The common halts in action during a mixed martial arts bout can stem from accidental groin strikes and eye pokes to name a few, but last night at UFC Vegas 14 – we witnessed a rare stoppage in the third-round when Ballymena native, Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee dropped his mouthpiece under the Octagon.
The welterweight prospect featured opposite veteran division mainstay, Alex ‘The Great White’ Morono in the second preliminary matchup of the night, and despite a rallying effort midway through the three-round affair, McKee dropped a unanimous decision defeat to the Fortis MMA trainee, following a high-paced start from the latter.
The defeat marked McKee’s second in the UFC since his short-notice arrival at UFC Fight Island 3 in July, dropping a one-sided ground-and-pound stoppage defeat to streaking upstart, Khamzat ‘Borz’ Chimaev.
Failing to work behind his jab and utilise his reach advantage, McKee came up short in the pocket exchanges, with Morono finding his pace early and often, before mixing in some veteran grappling to stifle a late surge from McKee.
Stuck with his back to the fence in the clinch, McKee dropped his mouthpiece, with referee Jason Herzog calling a timeout in search for the missing equipment.
Convinced it had fallen beneath the Octagon through the steel grate walk-way, Herzog asked for outside UFC officials including fellow referee, Mark Smith to check under the Octagon for the mouthpiece, using phone torches.
McKee explained how he had a spare mouthpiece in his equipment bag back in his locker room, while Herzog told how he had actually brought his own mouthpiece with him to the UFC Apex.
McKee, 25 arrived from standout promotion, Cage Warriors in July, and despite dropping losses to stiff competition in the form of Chimaev and Morono, former two-weight world champion, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor had some words of encouragement for the Northern Irelander, urging him to embrace his setbacks as lessons.
“Incredible display again @KatieTaylor! Phenomenal! Also unlucky tonight to @RhysMcKee in UFC competition. Head up, stay the course! We take lessons from our wins, we take lessons from our losses. Embrace it all and move forward! Congrats guys, great fighting! #IrishFighting“
In response, McKee thanked McGregor for his words of encouragement, maintaining how his pair of Octagon setbacks will make for an interesting chapter when he eventually calls time on his career.
“I appreciate it Conor (McGregor), frustrating right now but it will make a good story! Thanks champ!.“