UFC 205 will be a historic night for the promotion. It marks the first MMA event to be held in New York. Madison Square Garden will be rocking for a main card that features three title fights, which hasn’t happened since the largely disappointing UFC 33 in 2001.
The main attraction is the money man, Conor McGregor. The featherweight belt holder will go up against the lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. McGregor has the opportunity to hold two belts at the same time, something that has never happened in UFC history.
The welterweight belt is up for grabs as Tyron Woodley looks to defend his belt for the first time against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The other title fight features Joanna Jedrzejczyk, looking to defend her strawweight belt for the fourth time against Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
The other fights on the main card include contenders such as former belt holder Chris Weidman and Miesha Tate, along with others.
Donald Cerrone’s matchup with Kelvin Gastelum has been scrapped due to Gastelum missing weight by a significant margin.
Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor (20-3) vs. Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (28-4)
This will be the first time McGregor will fight for a belt outside of the featherweight class. Although he has yet to defend his featherweight belt, the UFC has decided to pimp McGregor out for another super-fight type match-up.
I remember a simpler time, when fighters would dominate a division for an extended period of time before moving weight classes. But alas, UFC is big business now, and this card will most likely be their most profitable to date.
We’ll start with the man that casual fans may have never heard of before his match-up with McGregor. Alvarez possesses skills that could pose a problem for the Irishman. He is known as a boxer first. The flurry that ended up putting down Rafael Dos Anjos was a perfect example of what Alvarez’s striking is all about. He isn’t afraid to apply pressure. His 14 first round finishes and 17 wins by knockout are proof of that.
Alvarez also is a very capable wrestler, and has been able to earn five submission victories. His footwork is also excellent. It was on full display in the Dos Anjos fight.
In McGregor’s last two fights against Nate Diaz he learned something; you don’t have to knock someone out every time to win. In the first fight of their epic saga, McGregor tired out entirely too early. He tried too hard to earn the knockout victory early, trying to live up to expectations that he built up. It’s all a part of his aura. It’s why he’s beloved by so many.
In the second fight of the series McGregor again tired out, but he got a second wind and stuck to his gameplan. He believed he could outpoint Diaz if he stuck to the script, and it worked to perfection.
McGregor’s striking is second to none. He does it in a plethora of ways too, but it all comes back to that powerful left hand of his that has finished so many fights. His stamina has been questionable lately; the longer the fight goes the more likely Alvarez is able to take him down and impose his will. But in the words of McGregor, I see Alvarez overreaching, overextending, and then being KO’d unconscious.
Prediction: McGregor by KO first round.
Champion Tyron Woodley (16-3) vs. No. 2 Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (13-1)
At UFC 201, Tyron Woodley stepped into a title fight on late notice against Robbie Lawler. Woodley was a large underdog, and rightfully so.Three fights prior to his first championship bout, he was picked apart by Rory MacDonald. But the great thing about Woodley is he’s never out of a fist fight, because of his raw power. Woodley knocked out Lawler in the first round, becoming one of the most unlikely champions in recent memory.
Don’t get it twisted, Woodley is no slouch. He has one punch knockout power, and when on his feet he is constantly looking to land his big right hand. He often gets a feel for his range with his left and explodes forward with reckless abandon.
Woodley also has the ability to mix up his strikes with his kicks. He often kicks his opponent’s legs, body and head to dictate hand placement. A strong kick followed by a straight right or overhand right is a common combination of his.
His wrestling is also a strength. Woodley has shown he can apply pressure on his opponent along the cage and on the mat.
But where Woodley gets in trouble is in the fundamentals. He often finds himself in precarious situations. He has the tendency to lose concentration and his position within the ring. When he’s not applying the pressure he can easily be forced into the cage himself.
His opponent, “Wonderboy”, has had a long ascension up the rankings, but has finally earned his shot. Thompson has practiced karate and kickboxing for a long time. His game is predicated on staying out of trouble using his 6’0” frame to keep his distance.
Thompson is terrific at being unpredictable. The variety of kicks he can throw at his opponents is very impressive and he is constantly switching stances. The way he pivots and side-steps in the ring keeps him in advantageous positions standing up. His command of distance gives him the ability to hurry his opponent or lay back and counter-strike.
An underrated part of Thompson’s game is the clinch. Although he doesn’t often engage the clinch, once he is grappling he has a knack to throw knees and elbows.
This is an extremely tough fight for Woodley’s first title defense. Woodley may have an advantage on the ground, but he doesn’t apply himself there as often as he should. If Thompson can dictate the fight to his liking and keep it standing Woodley will wear himself down by trying to knockout “Wonderboy.” This is when Thompson will pick him apart with counter punches. Woodley will also have to be weary of his kicks.
Prediction: Thompson by KO third round.
Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0) vs. No. 2 Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0)
This will be the second time these two Polish natives have fought, the first being in 2012 when Jedrzejczyk submitted Kowalkiewicz.
Jedrzejczyk is a rising star in the UFC. She has defended her title three times, each by a considerable margin. Her striking is as crisp as anyone in MMA. Her ability to hit all levels of her opponent in a single string of strikes is a thing of beauty and every movement has a sense of urgency. Her stamina is off the charts.
Everything is built off of her jab. She uses this to establish range.and score easy points. Charging Jedrzejczyk is a bad idea, as she often feeds her blitzing opponent multiple shots before they can even touch her.
Her takedown defense is also exceptional. This is because she is so good at keeping her distance and moves around the ring with great footwork.
When she is involved in the clinch she often uses devastating knees and elbows.
Kowalkiewicz is kind of like a poor woman’s Jedrzejczyk. She has great pace to her striking. Her strategy is also built around her jab. The clinch of Kowalkiewicz is also a great facet of her game.
This is where the comparison ends though. Kowalkiewicz doesn’t quite get the same pop into her standing strikes as Jedrzejczyk. She also has a tendency to eat shots when trading on her feet, something Jedrzejczyk will surely take advantage of.
Prediction: Jedrzejczyk by unanimous decision.
No. 2 Chris Weidman (13-1) vs. No. 4 Yoel Romero (11-1)
Weidman is most well known for being the man to take the middleweight strap away from the legendary Anderson Silva. The New York native is looking to return to form after injury has kept him out for nearly a year now.
Once these two men step into the octagon Weidman will look to stalk his opponent, looking for opportunities to land big shots or takedowns. Once the fight hits the mat Weidman uses his great wrestling skills to get into top position. His submissions are a strength of his as well. His three submission finishes are proof that his bag of tricks is very deep and full of variety.
At 39-years-old, Romero is still a freak athlete. His speed and power are his greatest assets. These assets make him extremely powerful when striking or trying to take down his opponent. Romero is an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling and uses Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu well on the ground.
Standing up Romero will rely on his kicks and try to coax Weidman into marching forward into a barrage of counter shots. If Weidman doesn’t take the bait Romero will then charge, and look to his use his raw power to overwhelm his opponent.
Weidman will be best served to grind his veteran opponent against the cage and mat. Stamina could be his greatest advantage in this fight, especially the later it goes on. Takedowns could be the deciding factor in this fight.
Prediction: Weidman by submission second round.
No. 1 Miesha Tate (18-6) vs. No. 8 Raquel Pennington (8-6)
In 2013, Pennington broke into the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter. She was coached by Tate. But they have also trained together prior to one of Tate’s fights against Ronda Rousey.
Tate’s expertise is her grappling and submission game. Her striking is solid but it was obvious that standing up and trading with women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes was a mistake. Her durability is something that keeps her in most fights.
Pennington is a solid boxer with good head movement. Her wrestling is good as well, and she has finished three fights by submission.
Pennington should look to establish her range and outstrike the former champion Tate. If the fight turns into a brawl it could favor Tate; she thrives in chaos. But Pennington is a smart fighter and is familiar with Tate’s grappling ability.
Prediction: Pennington by split decision.