UFC

McGregor makes devastating UFC return with stunning first-round TKO

By Sports Desk January 19, 2020

Conor McGregor needed just 40 seconds to make a triumphant return to the octagon after a brutal TKO against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.

McGregor – fighting for the first time in 15 months – was relentless in the octagon, dropping Cerrone inside the opening round in Las Vegas Saturday.

After striking Cerrone with his shoulder, McGregor then delivered a devastating kick to the head before a flurry of punches prompted the referee to stop the welterweight bout and main event.

McGregor made his long-awaited return after a 15-month absence since his submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The Irish star's time away from mixed martial arts started with a six-month ban imposed after a post-fight brawl outside the cage marred his blockbuster showdown with Khabib at UFC 229, and there was no escape from controversy in the intervening period.

McGregor was arrested and charged with strong-armed robbery and criminal mischief last March after it was alleged he took a man's phone and smashed it on the ground in Miami – the charges were later dropped over inconsistencies in the victim's testimony. In November, he was fined €1,000 after pleading guilty to an assault of a man at a pub in Dublin.

There were question marks over McGregor, but the UFC sensation strolled into the octagon with confidence against the 36-year-old Cerrone.

McGregor – typically a fast starter – raced out of the blocks and wasted little time as he required less than a minute to celebrate victory upon his return.

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    Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa will put their 100 per cent records on the line and fight for the UFC middleweight title in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

    Middleweight champion Adesanya had spoken of chasing big-money fights with Jon Jones and even Conor McGregor.

    But for now the Nigeria-born New Zealander has a score to settle with Costa and fight fans are undoubtedly relishing the pair mixing it in the Octagon at UFC 253.


    WHY THE HYPE?

    Because these guys have been on a collision course for some time and only a biceps injury sustained by Costa made the wait so long.

    Jibes have been thrown back and forth, with Costa accusing Adesanya of ducking the challenge of former light-heavyweight king Jones.

    Adesanya has something to prove after an underwhelming win via unanimous decision against Yoel Romero back in March, and his kick-boxing brilliance and Costa's pressure fighting make this a bout of real intrigue.


    GREATEST ACHIEVEMENTS

    Adesanya became the UFC's interim middleweight champion with a unanimous decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum in a classic in April 2019. He then defeated the legendary Robert Whittaker in October with a stunning knockout to unify the division.

    Each of Costa's first four wins in a UFC ring came via way of KO/TKO and in August 2019 he defeated Romero via unanimous decision.


    WHAT'S THEIR MMA RECORD (W-L-D)?

    Adesanya: 19-0-0

    Costa: 13-0-0


    TALE OF THE TAPE

    Adesanya:

    Age: 31
    Height: 6'4" (193cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 80"
    Leg reach: 44.5"

    Costa:

    Age: 29
    Height: 6'1" (185cm)
    Weight: 185lbs (84kg)
    Reach: 72"
    Leg reach: 39.5"


    WHAT THEY'VE SAID

    Adesanya referred to Costa as an "inflated balloon animal" back in June and during his media activities ahead of UFC 253 made a figure out of balloons to impersonate Costa, saying: "Hey guys, my name is Paulo Costa. I'm the Eraser and I'm going to be the champion. Israel, I will erase you." Adesanya then twisted the balloons until they popped…

    In controversial comments to Submission Radio in August, Costa said: "I have just one question. Adesanya, why are you freezing when you face Romero? You're not a real champion, man. You don't deserve. I will kill you."


    FIGHT STATS IN UFC

    Adesanya:

    - Adesanya has connected with 503 of his 1,032 attempted significant strikes, a success rate of 49 per cent.

    - Of his successful strikes, 88 per cent have come from a standing position.

    - On the defensive side, Adesanya has guarded against 87 per cent of takedown attempts.

    - He has also seen off 66 per cent of strikes against him.

    Costa:

    - Costa has landed 307 of his 531 attempted significant strikes, giving him a success rate of 58 per cent.

    - As with Adesanya, Costa tends to strike from a standing position - with 82 per cent coming via that method.

    - He has successfully blocked 80 per cent of takedown attempts against him.

    - Costa has also thwarted 54 per cent of strikes from his opponents.

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    Conor McGregor claimed he was set to fight Manny Pacquiao in the Middle East in his next outing.

    McGregor, a former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, sensationally retired in June, but it was hinted earlier this month that the Irishman would return next year.

    After a long Twitter rant during which he vented his frustration at a lack of action this year – his only fight has been a win over Donald Cerrone in January – McGregor said he was set for a return to boxing.

    McGregor lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August 2017 and is now set to meet 41-year-old Filipino Pacquiao.

    "I'm boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East," he wrote.

    "It will be a true honour to have faced two of the greatest boxers of the modern era, afraid of a fight."

    Pacquiao (62-7-2) fought twice last year, winning the WBA (Super) welterweight title by beating Keith Thurman in July 2019.

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    Israel Adesanya has promised to make his fight with Paulo Costa "look easy" when the pair clash in UFC 253 this weekend.

    Adesanya – who is nicknamed "The Last Stylebender" – is the defending UFC middleweight champion and goes up against Costa on "Fight Island".

    Both fighters are undefeated heading into what has been billed as the fight of 2020, but Adesanya was adamant Costa will prove no match for him.

    "I think the muscles fool everyone. The muscles and the whole flurries and fighting punching bags fool everyone," Adesanya said of Costa at media day.

    "Everyone thinks, wow this is a big fight. I'm like, no, I've already had the fight of the middleweight division, which was Kelvin Gastelum.

    "I've already had the biggest fight in the middleweight division crowd-wise, which was Robert Whittaker. I'm gonna make it look easy. A lot of people are gonna be shocked by that."

    Adesanya and Costa enjoyed a civil meeting in Abu Dhabi, with the duo trading compliments.

    Costa acknowledged his surprise at Adesanya's change in demeanour during the meeting.

    "I don't know what happened, he changed his personality a lot, his persona," Costa told MMA Mania. 

    "The Adesanya that I saw on the video conference was a very disrespectful guy, he showed his fingers a lot to me. But when I met him upstairs, he was very kind, very gentle."

    However, neither fighter held back in their verbal insults during media day, with Adesanya going as far as to tell Costa: "Shut the f*** up before I become your stepdad."

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