense. Ledet has success with some powerful uppercuts. Camur clinches and attacks in the clinch with elbows and punches. Camur backs up and lands a few punches from range. Close round. 10-9 Ledet.

Round 3. Camur catches Ledet with a left hand as Ledet is coming in. Camur lunges in with a punch but as he tries to follow up, Ledet counters with an impactful hook to the jaw. That was one of the best shots of the fight but Camur takes it well. Camur gets a late takedown as Ledet is swinging. Another close round. 10-9 Ledet, 30-27 Ledet.

Winner: Aleksa Camur, unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27).

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That was a close fight with rounds that were all pretty tricky to score. Ledet sure seemed to be landing the best blows throughout the fight, but Camur was attacking more and that activity likely made the difference in the eyes of the judges.

JJ Aldrich vs. Sabina Mazo

UFC 246 kicks off with a women’s flyweight bout. JJ Aldrich has quietly thrived in the UFC, winning four of her last five bouts all by decision. Sabina Mazo is a Colombian competitor who is 1-1 thus far in the UFC.

Round 1. Aldrich has success early with her strikes. She is circling to the left dodging Mazo’s offense and connecting with clean punches. Mazo is landing a little more in the way of kicks but it is Aldrich is consistently landing the best blows with her punches. Mazo has the center of the Octagon but she isn’t able to cut off Aldrich as Aldrich circles. 10-9 Aldrich.

Round 2. Mazo connects with a few quality punches early but Aldrich fires back with a combination of her own. Mazo mixes in some low kicks. Aldrich continues to have success with her boxing, knocking Mazo’s head back with clean, straight punches. Mazo walks back to her corner bleeding pretty badly from the face. 10-9 Aldrich.

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Round 3. Mazo lands a couple punches and clinches, looking to change the way the fight is going. Mazo can’t set anything up from the clinch and they break away. Mazo lands a nice knee and is picking up the pace. Mazo follows with additional knees to the body and attacks the head and body against the cage. The pace slows a bit, allowing Aldrich to regain her composure. Aldrich rebounds with some crisp punches landed after they separate. 10-9 Mazo, 29-28 Aldrich.

Winner: Sabina Mazo, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Neither fighter had a definitive advantage, but it felt like Aldrich deserved the nod on the strength of her boxing. With that said, Mazo came on at the end and the greater diversity in her attacks paid dividends.


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