The UFC In Madison Square Garden. UFC 205 will be a special, landmark moment for the sport, as the biggest arena in combat sports history plays host to potentially the greatest card in MMA history. The entire card is stacked top to bottom with former champions, headliners and big names.
The main event sees the new take on the old, as Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez meet. McGregor represents the new wave of fighters, the guys who focus on movement and got their top spot on a combination of physical and verbal skills. Alvarez is the grizzled fighter who worked his way from the smallest promotions to becoming the champion of the world.
And that’s just the main event. The entire six-fight main card features six current or former champions and nothing but extremely competitive bouts
Eddie Alvarez vs Conor McGregor
Alvarez is an incredibly experienced fighter who is plenty capable in every aspect of the game. In the early days of his career, he was a wrestler with a big punch. And though both of those skills remain, ‘The Underground King’ has done a marvelous job at honing his striking game.
Alvarez has found his groove in the striking game since joining Mark Henry’s camp, as the renowned striking coach has crafted Eddie’s game perfectly for his strengths. He has become more calculated in his strikes, as opposed to just going out and brawling like earlier in his career. However, as you can see in his fight Rafael Dos Anjos, Alvarez will empty the gas tank if he senses the finish.
Eddie loves to push forward and get his opponent against the cage so he can go after the takedown. His grappling is solid technically, but it’s more about strength and tenacity. If Alvarez gets his opponent on the cage and his hands locked, he will pursue the takedown until it works.
McGregor is such a marvel in the striking game, as he combines slick movement with unpredictable strikes to pick his opponent apart. He is incredibly good and floating into the pocket, landing his shots and getting out. However, we saw that McGregor is becoming more aware of some of his own limitations, as he was took a much more measured attack in his second bout with Nate Diaz. In that fight we truly saw what Conor meant when he said that precision beats speed.
You are never going to confuse McGregor with a grappling dynamo, but he has clearly spent time working on his takedown defense. Diaz was largely unable to land takedowns on McGregor during their second fight. However, McGregor has only once fought a dominant wrestler (Chad Mendes) and he was taken down several times.
The biggest question mark around McGregor is his cardio. He lasted five rounds in his last fight, but McGregor’s cardio clearly went through peaks and valleys. The Irishman’s style lends itself to large bursts of energy, which makes him so dynamic. The only problem with that style is it can cause stretches of sucking wind to regain cardio.
McGregor will look to become the first fighter to ever hold two UFC belts simultaneously. There is no doubt ‘The Notorious One’ has the skills and ability to do so, but Alvarez is unlike any other fighter McGregor has ever faced. Alvarez is a tough, battle tested fighter who can grind out victories with his grappling or overwhelm opponents with his strikes. Ultimately, Alvarez survives the early storm and defeats McGregor.
Prediction: Eddie Alvarez (+120)
Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson
Woodley’s victory over Robbie Lawler at UFC 201 was a microcosm of his game. ‘The Chosen One’ comes out relaxed and looks to find his range early, which he usually does with a nice, stinging jab. He backed Lawler up against the cage and uncorked a big right, which missed, but he followed that through by immediately initiating the clinch along the cage. Then, once he has found his range in the open, he throws his powerful right hand with extreme speed and power. KO win for Woodley.
Woodley is an excellent wrestler, but he has used that skill as a safety net of sorts throughout the later stages of his career. He uses his grappling to recover from aggressive strikes that he misses, or dumps his opponent to set up ground strikes with his big right hand.
The one knock against Woodley is his experience going deep into fights and winning. Only eight of Woodley’s 19 pro fights have made it into the third round or later, with the ATT member going 5-3 in those, which includes 1-3 in his past four.
Wonderboy is the new breed of fighter with his style greatly built around movement. The karate and kickboxing expert has a stance that positions his hips perpendicular to his opponent, unlike the conventional straight on stance. This allows him to fire his lethal kicks off very smoothly, though set up can sometimes take more time. Thompson is at his best when he can dictate the range, as his hands and skilled, but her needs space to properly use his kicks.
Wonderboy is never going to attack someone offensively with his wrestling, but his defensive game has gotten immensely better. Nobody has landed a clean takedown on Wonderboy since Matt Brown embarrassed him in their bout, which was six fights ago. He works extensively with Chris Weidman on this aspect of his game and you can see he is getting more and more comfortable with scrambles every day.
This is an incredibly intriguing matchup, as both men will likely look to find their range quickly. Woodley is 9-0 in fights that end before the first round, so you know he will be looking to uncork his massive right hand early. Wonderboy’s growth in the grappling game should mean that Woodley will be unable to fall back onto those skills to determine the fight. Ultimately, Thompson is great at moving and adapting in the fight and if he doesn’t get put away early, which he never has, then he should win this.
Prediction: Stephen Thompson (-200)
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Jedrzejczyk has the most beautiful, technical striking in MMA today. Her extensive Muay Thai experience shows through, as her movement and striking are almost automatic at this point in her career. Jedrzejczyk also pushes the pace of the fight and has not problem moving forward behind combinations that attack all three levels.
It’s not just out in space, as Jedrzejczyk has some of the most vicious clinch work in the game. There are few fighters that utilize elbows and knees in tight quarters quite like Jedrzejczyk does.
We haven’t seen a ton of Joanna’s grappling game throughout her UFC career, as her wrestling defense has been very good. And though there is a bit of a question mark in that aspect, but the odds of this fight going to the ground is pretty low.
One of the things that stands out about Joanna Champion’s game is her violence. Yes, MMA is innately violent, but Jedrzejczyk has a swagger and a confidence that allows her to just tear through opponents in a ferocious way.
Kowalkiewicz is tough, durable and has cardio for days. Her offensive game is built on her ability to move and adjust to her opponent constantly. Kowalkiewicz is constantly moving in and out and circling looking for the best angles to throw her shots. Though this is a great way to wear down opponents and pick up decisions, Kowalkiewicz uses this style as a way to make up for her lack of punching power.
Kowalkiewicz generally looks to control the distance of the fight and can be a little hittable once she moves into a closer space. Again, she is incredibly tough and isn’t likely to get knocked out, but being hittable against Jedrzejczyk is a scary proposition.
The leverage that Kowalkiewicz utilizes in the clinch is fantastic. He usage of the neck tie helps her determine how a fight is going to move forward in tight, especially against the cage. This may be a key factor because if Kowalkiewicz can take away Jedrzejczyk’s elbows and knees in the clinch, she eliminates one of the champ’s best skills.
This has fight of the night written all over it. Both women are tough and have the cardio to constantly strike for 25 minutes. Ultimately, I side with Jedrzejczyk. The champion will not tire over the course of five rounds, which is a big part of Kowalkiewicz’ usual gameplan, while the challenger can be hittable.
Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (-380)
Chris Weidman vs Yoel Romero
Weidman will be making his first trip to the octagon since losing the UFC middleweight title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. During the time away, Weidman underwent surgery to repair damaged discs in his neck.
Weidman’s gameplan is built around pressure and a strong grappling game. Though he is a long fighter with a good reach, Weidman usually looks to pressure his opponent early and attempt to drain their energy so his cardio can take over later in the fight. The ‘All-American’ is far from a technical marvel on his feet, but his pressure-based style is good enough to usually overwhelm opponents – if you ignore the Rockhold fight.
Weidman is tough as nails and putting him away is extremely difficult. Though he lost via TKO in his bout with Rockhold, you just need to watch the beating her took at the end of that fight to prove he won’t quit. However, the rash of injuries and an experimental procedure on his neck can offer some worry for the former champ.
Romero is an athletic marvel. Despite being nearly 40 years old, he has the speed and athleticism that most fighters can only dream of. He has parlayed this nicely in the striking game, as he sort of floats around until he explodes forward in a flurry of bombs. He can be a little tentative in the striking game, but this means he can pace his cardio and remain pretty accurate.
‘The Solider of God’ is also an Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling for Cuba. Much like his striking, Romero explodes into takedown attempts that make it extremely hard for his opponent to stop him. Generally speaking, he uses wrestling more defensively so he can keep the fight standing where he has ridiculous one punch power. However, if Romero gets on top and starts working ground and pound, most opponents are done.
Romero gasses. There is no two ways about it; his entire style is built around controlled bursts of energy to pace out his cardio as much as possible. The longer a fight wears on, the less effect Romero is. That’s not to say he loses power, but he can be overwhelmed later in fights.
This is the hardest fight on this card to call in my opinion. I can realistically see either man winning this. Weidman needs to wear down Romero and make this fight dirty early so he can capitalize late. However, Romero is such a fast starter and he knows that his best bet is to end a fight early. Weidman is hittable in the striking game and Romero should be able to land that big one early.
Prediction: Yoel Romero (+140)
Kelvin Gastelum vs Donald Cerrone
Gastelum has all the pieces to be one of the best fighters in the world. He is strong, athletic and has the skills to dominate a fight in every area. His striking game has become the focal point of his attack, with the Arizona-native sporting a fantastic jab. However, early in his career, Gastelum was a grappler and he still has great skills in that department.
The biggest issue with Gastelum seems to be mental. He looks like a killer in one moment and then looks completely lackadaisical the next. His two career losses have come via split decision in fights he could have won had he continued to push and not just sort of stop.
Since moving to welterweight, Cerrone has looked indestructible with three wins all by stoppage. Those three wins saw him knockout Patrick Cote and Rick Story, both guys that were never knocked out despite being 10-plus year veterans of MMA. ‘Cowboy’ is a master of distance and has some of the most lethal kicks in MMA today.
Cerrone is also a submission ace with 16 career victories via sub. He is extremely active from the guard and always looks for the finish when the fight goes to the mat.
Gastelum can win this fight. He has every tool at his disposal to defeat Cerrone, but you can’t take a second off against ‘Cowboy.’ Gastelum looked great in his last outing against Johny Hendricks, which likely means we are in for a letdown this time.
Prediction: Donald Cerrone (-160)
Miesha Tate vs Raquel Pennington
Tate has predicated her career based on toughness and an excellent grappling base. ‘Cupcake’ wants to push her opponent against the cage and keep the fight in tight. Tate excels when she can dictate the location the fight and wear down her opponent whether that be against the cage or on the ground.
Tate has spent time working on her striking game, but it is still far from technically refined. She generally stays alive on the feet thanks to her aggression and iron chin. If this fight does stay on the feet, Tate will want to make it a brawl and avoid it becoming a technical striking matchup.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been hard on Pennington during my years of watching MMA, but ‘Rocky’ has become a steadily consistent fighter. She does a good job at combining her strikes and brawling with her opponent, though she has a tendency to sit back a bit too much sometimes. If Pennington were to develop a bit more of a killer instinct in the standup game I’d give her the edge over Tate, but this aspect is a coin flip.
Pennington isn’t a great offensive wrestler, though her defensive game is underrated. She has a knack to find her opponents neck in the ground game and has a few submission victories to her name.
This is a huge step up in competition for Pennington. Beating Tate is in a whole different stratosphere then taking a decision over Elizabeth Phillips. Tate should be able to bring this to the ground and suffocate Pennington for three rounds.
Prediction: Miesha Tate (-185)
UFC 205: Alvarez vs McGregor Betting Odds
Odds as of November 8 at Bovada
- Eddie Alvarez +120
- Conor McGregor -150
- Stephen Thompson -200
- Tyron Woodley +160
- Joanna Jedrejczyk -380
- Karolina Kowalkiewicz +290
- Chris Weidman -170
- Yoel Romero +140
- Donald Cerrone -160
- Kelvin Gastelum +130
- Miesha Tate -185
- Raquel Pennington +150
- Frankie Edgar -325
- Jeremy Stephens +250
- Khabib Nurmagomedov -285
- Michael Johnson +225
- Tim Kennedy -230
- Rashad Evans +180
- Thiago Alves -165
- Jim Miller +135
- Rafael Natal -160
- Tim Boetsch +130
- Katlyn Chookagian -185
- Liz Carmouche +150
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