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UFC 205: McGregor vs Alvarez - Winners and Losers

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The UFC’s maiden voyage to the Big Apple was a smashing success.

MMA: UFC 205-McGregor vs Alvarez Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Even though we didn’t get to see Rashad Evans fight Tim Kennedy or Donald Cerrone fight Kelvin Gastelum, this card was stacked and arguably what the UFC intended for UFC 200 to be. We got a little bit of everything here, with a monumental event that avoided the dreaded “three title fight curse.” There was very little waste and a lot for the fans to walk away happy from, even if they live crowd wasn’t the best bunch.

  • Winners

Conor McGregor - Once again, the Irishman makes a massive leap to becoming a true modern legend. He struggled a bit at first with leg kicks while he established his range, but once he found the spot he wanted, he continued to punish Alvarez the whole way. He shucked off takedowns effectively to reposition himself and continue to find a home for that left hand. Now he’s the champion of two divisions, and continues to prove doubters wrong while putting on huge performances. Whether you like him or not, this was a phenomenal accomplishment, and it was very well earned.

Appreciate him while we have him, folks. We may not see anything like this again.

Tyron Woodley - Woodley is in the unenviable position of having to fight guys that fans love while still dragging the baggage of being labeled a boring fighter by fans. This largely stems from his time in Strikeforce, where he had a string of decisions despite having plenty of finishes early on. While he’s had some frustrating performances (most notably against Rory MacDonald), he’s shored up some holes in his game and improved his cardio greatly. He took on a striking master and more than held his own. Despite taking some punishment, he dropped Wonderboy and busted him up on the ground. The fight could have been a win, and I wouldn’t be upset, but the draw seems like the right call. This performance should earn him a ton of respect from fans, even if the fans were less than kind to him after the fight. Of course, he didn’t do it alone. That leads me to the other man in the dance...

Stephen Thompson - I had previously argued that Wonderboy should have probably gotten a title shot after the win over Johny Hendricks. Instead, he got a fight against Rory MacDonald and won via decision. All in all, he put on a very good performance and showed he has championship mettle in an amazing fight full of tension that led to some exciting moments. An instant rematch may be mandatory here, especially with the heart and determination that they both fought. Both fighters have had their elite status solidified tonight, and the sport is richer for having them.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk - We all know Joanna Champion and what she brings to the table when it comes to a totally dominant performance. What we saw tonight was a bit different. While ahead for most of the fight, she ended up getting hurt by Kowalkiewicz pretty badly only to hold on and keep pushing the pace. She clearly won the fight, but it was her ability to dig deep through adversity that made this win even more special. She’s still gaining respect, and is still a fearsome competitor to step in against.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz - Another fighter that gained a lot of respect in her loss to Joanna Violence. It’s becoming something of a theme with Joanna’s opponents, as this happened with Valerie Letourneau. A lot of people seemed to have believed Karolina would get steamrolled. While she was getting styled on for a bit, she turned things around with a big right hand, kept the pressure and had some good looks after that. Her stock still takes a bit of a hit, but there’s may not be another viable contender in that division on the horizon since Gadelha has lost to Joanna twice and Valerie lost again in June against Joanne Calderwood. Kowalkiewicz turned a lot of heads by pushing through the fire and elevated her standing in the division, and the two could clash again very soon.

Yoel Romero - Aside from McGregor, I don’t see a bigger winner than Romero tonight. Taking on a former champion and nailing a sensational finish that leads to a pretty clear path to a title shot? That’s massive. Out for almost a year after the USADA incident, he needed to make a massive statement to remind fans of who he was and make a case for finally breaking up into the title picture. While Weidman brought a more active striking game and a size advantage, Romero made up for it all with his stellar wrestling defense and marvelous athleticism. Even though the knee he landed on Clifford Starks was probably more beautiful and immediately found the off-button, this one was even more violent by possibly hitting an artery and casing a ton of beleding. That was enough to register on the Muta Scale if it kept going (Google that, kids) and is exactly the kind of performance that the UFC values when it comes to giving out a title shot. Right now, it doesn’t seem like anyone else is more deserving.

Frankie Edgar - When you’ve already lost twice to the current interim champion and the actual champion is off in other weight classes (and also not likely to defend that belt) , it has to be hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But until that happens, Frankie Edgar continues to fight beautifully and recovering from some truly frightening deficits. That kick from Stephens didn’t seem to land totally flush, but it certainly hurt. That’s a good bounce-back against a top featherweight. It certainly won’t get him another shot at Aldo, but keeps him relevant and shows he’s still in the game.

Raquel Pennington - Another upset that was pleasantly surprising. As much as I love watching Miesha Tate fight and respect her as a fighter, Pennington is finally blossoming into the fighter she should have been had she not faced opponents like Cat Zingano and Leslie Smith before she was ready earlier in her career. Rocky is deceptively strong, can take a lot of damage, has improved her cardio and has really learned how to fight smart. On top of that, she finds a mean streak in her fights, such as the closing minute of this fight against Tate. Women’s bantamweight is a division that hasn’t experienced much growth and doesn’t appear likely to expand, so it’s great to see this kind of evolution from the talent that is already present.

Khabib Nurmagomedov - After a two-year layoff, Khabib came back and fought late-replacement Darrell Horcher in a dominant performance. Tonight, he took some hits early, found his range and rhythm, then dominated Michael Johnson while making it look relatively easy by the end. The impressive thing about Nurmagomedov isn’t just his wrestling - it’s how he strikes while he’s wrestling and continues to improve position while smothering his opponent and keeping the intensity. This was a quality win, but it still seems like Tony Ferguson may be next in line for a title shot, considering the recent hot streak of exciting performances. Even if that’s the case, this performance and the post-fight interview should give him a solid case and some bargaining power.

Jim Miller - Miller looked great out there tonight. He fought a tough opponent and outworked him while hanging tough in the standup portions of the fight and working his grappling magic. Miller now has three consecutive wins and showed he’s still absolutely dangerous in the lightweight division. Some of his combinations looked great, his movement was less limited and his cardio looked great. His next outing should be a lot of fun if he keeps this up.

Tim Boetsch - I regret ever thinking Tim was done after the Hendo loss, and he’s just frightening to watch when everything clicks together for him. This is his second win in a row after a win in mid-July against Josh Samman (RIP) where he snapped a three-fight losing streak. He’s got a clearly defined ceiling at this point, so he won’t be fighting guys in the top 5-10. At least not for now.

Vicente Luque - After losing his UFC debut against Michael Graves, Luque now has four straight wins, all finishes. The best thing is how he’s at least working his way up the division and there appears to be no plan on rushing him into anything. He’s growing as a fighter and really improving while cleaning out the bottom-to-mid end of the division.

  • Losers

Chris Weidman - Nobody took a bigger hit tonight than Chris Weidman. From former champion to a loss like this - in a division that is shuffling around quickly at the top, no less - he’s going to take a backseat for a while. He was succeeding with the striking but opted to grapple with one of the best wrestlers to grace the sport of MMA, and couldn’t make it come together. Romero has always had worse cardio as the fight goes on, but his sense of timing is outstanding sometimes. I can’t think of another fighter in MMA right now that can turn a fight around so quickly and to such a large degree. And yes, the water situation between rounds was a problem. Much like the Tim Kennedy fight, it’s on the referee to take action, and we saw none of that. I suspect that we’ll get Herb Dean as the ref for his next bout to look out for those shenanigans. Failing that, we’ll probably get a John McCarthy that won’t repeat that mistake.

Eddie Alvarez - Alvarez didn’t seem to have an answer to McGregor’s offense after the opening minutes of the fight. It’s a shame, since he’s with one of the best teams in the sport and should know that the left hand is McGregor’s best weapon. He’s a world-class fighter that was made to look like an amateur. Granted, this performance is obviously not representative of his true skill, but that’s the fight game. In a division that has Khabib and Ferguson waiting for title shots, it’s going to be a while before he climbs back up for another shot at the belt.

Michael Johnson - It has to be rough to come in with this much steam only to be humiliated like that. Once Nurmagomedov found the takedown, it was all downhill for Johnson. He’s still a top ten guy, but this really pours a big bucket of cold water on any momentum he gained.

Jeremy Stephens - This fight was looking pretty good for Stephens at first, but the pace that Frankie Edgar puts on people is one that a lot of fighters can’t handle. His wrestling, positioning and pace are too much for a lot of opponents, and that’s why he’s continually at the top end of the division. He continues to alternate wins in losses since his loss to Charles Oliveira in December of 2014, but he’s not slowing down. This was a bad stylistic matchup, but one or two more wins should have him fighting a top 5 guy very quickly.

Belal Muhammad - Currently 1-2 in the UFC, he might stick around for a little bit. The former Titan champion is talented, but has had a rough go of it as of late and may get an opponent lower on the totem pole for his next bout. Still, not a good look getting finished like that. Usually a fighter in his situation would get cut, so don’t be too surprised if that’s the case.

Rafael Natal ends up with his second consecutive loss, leading to a 9-6 record in the UFC with 1 draw - all since 2010. This bumps him down considerably at middleweight.

Thiago Alves comes in overweight in his first fight in over a year in a half, then loses to Jim Miller in a bout that saw him net little success.

  • Neither

Liz Carmouche - Despite notching her second consecutive win in a smaller division, her win wasn’t the sort of thing that moves you up the rankings in a hurry. She does make some progress here, but it’s not a win that is perceived as anything major just yet.

Katlyn Chookagian - Chookagian has nothing to be ashamed of. She found her opportunities with her striking later in the fight and ended up with her lone professional career to be 1-1 in the UFC. She’s not going anywhere, and continues to be interesting to watch when she strings combinations together and really pressures her opponent.

Miesha Tate - Tate lost a fight to a fighter finally hitting her stride, and seemed a step behind for most of the bout. That said, maybe this was her time. If so, it’s probably for the best. I’ve enjoyed her career and wish her nothing but the very best in her life outside of fighting. It’s comforting that she was able to reach the mountaintop after a decade into the sport and the awareness to bow out while still healthy and able to move on to other things. Good on you, Cupcake.