On Sunday night, fans witnessed Conor McGregor's final stepping-stone to a featherweight title shot. Just five fights into his UFC career, and with the full power of the UFC's hype machine guiding his path to stardom, McGregor once again lived up to expectations and simultaneously commenced the gradual build up towards the showdown against 145lb. kingpin Jose Aldo. Whether the contest takes place in a neutral zone like Las Vegas or the heavily biased Croke Park in Dublin, it certainly has the potential to be the most anticipated title fight in the division's history.
Apart from being a showcase for the Irish sensation, the UFC Fight Night Boston card saw several other notable winners and disappointing losers, many of whom have earned a spot in our analysis.
Conor McGregor predicted a first round finish against Dennis Siver but had to settle for a TKO win in the second frame instead. The Irishman dominated the main event with an uncanny display of striking savvy coupled with undeniable self-confidence. McGregor made Siver look like he did not deserve to share the cage with him and cemented his claim to Aldo's title. Once McGregor has secured his win, and the roaring crowd was satisfied, he immediately directed his attention towards the Brazilian champion and caused a scene that would only deepen both their pockets in the long haul.
Donald Cerrone was on the right side of a bad judging decision in a very close fight. In his third fight against Benson Henderson, ‘Cowboy' was able to fend off an ever-improving former champion to rack up his second win in the last two weeks. While that would generally be worth much celebration, Cerrone looked like a man who was not convinced he had earned a decisive victory once Bruce Buffer announced the decision. Nevertheless, Cerrone has now surpassed Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active wins streak in the lightweight division with seven consecutive wins. Given his remarkable momentum, he could make for a reliable replacement should anything happen to either of the title fight contestants.
Uriah Hall can't seem to catch a break. While the TUF finalist managed to be the win against an exceptionally short notice opponent in Ron Stallings, he was unable to get a clean TKO victory. Instead, the win was awarded off a doctor stoppage, which is a disappointing end since Hall looked great prior to that and was well on his way to a finish. However, Uriah can take solace in the fact that he is now on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC after starting his tenure at 0-2.
Gleison Tibau secured a historic win on Sunday evening with his split decision victory over Norman Parke. The longtime UFC veteran tied Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva for third place with 16 wins inside the octagon. He also managed to string together three consecutive victories for the first time since 2011 - a fantastic way to start off the New Year.
Lorenz Larkin made an emphatic statement on the preliminary portion of the card when he knocked out John ‘Doomsday' Howard in less than three minutes of fight time. Quick victories like that over Howard are rare to come by, which only adds to the value of Larkin's win. It also snapped a three-fight losing streak that plagued him throughout 2014 and breathes new life into his UFC career.
Patrick Holohan was unable to get the submission finish against Shane Howell but he still managed to secure the unanimous decision win in front of an adoring crowd in Boston. The victory moves him back in the win column following a loss to Chris Kelades several months ago, and puts him at 2-1 in the UFC.
Charles Rosa didn't get a chance to show off his talents in his short notice match-up against Dennis Siver several months ago but more than made up for it on Sunday evening. Against Sean Soriano, Rosa used an aggressive gameplan and maintained the pressure, which clearly troubled Soriano. It led to an array of submission attempts and transitions that awed the crowd before sinking in the fight-ending D'arce Choke
Judges: The final preliminary fight between Cathal Pendred and Sean Spencer featured one of the more blatant robberies in recent memory. Spencer bludgeoned the Irishman in the opening round of the fight - Pendred barely escaped the round - yet two (yes, TWO) judges decided to award Pendred a 30-27 scorecard to hand him a horrendous unanimous decision victory. It was one of the most ridiculous cases of hometown bias that I can recall and adds another blemish to our sport's abysmal scoring system.
They would later follow up with a second decision, albeit not as blatantly preposterous. The co-main event between Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson was deemed a unanimous decision for Cerrone, even though most assumed that Henderson had won the match. However, since it was a close encounter, there is not much of a case for a robbery.
Dennis Siver failed in the role of spoiler on Sunday and looked entirely out of place in the octagon with McGregor. It was a disappointing loss for the veteran, but not one that came entirely unexpected to the vast majority of fans. Given the circumstances, Siver will likely remain a reliable part of the UFC's featherweight roster.
Ben Henderson got a taste of his own medicine when he found himself on the losing end of a close fight due to a highly questionable judging decision. The former champion looked improved after his knockout loss to Rafael dos Anjos and was well on his way to a win. Sadly, he is now facing a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his career - a tough position to be in a crowded division.
Norman Parke appeared poised and confident before his match-up against Gleison Tibau; he suggested that there was no way that the Brazilian could take him down or control him in the clinch, and even tried to sow the seeds for a potential match-up against Khabib Nurmgomedov. Sadly, he failed to live up to his expectations on Sunday and will now have no reason to expect a bout with the Dagestani contender. Having now officially suffered his first UFC defeat, Parke will need to alter portions of his game and make the necessary adjustments to climb the ranks.
John Howard lost his third consecutive fight in the UFC, and by TKO nonetheless. This does not bode well for his future with the organization, as he has not won a fight since beating injury-prone Siyar Bahadurzada in late 2013.
Announcements: The UFC has recently got into the habit of announcing fights and new signings like CM Punk on the actual fight broadcast. While some find that this takes away form the actual event and the fighters competing on it, I strongly disagree. On Sunday night, the UFC announced a fight card in Fairfax on April 4 with two intriguing lightweight fights - Jorge Masvidal vs. Bobby Green and Mitch Clarke vs. Michael Chiesa. This is a fantastic way to give the fights exposure and build interest fan interest during a fight card that likely attracted a fair amount of casual viewers. I certainly hope the UFC continues to do this in the future.