Tonight’s UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor features a stacked card from top-to-bottom. A tripleheader of title fights tops tonight’s debut show at Madison Square Garden, with all eyes on Conor McGregor fighting for history, as he tries to win the UFC lightweight championship belt from Eddie Alvarez. Here, in our Bloody Elbow fight card primer series, we’re taking a look at the incredibly deep six-fight preliminary card, with title implications at stake in the top two FS1 bouts. UFC 205 airs live from New York, New York tonight (Saturday, November 12th), with the main card airing live on PPV at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT. The prelims start at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1 and 7:00 p.m. ET on Fight Pass.
Frankie Edgar (20-5-1 MMA, 14-5-1 UFC) vs. Jeremy Stephens (25-12 MMA, 12-11 UFC) - Featherweights
Edgar has been sensational at featherweight. The only person he’s lost to in the weight class is Jose Aldo, who beat him by decision in a pair of title fights (one with Aldo as champion, one with the interim belt on the line). Edgar’s last win was a vicious 1st round KO of Chad Mendes in December 2015. While he’s been unable to get that elusive title fight vs. Conor McGregor, Edgar is still unquestionably one of the best fighters in the world, and now he’s finally fighting at Madison Square Garden.
Stephens may be 2-3 in his last 5, but he’s fought some high-level competition since his 2013 drop to featherweight. He’s coming off a unanimous decision win over former bantamweight champion Renan Barao, one of the biggest wins of Stephens’ career. “Lil’ Heathen” also holds a sensational flying knee KO over Dennis Bermudez, who’d previously never been knocked out in his MMA career. The losses for Stephens have been clear, but they’ve not been stoppages, with Max Holloway, Charles Oliveira, and Cub Swanson all needing to go to the scorecards to get their wins over him. He’ll be looking to play the role of spoiler and bag his 2nd consecutive win over a former UFC champ.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Frankie Edgar -325, Jeremy Stephens +265
Khabib Nurmagomedov (23-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC) vs. Michael Johnson (17-10 MMA, 9-6 UFC) - Lightweights
This isn’t the fight that Khabib was hoping to have at Madison Square Garden. He wanted the title fight vs. Eddie Alvarez, but that spot obviously went to Conor McGregor, much to his displeasure. Of considerable importance here is Khabib fighting multiple times in a calendar year, something he’s not done since 2013. The Dagestan powerhouse has suffered multiple injury setbacks since beating Rafael dos Anjos in 2014. Nurmagomedov made his return in April 2016 against Darrell Horcher (replacing an injured Tony Ferguson), and he bulldozed the overmatched Horcher on his way to a 2nd round TKO. Now it’s a matter of staying healthy, getting another big win, and we’ll see whether or not the UFC bypasses Khabib for a title shot in favor of someone else, or if the 28-year-old will get his crack at UFC gold in 2017.
Johnson was on a bit of a skid entering his September showdown with Dustin Poirier. A hard-luck decision loss to Beneil Dariush was followed by another decision loss to Nate Diaz, and it put “The Menace” in a position where one more defeat would put him miles back from the back of title contenders. The TUF 12 runner-up completely wiped Poirier out in just 95 seconds, and he got his wish granted for a fight with Nurmagomedov. It’ll be a tough task dealing with Nurmagomedov’s takedowns and ridiculous talents on the mat, but Johnson’s slick striking abilities and knockout power could make this a fascinating contest. There’s a lot riding on the line for both men, so while this isn’t the FS1 prelim headliner, it is by far the best bout on this portion of UFC 205.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Khabib Nurmagomedov -290, Michael Johnson +238
Tim Boetsch (19-10 MMA, 10-9 UFC) vs. Rafael Natal (21-7-1 MMA, 9-5-1 UFC) - Middleweights
“The Barbarian” has been a mainstay in the UFC for years, but he’s not had the greatest recent run of form. Boetsch scored an upset knockout win over Brad Tavares in August 2014, but then went 0 for his next 3. Thales Leites submitted him with an arm-triangle choke, Dan Henderson knocked him out in under 30 seconds, and Ed Herman stopped him in his brief return to 205 lbs. Boetsch avoided a 4th straight loss with a 2nd round TKO over the late Josh Samman. A win over Natal would give Boetsch his first winning streak since his 4-0 stretch from 2011-2012, which included his famous comeback win over Yushin Okami.
This is effectively a home fight for “Sapo,” a Brazil native who has lived and trained out of New York City for years. He’s looking to get back in the win column following a unanimous decision loss to Robert Whittaker at UFC 197 in April. That defeat snapped his four-fight winning streak, which included an upset win over Uriah Hall along the way. Natal has hung around the fringes of the top 10 for the past few years, but has never really broken through as a major player at middleweight.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Rafael Natal -146, Tim Boetsch +126
Vicente Luque (10-5-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) vs. Belal Muhammad (10-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) - Welterweights
Luque was part of the Blackzilians team in the special ATT vs. Blackzilians season of The Ultimate Fighter. His UFC debut didn’t go according to plan, as Michael Graves took him down repeatedly and stifled his offense on the way to a decision loss. Since then, the 24-year-old has looked fantastic, recording three straight victories, all by stoppage. While he’s known for his grappling skills, he showed off some lethal knockout power in his last fight against Hector Urbina. Luque is taking this fight on short notice, following the removal of Lyman Good due to a potential USADA violation.
Muhammad came into the UFC as the Titan FC welterweight champion, a belt he won by stopping Bellator and WSOF veteran Steve Carl. “Remember the Name” debuted in July in a short-notice fight vs. Alan Jouban, and while he ultimately lost the decision, he won FOTN honors for surviving 3 knockdowns and battling back to make the fight competitive. Muhammad’s last outing saw him get a late 3rd round TKO over Augusto Montano, an impressive bounce back from the first defeat of his professional career.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Vicente Luque -123, Belal Muhammad +103
Thiago Alves (21-10 MMA, 13-7 UFC) vs. Jim Miller (27-8, 1 NC MMA; 16-7, 1 NC UFC) - Catchweight
This was supposed to be a lightweight bout, and a first-time showing in this weight class for Alves, a former UFC welterweight title challenger. Those plans are in the toilet now, as Alves missed weight by over 6 pounds, forcing this to be a catchweight at 163 lbs. “Pitbull” hasn’t fought since a doctor’s stoppage TKO loss to Carlos Condit in May 2015, and his last win was a TKO of Jordan Mein in January of the same year. The Brazilian has had his career hampered by injuries, and his aim to start anew at lightweight hasn’t gotten off on the right foot.
It’s a milestone achievement for New Jersey’s Jim Miller. Tonight marks his 25th fight in the UFC, and while he’s never fought for UFC gold, he’s been one of the most consistent names and fan favorites in the 155 lbs division for years. He comes into this contest having won his last two fights, stopping Takanori Gomi at UFC 200, and edging out Joe Lauzon in a thrilling rematch at UFC on FOX 21 in August. A win here would give Miller his first three-fight winning streak since he rattled off seven straight from 2009-2011.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Thiago Alves -150, Jim Miller +130
Liz Carmouche (10-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC) vs. Katlyn Chookagian (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) - Women’s Bantamweights
Carmouche was the challenger to Ronda Rousey’s belt in the first women’s MMA fight in UFC history. After an early neck-crank attempt by Carmouche, Rousey was able to finish her by armbar before the end of round 1. Carmouche was able to notch her first UFC win with a stoppage of Jessica Andrade, but then suffered back-to-back losses to Alexis Davis and Miesha Tate. The 32-year-old’s last fight was well over a year ago, a controversial decision win over Lauren Murphy.
Chookagian is a prospect making her 2nd appearance inside the UFC Octagon. The Team Renzo Gracie product went unbeaten in the regional scene, making a name for herself under the Cage Fury Fighting Championships banner. Chookagian signed with the UFC earlier this year and debuted in July, using her striking to pick apart Lauren Murphy by a decision that was much more decisive than Carmouche’s. A win for Chookagian would further propel her up the rankings at women’s bantamweight, a division that is slowly taking shape as far as new faces in title contention.
Odds (via Bookmaker.eu): Katlyn Chookagian -170, Liz Carmouche +145