UFC 205 will undoubtedly make history Saturday night. Being the first MMA event to be held in the fabled Madison Square Garden Arena has plenty to do with it, but there are a few other factors contributing to the fever pitch, as well.
- Three title fights are up for grabs. Fights of this magnitude often headline cards, and we’ve seen two on one card, but three? It’s almost unheard of. Almost. On September 28, 2001 the UFC hosted it’s 33rd numbered event, and with it, three title bouts (Tito Ortiz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko, Dave Menne vs Gil Castillo, Jens Pulver vs Dennis Hallman).
- Featherweight champion Conor McGregor will be challenging lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez for his belt in a bid to become the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two divisions simultaneously.
- The overall quality of the card is phenomenal. There is not a single bad fight on this card. It is literally stacked from top to bottom—guaranteed to please even the most discriminating MMA palate.
Since the event is so significant for our community, I figured something special was in order. Typically, I’d round up fighters via text to submit their picks/breakdowns for the headlining fight, but I decided to go a different route this time around. Instead, I asked my esteemed media colleagues from a multitude of respected outlets to contribute their predictions for the main event. Here’s how they weighed in:
I'm taking Conor McGregor in this fight. Alvarez is a dangerous opponent, but part of that comes from his willingness to get wild, bite down on his mouthpiece and throwdown. That's a dangerous approach to take against McGregor. Conor has the timing and precision to make guys pay for doing that.
Eddie's wrestling could be a problem for Conor, and his gas tank is probably better, especially if there are grappling heavy exchanges, but Conor has this ability to convince guys to stand with him, whether that's by keeping his distance or getting into someone's head, and I don't think Eddie will be the exception.
Both guys have a couple of paths to victory here - Conor definitely has the power to knock Alvarez out, and after seeing the RDA fight it's pretty apparent Eddie has to power to drop McGregor as well.
While most people will favor Alavrez in a decision, I think it's notable that not only did Conor take a decision over Nate Diaz, he actually had Diaz almost as tired as himself by the end. Conor's striking really takes it out of guys, and if this stays on the feet, I think Conor gets the decision. If there's any substantial time on the ground, though, that equation changes and Alvarez takes the decision.
I don't see this one ending in a submission. Conor has 1 sub victory on record, and while Alvarez went through a period of choking guys out in 2009, it's not his bread and butter. Conor has shown some really good work from his back with sweeps and reversals, and his work with Dillon Danis will have reinforced that. All of that in mind, I don't see either guy getting a submission, unless it's on a guy rocked by strikes.
All of that has been a really long way of saying that both guys have multiple ways to win this one, but I think Conor's edge in the stand-up probably gives him the win here.
This is a difficult fight to predict. While McGregor might be favoured at a quick glance, I hesitate to pick against Alvarez in this fight. The lightweight champ is damn-near impossible to KO and has rallied back in long, grueling match-ups in the past. McGregor was recently able to do the same against Diaz, though I believe he will run into similar problems against Alvarez. Unless the Irish superstar manages to finish Alvarez in the first 10 minutes, Alvarez will likely retain the title by decision or a late finish.
I'm of two minds about McGregor vs. Alvarez, most particularly because I know that Alvarez does a ton of opponent specific preparation and has for a long time and I know that McGregor only just started doing that for his last fight against Nate Diaz. If it were a pure skill vs. skill matchup, I've gotta give the edge to McGregor.
He doesn't get backed up nearly as easy as Pettis and even in that fight there was a lot of argument that Eddie lost it just for how badly he got tagged up when the fight was out at range. If McGregor maintains range better than Pettis and pressures better than Pettis, he absolutely has the power, accuracy, and ability to hurt him bad and probably even finish him.
But, I know Eddie will come prepared specifically for McGregor and with his best game. Eventually, I think I've got to depend on McGregor's ability to hurt his opponent at any moment more than I depend on Eddie's ability to not get hurt for 5 rounds. Of course, Eddie's been hurt before, and rallied back to win, but I just hate betting on skills like that.
Not to take anything away from a phenomenal fighter like Eddie Alvarez, but this fight will be almost entirely dictated by which Conor McGregor shows up on Saturday. The version we saw at UFC 202 was more tactical, more patient, and most importantly, prepared to allow himself to appear human if it meant he could fight smarter. If that’s the same mindset Conor is bringing to New York, he’ll be displaying a level of technique, power, and fight instincts that Eddie Alvarez has simply never had to deal with before.
Shaheen Al-Shatti – MMA Fighting
Full disclosure: I picked Mendes/Aldo/McGregor/Diaz, so go ahead and bet against whatever I say in this next sentence and win yourself some good money. But on Saturday night, inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, the words shall beat a deafening drum -- "and new" -- and the ensuing chaos as one man controls the fate of two simultaneous divisions will be a spectacle to unfold like no other seen before.
Jonathan Snowden – Bleacher Report
Underestimate Conor McGregor at your own risk. Polar Bear? Sentient robot? Tupac hologram? I've got McGregor over all of them. Conor, KO, Round 2.
I'm picking Conor, but not because Eddie isn't capable. The LW Champ could DEFINITELY win a 5-round battle; but I'm betting on Conor's speed, left hand + will to win.
I’m taking Eddie Alvarez, though I’ve been dead wrong about the results of Conor McGregor’s last four fights. So take my pick with a grain of salt. It could obviously go either way — McGregor could win by KO in a minute. But I feel like Alvarez has more ways to win and is one of the toughest, grittiest fighters to ever do it.
I think this fight boils down to two things. The clinch of Alvarez and McGregor's ability to cut off the cage. If Alvarez can engage the clinch and keep doing it, he has a great chance of winning. But, the problem is, he'll have to be absolutely perfect.
If McGregor gets even a sniff of an opening he has the power and control to make it count. Alvarez is a very good counter puncher but McGregor's pressure striking is a very tough thing to deal with. Personally, I see Alvarez getting some joy very early but then McGregor will get on the front foot and get the finish in the first half of the fight.
I'm going with McGregor. It's been a while since we say him fight in the lightweight division but I think his frame and power are perfect for the division. Alvarez will try to pressure his back to the fence and close the distance to clinch and work takedowns, but I think McGregor survives the initial onslaught and lands a KO shot in the second or third round.
I've got Alvarez in this one.
McGregor is dangerous in ways that Alvarez is susceptible, so a quick finish by McGregor would not shock me in any way.
But every time I visualize this fight, the most likely/repeated outcome has Alvarez closing the distance, getting McGregor against the cage, taking him down, and punishing him on the mat.
Taking Alvarez by TKO in the middle rounds, but I don't see it going the distance no matter the outcome.
Out of all of the fighters in the lightweight title conversation, Alvarez is the best matchup for McGregor. Both guys eat a lot of punches, but I think McGregor's stopping power is far superior. Conor by TKO in Round 3.
McGregor. I think with him fighting at 155lbs you're going to see the best version of him yet. I tend to lean toward the the taller, rangier southpaw vs a shorter stockier Alvarez. Also McGregor has big fight / big fight experience and don't think the moment of the MSG debut will phase him. Remains to be seen if Alvarez is able to remain cool, calm and collected in this environment with what will no doubt be another Irish takeover of a crowd.
Completely torn on this pick but I'm going with Conor McGregor based on his accuracy and power. Alvarez could absolutely maul him just as easily but he takes a lot of damage in his fights and that's what I'm betting McGregor will feast on.
Patrick Wyman – Bleacher Report
Alvarez has a couple of different paths to victory, both with wrestling against the fence or sticking and moving while lacing the aggressive McGregor with counterpunches, but the big issue with both approaches is the combination of McGregor's power and Alvarez's tendency to get hit really, really hard. McGregor lands a knockout shot in the second round.
Eddie. I think he's got a better gas tank, more KO power and has the wrestling advantage. Eddie controls where the fight takes place, avoids big strikes from Conor and finishes him via strikes late in the fight.
Eddie. Alvarez may lack McGregor's explosiveness, but he's resilient and has power for days. Eddie is going wear him down and pound him out.
Alvarez. This is the toughest fight to pick on the card but Alvarez is extremely difficult to knock out. I see him surviving the early rounds, using his wrestling to control McGregor's onslaught and sink in a late submission to retain the title.
I rarely bring emotions into analysis. However, the hardcore MMA fan inside of me has a heart for Eddie Alvarez. He once told Jeff Sherwood and I that he has nightmares that he wakes up and has to go back to construction. Win or lose, I hope this payday puts that hardhat firmly in the trash.
With that said, Alvarez tends to get hit. Shinya Aoki even tagged him in their Bellator rematch. Over the course of 25 minutes Conor McGregor will tag him. Can Eddie walk through it? Once he eats it will he continue to fight smart or will he get emotional? These questions cloud the lightweight champion's path to victory. While it's not a foregone conclusion I think the safer pick is Conor. Volume, angles, and efficiency should pay dividends.
I'm picking Eddie Alvarez. I think he's too experienced, too good of a wrestler and will distract Conor with his boxing and eyebrows.
I am a sucker for a risky wrestle-boxer, and a big fan of the Underground King. But in this instance I believe that Conor's reach, early rounds foot-speed, overall fight IQ, and ample skill-set will give him a significant edge. I'm hoping otherwise, but: McGregor, T/KO in the 2nd.
I’m picking Conor McGregor for the mighty win. Conor has a 12-inch reach advantage over Eddie, and his arms are also longer, which means he has to move his feet less and will not get as tired. If you’ve ever jogged for more than 5 minutes you know it is a cardio killer.
Besides reach & cardio, Conor also has the advantage of kicks. He was able to kick a man 30 pounds heavier than him, who was also three times his size. Eddie has never faced anyone that big, let alone kicked them.
Conor wears tighter clothes; this increases muscle density & power, which is why the Ultimate Warrior wore those bands around his biceps. Eddie’s looser clothing style reflects upon everything else; sloppy clothing, sloppy eating habits & fighting.
Conor knows NYC. He has driven around it many times in the last few days, while Eddie is more a subway guy, always preferring the underground. Fights at MSG are fought above ground, which is Conor’s world. Eddie teased Conor about being a leprechaun—MSG is at the end of the rainbow, so it stands to reason Conor’s gold will be there via Eddie’s shiny belt.