Conor McGregor KOs Jose Aldo within seconds to strip him of UFC featherweight title
Published 13/12/2015 | 05:57
THIRTEEN - a quite preposterous number. But that, thirteen seconds, is all it took for Conor McGregor to again stun the sporting world as the Dubliner turned Las Vegas on its head with a quite unbelievable KO of Jose Aldo on Saturday night.
But none of the nights the Notorious one has had in his meteoric rise to superstardom can remotely compare with this. The new undisputed featherweight champion of the world left 14 months of incredible hype in his wake. He left a once unbeatable icon in his wake. He left the history of his sport in his wake.
In the end, he left his army of Vegas invaders in his wake too. They, like all observers, could not quite take in what happened in the space of 13 unprecedented seconds at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Again it was McGregor's left hand that pulled him up to an even greater height. McGregor knocked out the Brazilian pound-for-pound king with the a left hook heard around the mixed martial arts world - and beyond.
Aldo's head bounced off the floor and while McGregor was allowed to land two more on his prone rival, this, the biggest fight in UFC history, was over before it started.
"Nobody can take that left-hand shot," said the 27-tear-old Dubliner as the belt was wrapped around his waist. "He's powerful and fast but precision beats power and timing beats speed.
"I feel for Jose. He is, was, a phenomenal champion. These are fundamentals this is all it takes. Especially when you have my left hand."
So stunning was this crowning moment, that you wondered why there had been even a moment's worry. McGregor's particularly gaunt appearance at Friday's weigh-in had left some seasoned Notorious observers expressing concern over the weigh cut in what the fighter had promised would be his last in the 145lbs division.
However a report at the arena on Saturday afternoon had McGregor's fight night weight around 174lbs, a quite staggering increase in body weight of exactly 20 per cent in the space of 24 hours. It was in keeping with a weekend of big numbers in Vegas.
After thirty plus fights in the busiest three days in the UFC's history, there was little of the smoke and sonic preamble of McGregor's last trip to the octagon here in July. Fourteen months of waiting was clearly enough for everyone, better to get down to business as quickly as possible.
A crackling atmosphere hit its highest note yet when Aldo stepped into the cage for the first time in over a year.
That rustiness was all too clear in just rapid time. For Aldo this was a truly alien feeling. He had barely composed himself enough to respond to Joe Rogan's questions but he did immediately demand a rematch.
"I think that we need the rematch because that was not really a fight," he said. "We need to get back in here.
It didn't affect me at all. I don't care what he says. Now we need to get back in here. It's on to the next one. This is a sport. This happens. I'll be back."
The prospect of a rematch remains very much to be decided. You sense McGregor has now truly transcended the sport to such a degree that it will be his decision what happens from here. On the UFC's biggest ever week, its true star outshone all the rest.
In the curtain-raiser to the main event, middleweight world champion Chris Weidman was dethroned in stunning but sickening fashion, Luke Rockhold winning with a fourth-round TKO when the fight should surely have been stopped in the third.
The atmosphere had risen significantly with silverware on the line. Rockhold responded first to the noise, getting the champion on to the ground and then on to his back, an alien sight, to take the first. The challenger had his range spot on, teeing off with high kicks and punches, Weidman not offering enough in response.
That changed in the third but a weak spinning kick from Weidman opened the door and Rockhold rolled in, landing an unending stream of brutal blows to the head. Referee Herb Dean didn't call an end however and we had to wait until Rockhold inflicted even more punishment on the previously undefeated New Yorker before a new champion was crowned.
Earlier, McGregor's battery mate Gunnar Nelson was wholly outclassed by Brazil's Demian Maia in the welterweight division. The SBG fighter looked to get on top from the get-go, attempting a guillotine choke off the bat but Maia, ranked six spots higher in the division than the Icelandic fighter, was soon on top, literally.
A back mount stymied and then drained Nelson whose stellar defence saw him survive the round. There was little respite, Maia again on top throughout most of the second, power elbows opening up a now jaded Nelson's face.
Nelson needed to keep the fight upright to have any chance of delivering the necessary stoppage but couldn't, the veteran Brazilian, getting it done at 38, proving experience still counts for plenty. The decision was about as unanimous as they come.
But now all of that - all of the rest of the combat sports world - again pales into the background. The McGregor Show, after its most sensational episode yet, is the only show in town.