Mixed Martial Arts: Smashing into the record book

Conor McGregor (left) fighting Eddie Alvarez in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. McGregor won to improve to 21-3 in MMA competition and 9-1 in UFC.
Conor McGregor (left) fighting Eddie Alvarez in their lightweight title bout during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. McGregor won to improve to 21-3 in MMA competition and 9-1 in UFC.PHOTO: REUTERS

McGregor triumphs, makes history by becoming UFC's first two-class champion

NEW YORK • Mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Conor McGregor knocked out Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to become the first fighter to hold two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) titles at the same time.

Ireland's hugely popular UFC featherweight champion seized Alvarez's lightweight title, knocking the American down three times with punishing left hands in the first round, and once again in the next before finishing him off with a brutal four-punch combination at 3min 4sec of the second round.

"Where's my second belt?" McGregor, 28, shouted after one was wrapped around his waist, while cheers from a legion of ardent supporters rang around the arena.

The UFC 205 card was the promotion's first foray into New York, which in April became the last US state to legalise professional MMA fights.

The Big Apple proved the perfect stage for southpaw McGregor, who has become one of MMA's biggest draws not only for his exploits in the octagon but also for his swagger outside of it.

With his second championship belt delivered and both displayed proudly on his shoulders, McGregor took the microphone and adopted a mock-serious tone.

"I'd like to take this chance to apologise to absolutely nobody," he said, fuelling renewed cheers.

Alvarez, 32, was in survival mode from the start until referee John McCarthy called a halt as McGregor continued to pepper his prone opponent with punches.

"He's not on my level," said McGregor, who improved to 21-3 in MMA competition and 9-1 in UFC.

"You've got to have size, reach, length, you've got to have some attributes.

"If you come here any way equal to me, I'm gonna rip your whole head off."

Alvarez lost the belt he won from Rafael dos Anjos in July and fell to 28-5 (3-2 in UFC).

With the ban on MMA in the state lifted in March, UFC returned to New York after an absence of over two decades, staging a card stacked with fights and backed up by a ton of hype.

While others on the bill failed to live up to it, McGregor once again proved his value to the UFC by putting on a spectacular show with another superb knockout win to go with his 13-second defeat of Jose Aldo for the featherweight crown.

Earlier in the evening, women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk weathered a late storm from her Polish compatriot Karolina Kowalkiewicz, holding on to win an unanimous decision after an epic five-round battle.

In the other title fight on the card, welterweight champion Tyrone Woodley thought he had seen off the challenge of Stephen Thompson to claim a narrow split decision, but the result initially announced in the octagon was corrected after several minutes to a majority draw.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Smashing into the record book'. Print Edition | Subscribe