Eddie Alvarez has shown two sides to his game throughout his UFC tenure: his dangerous striking and dominant wrestling. In a January fight against Anthony Pettis, Alvarez was able to grind out the former champion in the clinch and on the mat with his wrestling for the decision victory. The Pettis win earned him a crack at then-champion Rafael dos Anjos, who he knocked out with a barrage of punches on the feet in the first round. And that’s why Alvarez is the champion — he’s well-rounded.
UFC president Dana White expects to see Alvarez’s wrestling game on Saturday night when the lightweight champ defends his belt for the first time against 145-pound titleholder Conor McGregor in a highly anticipated super-fight at UFC 205. McGregor will want to keep the fight standing, where he’s the strongest. The biggest knock on the superstar’s game is very likely his wrestling — and specifically his wrestling defense — so White thinks Alvarez will try to take advantage of that. White did not say whether or not he actually sees Alvarez having success getting the fight to the ground.
“I think Eddie Alvarez is going to come out and fight the way he did in the Anthony Pettis fight,” White told Jim Rome on SiriusXM Thursday. “I think he’s gonna try to get Conor up against the fence and take him down, or just push him against the fence and try to work on the fence. I don’t think he’s gonna come out in the middle of the Octagon and trade with Conor and start throwing punches.”
Any fighters that don’t respect McGregor’s striking and power on the feet are “crazy,” according to White.
“You better fear his hands,” he said. “He touches guys. He dropped Nate Diaz at a higher weight class. All the other guys he’s knocked out. He knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. If he touches you, you’re in trouble, you get hurt.”
White believes that the truth will be told regarding McGregor’s wrestling ability in the Alvarez fight this weekend. At this point, he isn’t sure if the Irishman’s wrestling has improved since the Chad Mendes fight in July 2015, where Mendes was able to take McGregor down — and hold him down — multiple times.
“Everybody believes that the huge hole in Conor’s game is the wrestling,” he said. “This is the fight where we’ll really know. ... Eddie Alvarez is a much bigger, stronger fighter (than Mendes); he’s a great fighter. We’ll see.”
UFC 205 takes place live from Madison Square Garden in New York City. Also on the card, welterweight champ Tyron Woodley defends his belt against Stephen Thompson and women’s strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on Karolina Kowalkiewicz.