NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden has hosted all sorts of historic events ever since it opened in 1968, but for the first time ever Saturday, it will serve as home to a mixed martial arts event when UFC 205 takes center stage in New York City.
Aside from being the first UFC event in New York City since the state of New York lifted its MMA ban earlier this year, UFC 205 is headlined by a champion-versus-champion bout featuring featherweight belt holder Conor McGregor and lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez. The popular McGregor will try to make history by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to win belts in two weight classes simultaneously.
Two other championship fights highlight the main card, as Polish stars Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Karolina Kowalkiewicz will battle for the women’s strawweight title, and Tyron Woodley will defend his welterweight belt against Stephen Thompson.
That’s not all. Miesha Tate and Chris Weidman return to the octagon to try to avenge championship losses in their respective weight classes.
The anticipation for the stacked fight card seemingly is unprecedented as ticket prices are hovering at all-time highs. Even the preliminary card has some notable headliners, like the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Here’s a quick breakdown of UFC 205, along with some predictions for each fight on the preliminary and main cards. All of the current betting lines are from OddsShark.com.
PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1)
Welterweight: Vicente Luque (10-5-1, +120) vs. Belal Muhammad (10-1, -140)
While Muhammad is an aggressive striker, Luque has won two performance of the night bonuses in his last three fights and seems to be on a little bit of a roll. Five of his 10 wins have been submissions, so expect him to try to win by going to the ground.
Prediction: Luque (first round via submission)
Middleweight: Rafael Natal (21-7-1, -150) vs. Tim Boetsch (19-10, +130)
Natal has a higher significant strike and takedown rate than Boetsch. Boetsch also has lost six of his last nine fights and is clearly on the back nine of his career.
Prediction: Natal (decision)
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov (23-0, -285) vs. Michael Johnson (18-10, +225)
Nurmagomedov was very upset when Dana White offered the lightweight title fight to McGregor. And why wouldn’t he be? He’s undefeated and has the longest active winning streak in MMA.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov (first round via submission)
Featherweight: Frankie Edgar (19-5-1, -340) vs. Jeremy Stephens (25-12, +270)
Since 2013, Edgar has lost just two fights — both of them to Jose Aldo. Edgar has the advantage here when it comes to striking and grappling and shouldn’t have any problem with Stephens, who seemed to be blowing hot air during the UFC 205 press conference last month when he said he’d give McGregor a tough time in the octagon.
Prediction: Edgar (decision)
Women’s bantamweight: Miesha Tate (18-6, -170) vs. Raquel Pennington (8-6, +150)
This won’t be easy for Tate. Pennington has the slight height and reach advantage and has a higher significant strike rate than Tate. She also can grapple, as evidenced by her two submission finishes in UFC. Still, Tate is one of the best on the ground thanks to her past wrestling background and has the edge in experience. This also is her first fight since losing to Amanda Nunes in the bantamweight title bout, so one would think she’s hungry for a win.
Prediction: Tate (decision)
Middleweight: Chris Weidman (13-1, -180) vs. Joel Romero (11-1, +150)
Weidman returns to the octagon for the first time since losing the middleweight title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. He’ll face a tough test going up against Romero, who’s an excellent striker. Ten of Romero’s 12 victories have come via knockout. Weidman can force opponents to the floor, as evidenced by his 56 percent takedown accuracy (second-highest among middleweights), but Romero defends takedowns well (78 percent takedown defense).
Prediction: Romero (second round via KO)
Women’s strawweight (title fight): Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0, -400) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0, +300)
These two actually have fought before when they were amateurs and Jedrzejczyk was victorious. Jedrzejczyk is one of the best strikers in the sport, as evidenced by her plus-409 significant strike differential over her last four fights.
Prediction: Jedrzejczyk (second round via TKO)
Welterweight (title fight): Tyron Woodley (16-3, +170) vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (13-1, -200)
Woodley comes into the fight as the underdog despite being the champion. Woodley has the better takedown rate and might have the advantage in the ground game because of it, but Thompson hasn’t been taken down in his last seven fights and has a strong jiu-jitsu background. Because of this, Woodley will need to go for the early knockout punch. Five of his last six finishes have come via knockout punches. But with Thompson being such an elite fighter, it’s more likely we see Wonderboy tire out Woodley and finish him off late.
Prediction: Thompson (fourth round via TKO)
Lightweight (title fight): Eddie Alvarez (28-4, +145) vs. Conor McGregor (20-3, -165)
How do you beat McGregor? You take him to the ground. That’s exactly what Alvarez is good at doing, evidenced by his 10 takedowns in his last three fights. McGregor also showed in his victory over Nate Diaz that he can tire out quickly. While McGregor is one of the best strikers in the sport, Alvarez is a tank and can take a punch or two. The lightweight champion will try to tire out McGregor and then beat him in the ground game.
Prediction: Alvarez (fourth round via submission)
Stats via FightMetric
Thumbnail photo via Jason Silva/USA TODAY Sports Images