UFC: Featherweight star is born in Sweden as Conor McGregor wins on debut
A star was born in Stockholm last Saturday night. Whilst established names such as Brad Pickett and Ross Pearson enhanced their respective reputations considerably a debutant stole the show. One Conor McGregor announced his arrival on the biggest MMA platform in the world with a display punctuated by poise, character and ability both inside and outside the Octagon. As engaging outside of the cage as he is dangerous in it the UFC appears to have found an Irish star which will raise the profile of mixed martial arts both in the country itself and further afield.
Having interviewed McGregor a few weeks ago I got the impression that the featherweight come lightweight was supremely confident, perhaps even overly so in his own ability. This was after all the UFC, a significant step up in competition from the Cage Warriors environs which he notoriously dominated with ruthless efficiency. Having studied fighters, their ways, mannerisms and sound-bites over a period of time several similar patterns emerge when an individual is pitched into the cauldron of combat on the big stage.
The prospect of competition, in full view of the peering eyes of the world’s media, not to mention the public at large can paralyse even the most well polished combatant. When combined with the potential financial reward of performing to ones full potential the pressures and pitfalls of debuting in the UFC are patently clear. McGregor however took it all in his stride and in 67 mesmeric seconds put the rest of the UFC featherweight and indeed lightweight divisions on notice. The banter and sledging which had immersed the build-up to the bout clearly had an effect on “The Bama Beast” as he took the fight to his foe immediately. This was the most urgency Marcus Brimage had displayed at the beginning of a bout in his four fight Octagon tenure and was in stark contrast with the bemusement he felt at the derision from Irish fans in fight week itself. McGregor however had replaced the naked aggression displayed at the previous day’s weigh-ins with a calm almost stoic demeanor, almost detached from the fire fight which he was being drawn into.
The former Cage Warriors dual weight champ displayed immaculate footwork and razor sharp angles to sublime effect. Brimage would have finished many established featherweights with what was a decent opening salvo. McGregor however evidenced amply why he was being touted as one of the most exciting prospects to hit the promotion in recent years. A couple of fluid upper-cuts put the stocky 28 year old on wobbly legs and the follow up ground and pound was mere window dressing. All-in-all an almost flawless debut from the Crumlin lad in what he later admitted was the biggest fight of his life. What will concern fans of the talented Dubliner and more particularly John Kavanagh his mentor and coach is the way in which Brimage was able to land leather on McGregor’s chin early and often. “Notorious” will be eager to improve in the training room prior to his second outing with the promotion, stateside in August. However in the main the lithe striker’s performance was exemplary and has rightly sent the internet abuzz with discussion rife about potential future match-ups for the 24 year old. McGregor had previously spoken of the spartan lifestyle he had to live in order to make ends meet as a professional fighter. To go from 188 Euros per week on social welfare to a 60k knock-out of the night bonus (plus show and win money) is quite the transition in a little over one minute. He mentioned in the post fight presser how he would enjoy spending his hard earned bonus money and rightly so. With boxing lore littered with tales of former stars having fallen on hard times, sound financial advice is perhaps the next port of call for the likeable and indeed charismatic SBG Ireland pupil.
Pickett has fans on their feet
Not to be outdone Londoner Brad Pickett won fight of the night honours with a gutsy performance against the teak tough Mike Easton which had the Scandanavian fans off their seats. Pickett has spoken previously of the need to not only win, but to win with flair and in exciting fashion and Easton proved the perfect foil in Stockholm. Whilst Eddie Wineland didn’t show up to fight in “One Punch’s” last fight in Las Vegas at UFC 155, Easton did his own career no harm either with a similarly potent display of heart and no little technique. The bout served as another timely reminder that it takes two to tango when fight time arrives.
Pearson making 155lb gains
Ross Pearson may have severely injured his foot (it has since been confirmed that his foot was not broken as first feared) in the warm up to the evenings co-main event but he didn’t allow that to derail his disposal of Ryan Couture. “The Real Deal” must surely have risen another couple of notches on the lightweight ladder with a win over the well rounded, fundamentally sound son of “The Natural”. 155lbs appears to be Pearson’s long term home as at 28 years old he may find that the punishing drop to featherweight simply doesn’t translate into strong stirring performances such as the one he delivered on Saturday night.
A solid card in Swedene all told, with McGregor in particular stealing the limelight on what transpired to be yet another successful European jaunt for the Las Vegas based promotion. Perhaps Dublin’s O2 with “Notorious” top of the bill will ferment into more than the obvious twinkle in Dana White’s eye in the bowels of the Ericsson Globe…
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