Conor McGregor could sense it.
After all the talk and all the chatter, McGregor backed it up.
“Notorious” connected with a combination in the final seconds of the second round, becoming interim UFC featherweight champion with a victory over Chad Mendes Saturday night at UFC 189.
McGregor was originally scheduled to meet Jose Aldo, but a rib injury knocked the featherweight champion out. Instead, he accepted the bout with Mendes on just a few weeks notice and delivered. Several shots to the body over the course of a round-plus paid off, as the Irish fighter sent the large contingent of supporters out in harmony with a perfectly placed left hand.
In the first championship match of the night, Robbie Lawler battled back to earn a second victory over Rory MacDonald and successfully defend his welterweight title. After controlling the early stages, Lawler was hurt by a head kick midway through.
However, Lawler connected with a strike to the nose that sent MacDonald to the ground in pain. He previously won the first meeting via decision.
Jeremy Stephens and Dennis Bermudez did their best to put on a show, dropping each other numerous times through the first two rounds. Just seconds into the third, though, it was Stephens with the final shot, connecting with a knee and earning the TKO finish.
After suffering his first career loss to Rick Story, Gunnar Nelson quickly got back into the win column, submitting Brandon Thatch. Nelson landed a perfect combo that floored Thatch, working immediately for the rear-naked choke.
With one perfectly-timed knee, Thomas Almeida made a statement, finishing Brad Pickett. The two went toe-to-toe over the first round, but Almeida landed a knee just seconds into the second round to remain unbeaten in his career.
Top contender Matt Brown overcame an early onslaught from Tim Means to score a submission win in the first round. “The Immortal” snapped a two-fight losing skid by locking up a guillotine in the final moments of the round, ending Means’ four-fight win streak in the process.
In a battle of fighters coming off long layoffs, Alex Garcia used several takedowns to best Ultimate Fighter 1 veteran Mike Swick via decision. Garcia was returning from a knee injury suffered in 2014, while Swick had not fought in almost three years.
John Howard used a late surge to hand Cathal Pendred his first loss in five fights, claiming a decision over the Irish athlete. Team Alpha Male’s Cody Garbrandt improved to 7-0 with a convincing decision win over Henry Briones.
Louis Smolka improved to 9-1 with a decision victory over Neil Seery in a back-and-forth flyweight affair. Cody Pfister overcame a slow start to grind out a decision over Yosdenis Cedeno to start the night.
Lawler and MacDonald earned “Fight of the Night” honors, while McGregor and Almeida picked up “Performance of the Night” bonuses. All four earned an additional $50,000.
The live gate for the event was announced at $7.2 million, as early reports stated that both McGregor and Mendes earned $500,000 for the fight. The attendance figure was stated at 16,019.
Complete results can be found below, and full play-by-play of all the action can be found on FightLine:
Conor McGregor def. Chad Mendes via TKO (strikes) at 4:57 of Round 2 to become interim UFC featherweight champion
Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald via TKO (strikes) at 1:00 of Round 5 to retain the UFC welterweight championship
Jeremy Stephens def. Dennis Bermudez via TKO (flying knee/strikes) at :32 of Round 3
Gunnar Nelson def. Brandon Thatch via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:54 of Round 1
Thomas Almeida def. Brad Pickett via KO (knee) at :29 of Round 2
Matt Brown def. Tim Means via submission (guillotine choke) at 4:44 of Round 1
Alex Garcia def. Mike Swick via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
John Howard def. Cathal Pendred via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Cody Garbrandt def. Henry Briones via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Louis Smolka def. Neil Seery via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Cody Pfister def. Yosdenis Cedeno via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)