UFC 223: Conor McGregor and the Cursed Card

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Feels like the UFC 223 fight card has been under assault both literally and figuratively since the day it was announced. I wrote 95% of this article before Max Holloway was ruled out this morning, so now I’m trying to backtrack and scrape together something cohesive.

It looked like we were finally going to get the Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Numagomedov fight, a matchup planned three times in three years and cancelled every single time. This time, Ferguson had to pull out after injuring his knee in a non-training accident, resulting in featherweight champion Max Holloway stepping in to take the fight on short notice. He’s now off the card, according to Brett Okamoto:

It was supposed to be Khabib vs. Holloway for the lightweight championship that Conor McGregor held and never defended while he went off to box Floyd Mayweather instead. If Max won, he would become only the second fighter to hold two belts at the same time, a feat accomplished by… McGregor back in 2016, when he held the same 145 and 155 titles that Holloway sought.

Let’s start with the obvious topic; was the Conor bus attack a publicity stunt?

“Yes,” was my original thought, then three fights were taken off the card as a result, and that confirmed to me that the whole thing was very real. Two fights were pulled because of alleged laceration injuries to Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg, and a third was canceled when UFC decided to yank McGregor’s close friend, Artem Lobov, from the card as punishment for his “involvement” in the fracas.

Long story short, Lobov was confronted by Khabib and his guys the other day in New York, McGregor took offense, flew to New York, and threw a dolly through a bus window. Now Lobov is off the card entirely, even though he really didn’t do anything.

I see some conspiracy theories floating around out there, that Chiesa and Borg aren’t really injured but see an opportunity to sue McGregor instead. Maybe you make more money in a lawsuit than fighting on Saturday night, who knows. I saw another theory that they took a chunk of cash from UFC to help with the publicity stunt. I highly doubt that was the case. Another group of people are out there calling Felice Herrig a snitch (she shot some of the video) and saying she ruined the card.

Whatever. You can think whatever you want to think, or claim this was some elaborate WWE type of thing, but I’m watching Dana White on ESPN explaining that Conor is in police custody and charged with three counts of assault and one count of criminal mischief.

These were the fights pulled from the card after the bus incident:

  • Artem Lobov vs. Alex Caceres (featherweight)
  • Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno (flyweight)
  • Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis (lightweight)

Chiesa says the decision not to fight was out of his hands:

Borg didn’t directly address the incident but called some guy on Twitter a “dumbass,” after dude claimed he was more interested in a lawsuit:


Well, at least we have Joanna vs. Rose 2 for the women’s strawweight belt.

Here’s what the card looks like post-bus bullshit:


A great card is now just a meh card but the Joanna and Rose fight is worth watching.

Here’s the Khabib/Max preview I wasted 30 minutes writing:

̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶v̶s̶.̶ ̶H̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶a̶y̶

̶I̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶d̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶F̶e̶r̶g̶u̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶r̶i̶g̶i̶n̶a̶l̶ ̶m̶a̶t̶c̶h̶u̶p̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶H̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶s̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶c̶o̶m̶p̶l̶e̶t̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶i̶f̶f̶e̶r̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶.̶ ̶N̶u̶r̶m̶a̶g̶o̶m̶e̶d̶o̶v̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶2̶5̶-̶0̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶1̶5̶5̶ ̶p̶o̶u̶n̶d̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶1̶2̶-̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶e̶a̶k̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶1̶4̶5̶ ̶d̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶a̶c̶k̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶2̶0̶1̶3̶.̶
̶I̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶’̶v̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶t̶c̶h̶e̶d̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶f̶o̶r̶e̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶ ̶e̶l̶i̶t̶e̶ ̶g̶r̶a̶p̶p̶l̶e̶r̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶s̶u̶f̶f̶o̶c̶a̶t̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶p̶p̶o̶n̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶g̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶I̶’̶v̶e̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶o̶p̶e̶r̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶s̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶e̶f̶f̶i̶c̶i̶e̶n̶c̶y̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶a̶,̶ ̶m̶a̶y̶b̶e̶ ̶C̶o̶r̶m̶i̶e̶r̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶M̶a̶i̶a̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶t̶r̶o̶l̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶b̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶f̶e̶e̶l̶s̶ ̶d̶i̶f̶f̶e̶r̶e̶n̶t̶.̶ ̶A̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶e̶v̶o̶l̶u̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶g̶a̶m̶e̶,̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶.̶ ̶H̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶n̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶s̶a̶w̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶l̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶E̶d̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶B̶a̶r̶b̶o̶z̶a̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶r̶e̶w̶ ̶a̶ ̶l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶l̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶d̶o̶w̶n̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶o̶p̶p̶o̶n̶e̶n̶t̶.̶ ̶H̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶d̶i̶c̶t̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶m̶s̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶n̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶e̶f̶f̶e̶c̶t̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶p̶a̶c̶e̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶l̶e̶g̶i̶t̶i̶m̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶r̶s̶.̶
̶T̶h̶a̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶i̶s̶,̶ ̶a̶ ̶l̶e̶g̶i̶t̶i̶m̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶w̶e̶l̶l̶-̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶e̶r̶.̶ ̶H̶e̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶7̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶c̶k̶o̶u̶t̶s̶,̶ ̶2̶ ̶s̶u̶b̶m̶i̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶s̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶3̶ ̶u̶n̶a̶n̶i̶m̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶d̶e̶c̶i̶s̶i̶o̶n̶s̶ ̶d̶u̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶e̶a̶k̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶f̶e̶e̶l̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶a̶l̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶b̶e̶e̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶i̶g̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶f̶e̶a̶t̶h̶e̶r̶w̶e̶i̶g̶h̶t̶,̶ ̶s̶o̶ ̶I̶ ̶r̶e̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶e̶s̶e̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶t̶r̶o̶u̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶1̶5̶5̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶r̶t̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶p̶a̶r̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶p̶u̶t̶s̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶d̶i̶s̶a̶d̶v̶a̶n̶t̶a̶g̶e̶.̶
̶I̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶w̶a̶t̶c̶h̶e̶d̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶d̶u̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶e̶a̶k̶,̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶f̶i̶d̶e̶n̶c̶e̶,̶ ̶a̶ ̶g̶u̶y̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶r̶a̶d̶e̶ ̶b̶l̶o̶w̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶o̶c̶k̶e̶t̶.̶ ̶H̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶s̶e̶r̶v̶a̶t̶i̶v̶e̶ ̶T̶y̶r̶o̶n̶ ̶W̶o̶o̶d̶l̶e̶y̶ ̶t̶y̶p̶e̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶k̶n̶o̶w̶ ̶i̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶l̶p̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶h̶u̶r̶t̶s̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶I̶’̶m̶ ̶i̶n̶t̶e̶r̶e̶s̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶ ̶i̶f̶ ̶t̶r̶i̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶p̶l̶a̶y̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶a̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶f̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶t̶a̶k̶e̶d̶o̶w̶n̶ ̶d̶e̶f̶e̶n̶s̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶s̶t̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶b̶e̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶s̶s̶e̶r̶t̶i̶v̶e̶.̶
̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶n̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶p̶u̶n̶c̶h̶e̶s̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶o̶s̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶g̶a̶p̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶r̶e̶m̶e̶m̶b̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶d̶u̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶2̶5̶-̶0̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶e̶a̶k̶ ̶w̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶’̶s̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶e̶d̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶n̶ ̶s̶l̶i̶g̶h̶t̶l̶y̶ ̶u̶n̶c̶o̶m̶f̶o̶r̶t̶a̶b̶l̶e̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶m̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶d̶i̶s̶a̶d̶v̶a̶n̶t̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶r̶e̶,̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶u̶m̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶H̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶.̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶M̶c̶G̶r̶e̶g̶o̶r̶,̶ ̶A̶l̶d̶o̶ ̶t̶w̶i̶c̶e̶,̶ ̶A̶n̶t̶h̶o̶n̶y̶ ̶P̶e̶t̶t̶i̶s̶,̶ ̶C̶u̶b̶ ̶S̶w̶a̶n̶s̶o̶n̶,̶ ̶J̶e̶r̶e̶m̶y̶ ̶S̶t̶e̶p̶h̶e̶n̶s̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶C̶h̶a̶r̶l̶e̶s̶ ̶O̶l̶i̶v̶e̶i̶r̶a̶.̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶u̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶E̶d̶s̶o̶n̶ ̶B̶a̶r̶b̶o̶z̶a̶,̶ ̶M̶i̶c̶h̶a̶e̶l̶ ̶J̶o̶h̶n̶s̶o̶n̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶R̶a̶f̶a̶e̶l̶ ̶D̶o̶s̶ ̶A̶n̶j̶o̶s̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶l̶l̶e̶n̶g̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶e̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶f̶a̶r̶.̶
̶I̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶ ̶i̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶s̶s̶i̶c̶ ̶b̶a̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶g̶r̶a̶p̶p̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶v̶s̶.̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶i̶n̶g̶,̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶g̶u̶y̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶e̶x̶c̶e̶l̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶n̶d̶-̶u̶p̶ ̶g̶a̶m̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶g̶u̶y̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶e̶x̶c̶e̶l̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶g̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶h̶o̶p̶e̶ ̶w̶e̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶e̶x̶c̶i̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶s̶t̶e̶a̶d̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶a̶ ̶l̶a̶m̶e̶ ̶W̶o̶o̶d̶l̶e̶y̶/̶M̶a̶i̶a̶ ̶r̶e̶p̶e̶a̶t̶.̶ ̶K̶n̶o̶w̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶,̶ ̶i̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶g̶o̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶a̶t̶t̶e̶r̶.̶
̶N̶o̶ ̶m̶a̶t̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶p̶p̶e̶n̶s̶,̶ ̶H̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶e̶a̶r̶n̶e̶d̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶p̶e̶c̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶e̶v̶e̶r̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶a̶k̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶f̶i̶g̶h̶t̶.̶ ̶N̶o̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶t̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶.̶ ̶I̶ ̶g̶u̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶i̶t̶’̶s̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶u̶r̶a̶t̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶s̶a̶y̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶e̶m̶e̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶p̶e̶c̶t̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶e̶v̶e̶r̶.̶
̶P̶r̶e̶d̶i̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶:̶ ̶M̶a̶x̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ ̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶,̶ ̶K̶h̶a̶b̶i̶b̶ ̶w̶e̶a̶r̶s̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶d̶o̶w̶n̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶f̶i̶v̶e̶-̶r̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ ̶u̶n̶a̶n̶i̶m̶o̶u̶s̶ ̶d̶e̶c̶i̶s̶i̶o̶n̶

And this fight:

Namajunas vs. Joanna

I have no idea.

Everybody picked Joanna to steamroll Rose at UFC 217 and instead we got a first round TKO upset.

Seems like Joanna just went into the fight waaaaaay overconfident, and lost focus with some of the shit-talking and histrionics leading up to the fight. If we get a grounded and humbled JJ this time around, I think she’s certainly the better fighter.

Rose has won 5 of 6 in her still-nascent MMA career, and I think she really surprised a lot of people last time out, but also when she kicked Michelle Waterson’s ass last April. I think the rematch is going to be a little more calculating from both sides. Rose has to prove that the first fight wasn’t a fluke, and JJ’s career is forever changed if she loses two in a row to a 7-3 fighter. Feels like there’s actually a lot at stake here for both fighters.

Joanna wasn’t landing in the first fight, and Rose did a nice job with feints and footwork to offset what we thought was a striking advantage. Rose is thought to have the better advantage on the ground while Joanna does more in the clinch, but Rose/Joanna 1 was so short that we didn’t really get much of a sample size to work with.

Prediction: Joanna gets her head straight, wins via unanimous decision

Remind me to never again write about MMA on a Friday morning.


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8 Responses

  1. You can’t put a Mortal Kombat character into a Street Fighter game its as simple as that.

  2. How can you put blah for the Paul Felder fight? He’s a beast and a Philly guy. One of the most exciting fighters in the world.

    1. the blahs were in relation to the Khabib fight getting scrapped, just put them on the right side of the graphic

  3. How dare you classify Rose Namajuna’s fight as “blah.” That’s the only good fight left on the card, yeah. But still.

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