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UFC 246 was much more than just Conor McGregor's return

UFC 246 was one of the promotion's most intriguing events in recent years. Among the unique happenings surrounding the Jan. 18 card in Las Vegas:

  • Conor McGregor's stunning TKO victory

  • The amount of interest McGregor's comeback gleaned worldwide

  • The respect shown between McGregor and Donald Cerrone all fight week

  • The number of celebrities in attendance, including Tom Brady

  • How the main event will shape the rest of the UFC's 2020

The historic event is now available on demand for all ESPN+ subscribers.

McGregor started the barrage on Cerrone with a shoulder strike in the clinch. When the two separated, Cerrone's face was already busted up. In the postfight news conference, McGregor joked that his critics can no longer say he's just a guy with a great left hand.

"They'll have to say I've just got a left shoulder," McGregor said. "A left hand and a left shoulder. The so-called experts of the game, when they're breaking down [my] skill set and saying I'm just a fighter with a left hand. Which is highly disrespectful and uneducated, and you'd be surprised that so many of the supposedly knowledgeable people be claiming it as that."

The Irishman then struck with a left head kick to rock Cerrone, and the bout was over in 40 seconds. The kick was a point of pride for McGregor, because Cerrone has the UFC record for most head-kick finishes.

The performance was outstanding, given the question marks surrounding McGregor's comeback after more than a year away and without a UFC win in more than three years.

"I saw he was susceptible to the head kick also," McGregor said. "I know he was looking to land that on me, but I wanted to land it on him. I love that record he has, most head-kick knockouts in UFC history, that's phenomenal. That record is almost worth more than a world title in my mind."

Aside from the McGregor TKO, here are four other can't-miss moments from UFC 246:

McGregor's moment with Cerrone's grandmother

After the main event result was read, McGregor hugged Cerrone, then turned toward Cerrone's grandmother, Jerry. The two embraced and shared some words. Jerry, 82, is an important part of Cerrone's career and life. She helped raise "Cowboy" and has never missed one of his fights. Jerry is also a huge fight fan. When she's at an event, she's in the arena for the first prelim.

McGregor said he was aware of that influence when the two hugged in the Octagon. "She's just a phenomenal woman, that lady," McGregor said. "She's there from the first fight of the night to the final fight of the night. Even after the bout, she came over and showed me respect. I showed her respect, and it was great to finally meet her.

"You see her. She's a prevalent part of the game, isn't she? Donald's fought so much, and that lady is there from the start of the fight to the finish. What a lady. What a man she's raised. I'm very, very, very honored to share the cage with Donald. I'm very proud. He's a good man, and he's got good people behind him. Much respect."

McGregor addresses his future

All fight week, McGregor talked very little trash and showed respect toward Cerrone. After more than 15 months away and without a UFC win since 2016, McGregor surely read the room and decided to be conservative with his mouth -- a stark contrast from previous McGregor high jinks leading up to bouts.

After stopping Cowboy, though, the Irishman let loose a bit in his postfight interview with Joe Rogan. He addressed some of his potential future opponents, including Jorge Masvidal, who was in the front row wearing a Versace robe. "Look at that fool in his housecoat," said McGregor.

But he wasn't singling out one target. "Any one of these little mouthy fools can get it, even that fool at the desk [broadcaster Paul Felder], all of them," McGregor said.

Oleinik by submission -- again

Aleksei Oleinik finished Maurice Greene by second-round armbar submission in a main card heavyweight bout. Getting opponents to tap out is all the old warhorse does.

Oleinik, 42, has six submissions in seven UFC victories. Out of his last 11 wins, 10 have come via submission.

Oleinik, who has been fighting as a pro since 1996, has a ridiculous 46 submission wins in 72 career fights. By beating Greene, the Ukraine native became the first fighter in MMA history to win bouts in four decades. It's a pleasure to watch him work.

Next lightweight star?

Diego Ferreira was on one heck of a run coming into UFC 246. On the main card at T-Mobile Arena, he finally picked up a signature win, submitting former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis with a choke. Ferreira has now won six straight, with three finishes during that stretch.

As Ferreira progresses toward a potential title shot in a stacked 155-pound division, we could be looking back at UFC 246 as his star-making performance.

'Happy Warrior' prevails over top prospect

In a historic upset, Roxanne Modafferi, a pioneer of women's MMA, was able to defeat blue-chip prospect Maycee Barber in the featured fight of the prelims. It was a hard-fought battle that featured Modafferi bloodying Barber in the second round and Barber injuring her knee, an injury later diagnosed as a torn ACL.

Still, nothing could be taken away from Modafferi, who has been fighting professionally since 2003 -- 10 years before the UFC allowed women to step into the Octagon.

Modafferi, 37, is better now than she was a decade ago and is still a contender in the women's flyweight division.