Here we are. One of the biggest nights in MMA history is just 24 hours away. By the end of UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, we'll either see Eddie Alvarez remain UFC lightweight champion, or Conor McGregor become the first man in UFC history to be a simultaneous two-division champion. There are certain fights and certain atmospheres that accompany them that will give you chills, and this is one of them.
As for who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking? Well we're fairly divided, as you might expect. The 7-4 split is in favor of McGregor over Alvarez, and the consensus idea is that the fight will either end in a (T)KO or a decision. Submissions need not apply here.
Part 1: UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor staff picks and predictions for preliminary card
Part 2: UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor staff picks and predictions for PPV main card
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor
Anton Tabuena: I've been flip flopping on this prediction for a while now, but I think there are two likely scenarios that could play out. It's either McGregor dominates from distance and knocks him out early, or Alvarez survives at range, gets a clinch and just grinds him out until Conor slows down and leaves opportunities for a late finish.
I'm predicting that earlier on, Conor wins striking exchanges from distance, defends the clinch well and gets up immediately when taken down. Then it will all boil down to which happens first from there: Conor finds an opportunity to land and hurt Alvarez, or he slows down from a gritty fence battle and Eddie takes over. Tough tough pick, but I'm going with the first scenario. Conor McGregor by TKO.
Mookie Alexander: Let’s just sit back for a second and realize that McGregor has done outrageously great business for the UFC these past two years, but he could very well end up going 1-2 in 2016. I’m not picking Alvarez, but that’s something that is worth remembering. As for the fight itself, Conor has the advantage in reach, power, and precision with his boxing. It’s up to Alvarez to solve how to undercut that, get inside, and score some takedowns. Unless Alvarez times Conor well enough to genuinely hurt him and leave him scrambling, or McGregor’s cardio becomes a legitimate concern the longer the fight drags on, Eddie is not going to win this fight under any situation where there are prolonged exchanges at range. He’s historically hittable, and while his chin is strong enough that he’s only been TKO’d once, he has never ever faced someone with Conor’s power and accuracy. McGregor also does great work to the body that is part of the reason Chad Mendes gassed. Selfishly, I’d love to see Alvarez get a few takedowns and we’ll see if Conor handles himself any differently than he did vs. Mendes, but if the opportunities don’t present themselves, then I think we’re going to see history made at Madison Square Garden. Conor McGregor, TKO, round 2.
Dayne Fox: I have gone back and forth on this fight so many times, it ain’t funny at all. Alvarez tends to get hurt at least once in every one of his fights thanks to his style that doesn’t exactly put much of an emphasis on defense. That’s exactly the type of fighter that McGregor tends to feast on. Remember him catching Aldo coming forward in just 13 seconds? I could easily see a similar situation playing out. Then again, I could see Alvarez going to the wrestling game he has been emphasizing more, wearing out McGregor, and taking a decision from the judges. Those are just a few of the scenarios that have played out in my head as the possibilities for this contest seem endless. I’ll go with Alvarez as I’d love to see the Underground King ironically enough steal the spotlight at what could very well be the biggest show in MMA history. Alvarez via decision
Fraser Coffeen: Like I think pretty much every rational person looking at this fight, I keep going back and forth, and won’t be surprised if my pick changes by the time I finish typing this paragraph. I’ve been a believer in McGregor in the past, though I seriously underestimated him in the Diaz rematch. There, he showed me a determination and ability to go the distance and win that frankly I didn’t think he had. But Alvarez also has that trait, and he’s used it well lately. The common perception is that Alvarez is all rock ‘em sock ‘em, but honestly he has not fought like that too much in the UFC, instead adopting the Robbie Lawler approach of being more calculating and winning the war, not the battles. Momentum is on Conor’s side, and that alone is almost enough reason to pick him, but I see Alvarez being able to deal with Conor’s striking, wear him down with a tiring offense, and take over as the fight progresses. Eddie Alvarez, decision
Zane Simon: I know Eddie Alvarez will fight smart and I know he’ll be prepared. I also know that Conor McGregor has some cardio issues that I think are just part and parcel with his high power high pace style. However, McGregor’s great accuracy, punching power, and command of range and timing just make me feel like the margins are too narrow for Alvarez. As Connor suggested on the Vivi, Alvarez’s best chances are to try and counter early and pressure late against McGregor, waiting for his cardio to go before really pursuing him, however, countering early means letting McGregor pressure early and McGregor is incredibly dangerous when given the opportunity to do so. If Alvarez survives the first two rounds, then this fight could get fascinating, but I’m not picking that. Conor McGregor via KO Round 2.
Nick Baldwin: This fight is so, so, so close. It’s going to go into deep waters, I think -- Alvarez’s chin is eventually going to go, but now’s not the time, not yet -- and we will see the same side of McGregor we saw in the second Nate Diaz fight. He’ll somehow find a second wind in the championship rounds, despite his somewhat-visible cardio issues. McGregor has more tools on the feet than Alvarez, including his kicks, and is arguably the harder puncher. He’s bigger, too, which is interesting, considering he’s the one who recently moved up in weight. I like the Irishman in this fight, but not by a lot. The wrestling defense of McGregor is a bit concerning, especially looking back at Alvarez’s win over Anthony Pettis. If Alvarez is smart, he goes out there and grinds out McGregor. He could do it. Will he? Nope. Conor McGregor via unanimous decision.
Eddie Mercado: Since embarking on his UFC journey, Eddie Alvarez has showed more of a willingness to mix things up and shoot in for the takedown to add to his knack for biting down on his mouthpiece and throwing bolos. In this instance, Alvarez must find a way past the length of McGregor in order for his punches to connect or find an opening to start grappling. Conor McGregor moves with such fluidity, while launching dynamic yet accurate strikes, that I see Alvarez having a tough time being able to plant his feet and connect on more than 1 shot at a time. McGregor thrives when he has a reach advantage and unless Alvarez can close the distance, there is a good chance of McGregor picking apart the lightweight champ from the outside. AND DEUX… Conor McGregor by TKO Round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: Eddie’s going to have to rely on his cardio and wrestling against the cage, making McGregor carry his weight while punishing his legs with knees while in close. After wearing him down, he can use his boxing more effectively while making sure to watch out for Conor’s setups for the left hand. Problem is Eddie’s still hittable, and he’s going to have to be slick with his boxing and lateral movement while flustering McGregor with level changes and feints. Conor can win this, and the shots Eddie ate from Chandler and Melendez give me a degree of pause, but the longer the fight goes the better his chances are. Eddie Alvarez by TKO via ground strikes, round 5.
Staff picking Alvarez: Bissell, Dayne, Fraser, Lewis
Staff picking McGregor: Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Eddie, Zane, Nick, Tim, Anton