UFC 246 results, highlights: Conor McGregor stops Cowboy Cerrone in under a minute in return

LAS VEGAS -- Inactivity be damned, the controversial face of mixed martial arts returned to the Octagon with a bang on Saturday. 

In just his second appearance since 2016, former two-division champion Conor McGregor needed a mere 40 seconds to bust the nose of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone and finish him via first-round TKO in their welterweight main event at UFC 246.

Draped in the flag of his native Ireland, McGregor (22-4) sat on top of the cage wall and celebrated in front of an adoring crowd at T-Mobile Arena as "The Notorious" won for the first time since taking the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. 

Can't get enough UFC? Subscribe to our podcast State of Combat with Brian Campbell where we break down everything you need to know in the Octagon, including Instant Analysis of McGregor's successful return below.

"I made history here tonight. I set another record. I'm the first fighter in UFC history to get knockout victories at featherweight, at lightweight and now welterweight," McGregor said. "Donald holds the record for the most head kick knockouts so I was very very happy to get one myself. Thank you all for the support!"

Cerrone (36-14, 1 NC) was never in the fight. After McGregor missed a wild left cross to open the fight, he used his shoulder in the clinch to draw blood from Cerrone's nose. A brutal head kick followed before McGregor dropped him and finished him off with punches on the ground as referee Herb Dean waved off the fight. 

"He wasn't expecting that," McGregor said of the head kick. "I'm so happy. I'm very proud of that accomplishment. UFC can strip fighters and give other fighters make believes belts but they can't give out knockout victories across multiple weight divisions. Etch my name in history one more time."

"I've never seen anything like that," Cerrone said. "He busted my nose and it started bleeding and I stepped back and he head kicked me," Cerrone said. "I love this sport and I'm going to keep fighting."

Instead of calling out lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for a rematch of their UFC 229 bout that broke pay-per-view records for the sport, McGregor appeared more into the idea of staying at welterweight, where he improved to 2-1 in the UFC. He went on to call out current champion Kamaru Usman. 

"I like this weight and I feel good. God willing I came out of here unscathed and I'm in shape," McGregor said. "I'm going to celebrate and talk to my family before getting back to the gym with me team."

"Thank you Cowboy, I appreciate you. You are a f---ing legend in this game."

UFC president Dana White insisted after the fight that Nurmagomedov, should he beat Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April, would be next for McGregor and didn't want to hear anything else of the sort. He also noted that former pound-for-pound boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, whom McGregor faced in 2017, had been blowing up his phone all night. Mayweather also teased a possible rematch with a cryptic post on Instagram.

"Listen, every time there's someone out there fun ... there's always someone fun that can match up," White said. "When you look at what makes sense, we're in a place where Conor has said going into the Khabib fight he had a lot of personal stuff, injuries, all these things going on. And he's been obsessed with getting that rematch cuz he knows he wasn't 100%."

"And when you look at this for Khabib, Khabib is 28-0, he's undefeated," he continued. "You start talking about this kid's legacy - first of all, to go 28-0 in this sport, I don't care who you fought, it's tough to do. This kid's a world champion. And after tonight, with how Khabib won the first time and how famous Khabib has become since that first fight, we're looking at Haggler / Hearns. Ali / Foreman, Ali / Fraser. This is a massive fight with global appeal. It's the fight that you make. It's the fight that makes sense. It's for the 155 pound title."

UFC 246 card and results

Conor McGregor def. Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone via first-round TKO (punches)
Holly Holm def. Raquel Pennington via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Aleksei Oleinik def. Maurice Greene via second-round submission (armbar)
Brian Kelleher def. Ode Osbourne via first-round submission (guillotine)
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Anthony Pettis via second-round submission (rear-naked choke)
Roxanne Modaferri def. Maycee Barber via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
Sodiq Yusuff def. Andre Fili via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Askar Askarov def. Tim Elliott via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Drew Dober def. Nasrat Haqparast via first-round TKO (punches)

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R1: McGregor piles on punches and Herb Dean steps in! It's a TKO for McGregor. He's back.

ROUND 1: McGregor misses a wild left cross as they came together. Lead jab causes Cerrone's nose to bleed. McGregor lands a head kick and peppers him with punches. Down goes Cowboy!

They touch gloves with two hands. Here we go ...

Adoration from the crowd for both fighters. Cerrone dressed in blue with black trim. McGregor wearing Irish green.

Holly Holm:

"It feels really good to have a win. I always want more, I always want perfection, I know that I have more that I could show. I'm very happy to have the win and start the year off right. She's scrappy everywhere, she's got so much experience and can fight everywhere, so I didn't want to look into the first fight too much. I definitely wanted to be more clear and dominant, and I feel like I did that. I feel like I dominated, but I just didn't do enough damage, that's what I want to do – damage. I never want to make any excuses, a lot happened this camp, but my coaches are so amazing and always worked with me when I was available and we made it happen. I have a lot of people around me that are really loving and really supportive, plus everyone has something going on in their lives, this was a lot, but nothing I couldn't handle. I think I need to show more of my abilities to get that title shot again, I always want to have big knockouts, but I'm still learning and improving as a martial artist, so we'll see where it goes."

Bruce Buffer handles the announcements while both fighters pace back and forth.

Herb Dean is your referee for this five-round main event that is contested at 170 pounds. McGregor is 1-1 as a welterweight, splitting 2016 bouts with Nate Diaz.

Shirtless and draped in the Irish flag, McGregor struts into the arena with a serious expression on his bearded face. The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Hyptonize" is his song of choice as the crowd drowns him in cheers.

Huge ovation for Cerrone as he enters the cage and walks slowly. All business right now is "Cowboy." A notorious late starter, it will be important for Cerrone to gain respect early and avoid entering a war. The longer this fight goes, the better his chances get.

Cerrone gets a running start as he exits the tunnel and enters the arena. He stops to kiss his wife and son.

And here comes Donald Cerrone as he walks out to the tune of Kid Rock's "Cowboy."

Cerrone holds UFC records for appearances, wins and finishes. But he finally headlines his first PPV in his 34th UFC appearance and 51st overall. Can he break the curse of being known for coming up empty when the lights are the brightest?

McGregor will make the walk to the Octagon shortly for just the second time since he walked away from the sport in November 2016 as the first simultaneous two-division champion. The three years that followed brought global stardom, losses to Floyd Mayweather (in his pro boxing debut) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (in the biggest fight in UFC history). It also brought multiple arrests and sexual assault allegations.

The crowd is full and on its feet dancing to the music. Donald Cerrone's son Danger is carried in the arms of his mother past press row and he's dressed in a much smaller replica of the suit "Cowboy" wore to enter the arena tonight.

It's time for the main event. Conor McGregor looks to avoid consecutive defeats for the first time in his career and launch himself into a lucrative 2020 campaign that could include a lightweight title shot. Donald Cerrone, meanwhile, tries to win the big one for the first time in his 51-bout career.

Holm popped the crowd with a backflip in the middle of the Octagon to celebrate her victory.

Holm: "I was just ready for whatever and I really do wish I would've struck more with her. I apologize for not doing any of that. She is tough. She scrambles on the ground to avoid takedowns. We got the victory but I'm still not real happy with my performance tonight."

The judges preferred Holm's grappling control in the end. But she can't feel great about how this played out.

Scorecards: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Holly Holm.

R3: Pennington lands a left hand and clinches once more. They go the distance in an awful fight.

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