Well, it’s that time. 23 years to the day of the very first UFC show, the premier mixed martial arts organization in the world finally makes it’s debut in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.
The matchmakers have provided the deepest lineup in UFC history as nearly every fight on the card, right down to the two Fight Pass prelim matches, feature someone who’s main evented a UFC show in the past. In most cases, both fighters have.
At the top of the show is 3 title fights, something that’s rarely happened in UFC history. The biggest draw in UFC, Conor McGregor, will attempt to not only become a 2 division champion but break his own PPV buys record by headlining another big show. The welterweight and strawweight titles are also on the line tonight.
The show will almost assuredly be great as aside from those three title fights, the event features former champions, number one contender fights and local fan favorites up and down the card.
Our panel weighs in with their picks on the top fights of UFC 205 below. It’s tight at the top so we’re going with 9 fights tonight (would’ve been 10 before the Cerrone/Gastelum fight fell apart) in an attempts to separate the pack. Odds are courtesy of bestfightodds.com:
Here’s our panel with the 2016 records in parenthesis. We’ve also added a running tally of the records of the favorites going into the fights and the panel consensus picks
Josh Nason (64-41; .610) — Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out; writer/editor WrestlingObserver.com , WON Twitter guy
David Bixenspan (64-41; .610) — Figure Four Weekly writer, podcast host
John Pollock (63-42; .600) — Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
Ryan Frederick (62-43; .590) — WrestlingObserver.com UFC reporter, WON Twitter guy
Favorites (62-43; .590)
Dave Meltzer (62-43; .590) — Wrestling Observer founder
Consensus picks (54-40; .574)
Mike Sempervive (60-45; .571) — Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
Mike Sawyer (59-46; .562) — Tough Talk MMA
Front Row Brian (58-47; .552) — MMA newsbreaker, Beloved internet personality, Podcast host
Steve Juon (57-48; .543) — MMA Mania/Wrestling Observer writer. Angry Marks founder
Paul Fontaine (53-52; .505) — MMADraws.com founder, WrestlingObserver.com writer
Main Event for the UFC lightweight title
Champion Eddie Alvarez (28-4) vs. Conor McGregor (20-3)
This is the big one. Conor McGregor has been saying since before he won the featherweight title that he would become the first fighter in UFC history to hold a world title in two different weight classes at the same time. Standing in his way is Eddie Alvarez, who stunned Rafael Dos Anjos with a first round KO back in July. The atmosphere should be electric. Conor McGregor virtually always delivers in the Octagon as evidenced by his 8 post show bonus awards in 9 UFC fights. Eddie Alvarez never quits. This could be the fight of the year.
McGregor (-118 favorite) — Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Pollock, Nason, Meltzer, Bix
Alvarez (+120 underdog) — FRB, Fontaine, Sempervive
For the UFC welterweight title:
Champion Tyron Woodley (16-3) vs. Steven Thompson (13-1)
Steven Thompson is on a seven fight win streak and has looked unstoppable for most of the way. Woodley KO’d former champion Robbie Lawler to win the belt and this will be his first defense. The challenger is the big favorite but Woodley has been proving people wrong ever since his days in Strikeforce. Both guys have the power to KO anyone in the division but also the cardio to go five rounds. This should be another great fight.
Woodley (+174 underdog) — Juon, FRB, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason
Thompson (-186 favorite) — Sawyer, Frederick, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
For the UFC strawweight title:
Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0) vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0)
Two unbeaten fighters squaring off for the world title is usually the equation for a main event but here, it’s third from the top. That goes to show just how big this show is. Joanna is fast become one of the biggest stars in the company outside of the “Big 2” of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. She’ll put up her belt against her fellow Polish fighter in a rematch of a 2012 fight when both were amateurs. Joanna won that bout via decision and most expect her to win this as well. Kowalkiewicz may be the second best in the division but on paper at least she’s a long way from #1. Upsets have happened though and that’s why they fight.
Jedrzejczyk (-350 favorite) — Sawyer, Juon, FRB, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Kowalkiewicz (+335 underdog) —
Chris Weidman (13-1) vs. Yoel Romero (11-1)
The former middleweight champion, Weidman, takes his first step on the road back to his title and will go up against a man who has not lost in over 5 years. Yoel Romero has won every one of his UFC fights, last falling to Rafael Feijao back in Strikeforce, and has never been closer to a title shot. World champion Michael Bisping has publicly stated that he would not face Romero due to his past issues with PEDs. An impressive win by either guy on a big stage like this will likely force Bisping into defending against the winner.
Weidman (-175 favorite) — Juon, FRB, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Romero (+164 underdog) — Sawyer, Nason
Miesha Tate (18-6) vs Raquel Pennington (8-5)
Another former champion begins the road back to title contention in Miesha Tate. Standing in her way is a woman she coached on season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. Since then, Raquel Pennington has worked her way up the bantamweight ladder to get to this spot. Pennington actually has the more impressive UFC record, at 5-2 to Tate’s 5-3, but Tate has faced much tougher competition. The winner hopes to stake their claim to a fight with the winner of next months’ Ronda Rousey-Amanda Nunes title bout.
Tate (-141 favorite) — Sawyer, Juon, Weidman, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Pennington (+155 underdog) —
Frankie Edgar (20-5-1) vs. Jeremy Stephens (25-12)
This fight will headline the FS 1 prelims and features yet another former UFC champion in Frankie Edgar. Edgar has been waiting for a featherweight title shot for almost a year after KO’ing Chad Mendes in short order last December. He’ll risk that title shot by taking on the very tough Stephens. Between the two of them, they have 15 post-show bonus awards to this could be a show-stealer.
Edgar (-302 favorite) — Sawyer, Juon, Weidman, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Stephens (+274 underdog) —
Khabib Nurmagomedov (23-0) vs. Michael Johnson (17-10)
This is the classic wrestler vs boxer matchup and could also be a potential title contender bout. About the only negative thing you could say about Nurmagomedov is that he’s been relatively inactive since debuting in UFC almost 5 years. But he’s 7-0 in UFC and has almost never even been in trouble. Johnson has tasted defeat 4 times in UFC but has also racked up some very impressive wins against the likes of Edson Barboza, Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier.
Nurmagomedov (-291 favorite) — Sawyer, Boetsch, FRB, Frederick, Pollock, Nason, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Johnson (+269 underdog) — Fontaine,
Tim Boetsch (19-10) vs. Rafael Natal (21-7-1)
We are 8 fights deep into this match lineup before we come to a fight that doesn’t have immediate title implications. Both these guys are big names in the middleweight division, however, and have both headlined UFC shows in the past. Natal is coming off a loss to Robert Whitaker, which snapped a 4 fight win streak and a possible look at a title shot. Boetsch KO’d the late Josh Samman in his last fight, which may have saved his job in UFC since he’d lost 3 in a row and 6 of his previous 8 fights.
Boetsch (+130 underdog) — Juon, Nason
Natal (-140 favorite) — Sawyer, FRB, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Meltzer, Bix, Sempervive
Thiago Alves (21-10) vs. Jim Miller (27-8)
This should be interesting. Alves is making his lightweight debut after fighting for years at 170, although it’s possible that he forgot this as he missed weight by 7 lbs. The fight is still on, though, as Jim Miller has been wanting to fight in MSG for years, being from nearby New Jersey. Both of these guys fought at UFC 100 so they’re used to the big stage and they headline the Fight Pass portion of the show tonight. It’s the size and power of Alves against the tenacity of Miller buoyed on by his home crowd and it should be a lot of fun.
Alves (-149 favorite) — Sawyer, Juon, Frederick, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer, Bix
Miller (+138 underdog) — FRB, Pollock, Sempervive
Action begins with the Fight Pass prelims at 7:00 p.m. eastern and moves over to FS1 for that portion of the prelims at 8 p.m. The main card is on PPV at 10. Dave Meltzer will be live in New York City at cageside providing coverage of the show.
While you’re waiting, check out the following content, also related to the show:
DFS playbook – Who to pick, who to avoid
UFC 205 discussion on the Board, including Ryan Frederick’s extensive preview of the card, along with fighter notes