The UFC finally made its long awaited return to our shores for UFC Fight Night Dublin: McGregor v Brandao, and it didn’t disappoint. The fight card, which included five Irish fighters, was action packed and sent the sell-out crowd into pandemonium.
Before the event all eyes may have been on ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor, but the rest of the Irish contingent didn’t read the script. This card was full of action from start to finish with early stoppages in seven out of the ten bouts.
In the opening bout of the evening Irelands Paddy Holohan made his UFC debut by defeating Josh Sampo via submission (rear naked choke) in the first round. The UFC flyweight division is crying out for fresh stars, so this was a great opportunity for Holohan to get noticed.
Cathal Pendred and Mike King fought to a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance with Pendred coming out on top via submission (rear naked choke) to the roar of the crowd. Pendred was hurt badly in the opening round but rallied back and finished King in the second.
Neil Seery kept the Irish win train rolling by defeating Phil Harris on way to a dominating unanimous decision. This was Seery’s second UFC bout following on from his gutsy debut performance against Brad Pickett a few months ago.
In the first match-up on the main card Norman Parke took on veteran Japanese fighter Naoyuki Kotani. Parke was rearing to go at the weigh-ins and he brought that energy with him into the octagon. After a competitive first round between the two combatants it was ‘Stormin’ Norman who took control, eventually finishing Kotani via strikes before the end of the second round.
In the co-main event Iceland’s Gunnar Nelson took on the American Zak Cummings. Nelson, who seems to be developing quite the Irish accent, has fought and trained numerous times here in Ireland, had the crowd behind him.
Nelson has been on an incredible run in his MMA career so far and is highly tipped to be a future UFC champion. He has an effortless style with tremendous stand up and grappling techniques.
Cummings wasn’t here to just make up the numbers however and was giving as good as he got in the opening frames of the fight. But towards the end of the second round Nelson sunk in a rear naked choke and that was all she wrote. Third rear naked choke of the night, were the team at SBG Ireland working on something in training?
Finally the main event arrived between Conor McGregor and Diego Brandao. As loud as the crowd were before this bout they went up a couple of decibels for this fight. McGregor promised to put on a show for the fans and that’s exactly what he did.
From the opening bell it was easy to see that neither fighter were planning on leaving the result in the hands of judges. Brandao tried to nullify the striking game of McGregor by getting him in the clinch but McGregor was too strong.
McGregor showed great striking as well as strong ground and pound. As the round went on it was McGregor who was getting the better of the exchanges and with a minute to go he finished Brandao via TKO (strikes).
This capped off a tremendous night for the Irish fighters. Ireland proved itself tonight to be extremely marketable for the UFC. Dana White has indicated that the UFC will likely not return to Ireland until this time next year, which probably won’t please the growing fan base who might see a year as being an eternity away.
As for the winners on tonights card, we will have to wait and see when, where and who they will fight next. Dana White said in a post-fight interview that McGregors next fight will probably be in Las Vegas but no solid plans have been made as of yet. We will be waiting in anticipation.
Peter Lee, Pundit Arena.