Despite the extra security at the weigh-ins and the bottle throwing shenanigans at the press conference, UFC 202 went off without a hitch. We saw nine finishes and just three decisions in an incredible night of fights. Here's the breakdown of who earned the $50,000 bonus checks.
Performances of the Night: Anthony Johnson and Donald Cerrone
This was the night of fights UFC 200 wishes it was. We had eight knockouts on this card. Eight. Picking two performance of the night bonuses from tonight's card can't have been an easy task, but Donald Cerrone and Anthony Johnson are deserved winners.
Donald Cerrone took on the ultra-tough Rick Story in a welterweight bout designed to test his limits. Here was a stockier, more powerful opponent who would place Cowboy under constant pressure and rip body blows at the drop of a hat. Cerrone didn't even blink. Knees to the body quickly had story wary of coming forward, and the combination that lead to the finish--a perfectly placed jab, right hand to the body and right high kick to the face--was, as Bruce Lee would say, "like water." I honestly can't recall a more fluid display of Muay Thai since the heyday of Anderson Silva.
Story was all class after the fight, taking to Twitter to post a congratulatory comment:
Congrats @Cowboycerrone you fucking brought it!!— Rick (@Rick_Story) August 21, 2016
The UFC also posted a short clip of the fight that showed just how effective Cowboy is with his combinations:
That combination was NASTY!!!!! #UFC202 @CowboyCerrone https://t.co/vIJmBpqyYX— #UFC202 (@ufc) August 21, 2016
Anthony Johnson faced off against Glover Teixeira in what turned out to be an unlucky 13 seconds of violence for the Brazilian. Whatever Rumble hits...he destroys. Glover managed to land a few punches on Johnson early, but one uppercut was enough to turn off the lights at Casa do Teixeira. Over his past six bouts, Rumble has starched everyone in his path except one man; Daniel Cormier. That rematch, this time for the undisputed 205lbs title, is likely to take place later this year and I cannot wait.
Fight of the Night: Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz
"Surprise, surprise, motherf**ker! The King is back!"
Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz put on a fight for the ages. This might be the thrill of the moment speaking, but we might have witnessed one of the greatest and most technical back-and-forth brawls in welterweight history. Remember the UFC claims that Conor utterly dominated the first round in the first bout? That wasn't the case, not even close, but it was the case tonight. Conor landed kick after kick to Diaz's lead leg, and every time Nate tried to fire anything back, McGregor had a left hand counter waiting. He rocked Diaz, he dropped Diaz, but he couldn't finish Diaz.
Round two started the same way and it looked like we might be in store for a lopsided McGregor victory, but Nate Diaz didn't get the memo. Three minutes in, Conor started getting more comfortable and more aggressive. It was exactly what Diaz had been waiting for, and he started landing his own shots. It wasn't enough to take the round, but Conor started to slow.
Round three looked like it might be the beginning of the end for McGregor. Diaz landed over and over, rocking Conor several times. An exhausted McGregor still refused to raise his hands in defense and it seemed like a matter of time until he broke, but unlike the first bout, he made it to the bell.
Then round four started, and we realized just how special this fight was going to be. McGregor was still in it, still landing, and the accumulation of blows was starting to weigh on Diaz. He had blood in his eyes, his leg was bruised and swollen, and even his legendary cardio was starting to struggle under the weight of a hundred McGregor strikes. But he kept. Coming. Forward. This was the deciding round, and both guys threw everything they had at each other.
By round five there was no air left in the arena. Lungs burning, blood flowing, muscles cramping, both warriors refused to quit, refused to stop,but were forced to slow. Diaz was finally able to make the most of his size advantage, and pinned McGregor against the cage for much of the round. The two still traded short blows, back and forth, until the last twenty seconds. Suddenly, Diaz secured the takedown he had tried and failed to get a half dozen times previously, but it was too little, too late.
The buzzer sounded, and Big John quickly moved in, likely fearing a post-fight fight. It wasn't necessary. In an incredible show of respect, Nate Diaz picked Conor McGregor up from the mat and both men shared briefly in the adulation of the crowd. It was a beautiful moment following a beautiful fight. This bout was everything MMA is supposed to be. A back and forth ballet of technique and controlled violence, concluded by a warrior's embrace.
The #Respect UFC athletes have for one another is unmatched! #UFC202 pic.twitter.com/2scrbOK5wk— #UFC202 (@ufc) August 21, 2016