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The Fallout: Conor’s return ignites the UFC

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After all this time, it’s nice to know that Conor McGregor can still surprise us.

Whether it was knocking out Jose Aldo to win the featherweight title in thirteen-seconds, coming back from a submission loss to outlast Nate Diaz in their rematch, or throwing a fucking dolly at the fighter’s bus window, the biggest part of the Irishman’s appeal was that you never knew what he was going to do, so everything he did and said was must see.

Well, the former featherweight and lightweight champion proved he was still must see, when he stopped longtime fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in just forty-seconds last Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena. Yet it wasn’t so much that he stopped Cowboy or how fast it was done, it was how it went down.

The two men, fighting at welterweight, came right each other with Conor barely missing on a big left hand. From there he initiated a clinch, and came from underneath with three shoulder strikes, the second of which seemed to smash Cowboy right in the face and possibly break his nose. Conor landed a knee to the shoulder as they separated, and then just missed with a right uppercut before coming back with a straight left. Cowboy backed up and uncorked a head kick, but Conor blocked and came back with his own head-kick that nailed Cowboy on the side of the chin and shook him up. Conor followed up with a flying knee and a big left hand, before dropping him with two more left hands.

Conor then began to drop some serious GNP. Cowboy did his best to roll and defend himself and referee Herb Dean did his best to give him every single chance. But in the end, Cowboy could no longer defend himself and Dean stepped in to save him.

The fans on hand in the arena went into ecstasy, while home goers across the country were driven to shock and anger, as they had been Tyson’ed by the biggest star the UFC has ever known. Meanwhile, around the cage and around the world, fighters across the lightweight and welterweight divisions, selling or not were going into ecstasy.

Whatever you think about Conor McGregor as a fighter or as a person, the fact of the matter that is the already excellent lightweight and welterweight divisions are a hell of a lot more interesting with him around. With The Notorious One’s win over Cerrone, the number of matchups at the heights of the 155 and 170 pound divisions could create a hell of a lot of excitement.

The most delicious one is of course against Jorge Masvidal, the consensus 2019 Fighter of the Year coming off of massive wins over Ben Askren and Nate Diaz. Masvidal was cageside of course, clad into an impressive looking but out of place Versace Robe, no doubt chomping at the bit for another huge matchup. The McGregor-Masvidal matchup seems to be the one most clamored for by MMA fans and might be the best. While Masvidal will have a size advantage over Conor, given that “Gamebred” is also a former 155 pounder moving up, so it won’t be ridiculous.

What would be ridiculous in the eyes of most fans and experts would be a matchup with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, the massive champion and aggressive power wrestler who was also cageside, pretending to be unimpressed and trying to hide his glee at the potential of the massive payday that could come his way if Conor chooses to chase an unprecedented third world title.

While the fans seem to want McGregor vs Masvidal, UFC President Dana White wants a rematch with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who of course is supposed to finally fight number one lightweight contender Tony Ferguson on April 18. It’s no mystery why White wants this fight. The first one did record business and given what happened in the aftermath of their fight on October 6, 2018, a rematch could only be bigger.

The ironic thing is that McGregor said all last week in the build-up to this fight that he doesn’t believe that the Khabib-Tony fight will actually happen, and he has plenty of data to back up this hypothesis and he said that he would be ready to step in. That would be absolute bedlam. But it’s not a bad chance for him to take, especially after taking out Cowboy in the way that he just did.

The UFC did lose out on a big potential matchup Saturday, when the criminally underrated Brazilian Diego Ferreira smothered the hell out of Anthony Pettis and submitted him in the second round with a rear naked choke. If Pettis had managed to get by Ferreira, “Showtime” versus McGregor would have been a dream matchup the people had been clamoring for years. Given the size similarity and the explosive nature of both men, it is the kind of “watch the world burn matchup” that many fans love.

And as always, Nate Diaz and the prospect of trilogy fight is always on the table. Given how Diaz was dominated by Masvidal, this seems unlikely, but it as long as it makes dollars, it will make sense, and this one, even two years too late will make a lot of dollars.

Whomever Conor McGregor fights next, it will be a bonanza for the promotion. The words that Larry Merchant stated after Oscar De La Hoya knocked out Ricardo Mayorga come back again, “When a popular fighters who struggles wins by knockout; it is as if all struggles have gone away.” Conor McGregor has the fans excited again.

They just hope it goes longer than forty-seconds next time.

"Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic." He's also starting his own podcast soon!

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