The official card for November 12’s awaited UFC 205 pay-per-view (PPV) event was finally released by the promotion with the confirmation of Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez in the main event late last night, and it’s safe to say that the UFC’s New York debut from historic sports venue Madison Square Garden is one of, if not the, most anticipated MMA moments of 2016 – and even all time.
However, that distinction may have once belonged to July’s UFC 200, the supposed “biggest, baddest event ever,” which was pegged as arguably the most stacked card of all time before a slew of problems, including last-minute changes and disappointing drug testing issues, lead to a wholly lackluster, uninspired event outside of the Fight Pass preliminaries.
Thankfully for the UFC – and the overall state of MMA as a whole – UFC 205 has a long list of high-profile bouts that could (should?) serve to quickly erase the bad memories of UFC 200 from their minds, if they haven’t been already.
Let’s break down five fights that will prove UFC 205 has the star power to decimate UFC 200 on paper.
5.) Donald Cerrone vs. Kelvin Gastelum:
This welterweight card-starter already trumps UFC 200’s welterweight offering between Gastelum and former champ Johny Hendricks, which Gastelum won via ho-hum unanimous decision. “Bigg Rigg” may be a former champion, but he’s also looked like a shell of his formerly dominant self this year, and it was hard for the much more spry Gastelum to put on a good show at UFC 200 without a willing dance partner.
It may not be the “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler vs. “Cowboy” bout we were all hoping for, yet it does provide a potentially exciting scrap to set the tone for the PPV card.
Cerrone has absolutely been on fire in his last three fights, finishing off Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, and most recently, Rick Story to reinvent himself at 170 pounds following a stoppage loss to Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight strap late last year. Gastelum has quietly planted himself as a top five contender in arguably the UFC’s most talented division, making this bout a crucial one with pivotal title implications.
No matter who wins, the welterweight division will have a new contender towards the top; one who could contend for the title after Demian Maia gets his shot (or face Maia himself).
Either way, it would seem this fight is a can’t-miss bout that will get the UFC’s New York party started right.
4.) Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero:
There was technically no middleweight bout on the main card of UFC 200, yet longtime former middleweight champion Anderson Silva took on light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier on short notice when ‘DC’s’ archrival Jon Jones was forced out at the last minute due to a failed out-of-competition drug test for two banned substances.
Cormier largely laid on ‘The Spider’ for the majority of the bout until Silva nearly knocked him out with a late body kick, and the contest was regarded as the worst fight on the card, with fans booing ‘DC’ for picking up a safe-yet-boring victory over a legend in a no-win scenario.
The man who changed the MMA landscape forever by knocking out ‘The Spider’ back in 2013, former middleweight champ Weidman was the most vocal fighter on the UFC roster who campaigned to finally get MMA legalized in his home state. While he dreamt of fighting for the belt in front of his nearby family and friends in New York, a fight with surging Olympic medalist Romero, who is coming off a six-month USADA suspension himself, will be the next best thing to potentially propel him back into title contention. At the very least, it should provide a large amount more fireworks than Cormier vs. Silva.
3.) Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens:
It wouldn’t be a New York debut for the UFC without New Jersey native Frankie Edgar on the main card, and while he held a prominent post on the UFC 200 main card against Jose Aldo for the interim featherweight title, his rumored bout with action-bringer Jeremy Stephens should be a much more exciting prospect.
Aldo fought smart but safe in a must-win bout after he lost his long-held title in only 13 seconds to Conor McGregor last year, and while he once again beat “The Answer” by decision with an effective but calculating striking attack based on stopping takedowns and avoiding being hit, it just wasn’t the fight we all wanted after Aldo and Edgar threw down in a classic tilt in their first match-up at 2013’s UFC 156.
This one should be different, even if Edgar has been known to engage in too many point-fighting chess matches at times. “Lil’ Heathen” has never been involved in a fight that could be described as such, and even though it has lead to up-and-down results throughout his long UFC career, it certainly lends to action-packed bouts.
Expect no different here, and expect the fight to be much more exciting than Aldo vs. Edgar II. At least fans are hoping so.
2.) Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson:
The UFC finally booked the fight that made the most sense at 170 pounds when champ Woodley announced it at the UFC Fight Night 94 weigh-ins late last week after a minor outrage broke out when “The Chosen One” chose to forego an obvious bout with “Wonderboy” by calling out either Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz moments after he finished Robbie Lawler to win the belt at UFC 201.
In terms of comparing this anticipated fight to any on UFC 200, it’s potentially the second title fight on the card, and should be received better than either Aldo vs. Edgar II or Gastelum vs. Hendricks, if it needs a welterweight parallel. Thompson is the arguably the welterweight with the most momentum right now, the owner of seven straight wins over top competition and a style that most believe will give the heavy-hitting Woodley fits if he can make it out of the early moments of the bout.
Each fight is its own animal, but Rory MacDonald thoroughly dissected Woodley and derailed his hype train with a mix of effective takedown defense and technical striking at 2014’s UFC 174, and Thompson just destroyed MacDonald with his own flawless mix of just that in June. “Wonderboy” is the early betting favorite, and most are picking him to walk out of Madison Square Garden with the gold.
Woodley seems to get little respect even though he’s the champ, going into his last six fights, of which he’s only lost one, as the underdog. This fight may just be closer than most believe, but either way, it will almost certainly deliver more than the secondary title fight at UFC 200 or the only high-profile welterweight bout on the card.
1.) Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez:
This rumored and potentially massive champion vs. champion fight for Alvarez’ lightweight title belt is perhaps the biggest fight (if Ronda Rousey is not returning) the UFC could book outside of perhaps McGregor vs. Nate Diaz III for their first NYC main event.
McGregor was slated to rematch Diaz in the main event of UFC 200 until a spat with the UFC over his promotional schedule lead to him being pulled from the card, in addition to a media-frenzied two-day retirement. That fight would have been a huge draw for a huge card that potentially put UFC 200 over the top, but after all the last-minute changes when Jones was ruled out, McGregor vs. Alvarez, if it does happen, will most certainly blow the impromptu Amanda Nunes vs. Miesha Tate women’s bantamweight title fight that headlined UFC 200 out of the proverbial water.
No disrespect meant to those supremely talented and tough women, it just will. In booking McGregor vs. Alvarez, the UFC gets a second chance to make their biggest star the first-ever simultaneous two-weight champion in the UFC, even if the justification of him keeping the featherweight belt without ever defending it is becoming quite a talking point.
It’s a fight to big to pass up, and would easily outpace Nunes vs. Tate in every sense of the word if it can go off without a hitch. We know that’s unlikely in today’s complicated MMA, but the cold hard facts are just the facts.
McGregor vs. Alvarez – champion vs. champion – would be the cherry on top of a potentially blockbuster UFC 205 card that has the star power to decimate UFC 200 in every way.
This event has been a long time coming and the thousands of loyal UFC fans who have stuck with the promotion through the ups and downs deserve an event that looks like this on paper to actually come to fruition.
Now it’s time for the UFC to deliver it for them, because they certainly did not with UFC 200.