You may have heard the UFC has a pay-per-view scheduled on Saturday, Nov. 12. You may have also heard that it’s taking place in Madison Square Garden in New York City. You may have also heard that it’s the first-ever mixed martial arts card ever at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” So it’s rather fitting that the main event features probably the most well-known fighter in MMA.
UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor will get another chance to become a two-division champion, when he faces lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the main event at UFC 205 for Alvarez’s belt. So how do these two champions match up?
Strengths: Besides his obviously high levels of confidence, McGregor is one of the best pure strikers in all of MMA. Of his 20 total victories, 17 have come by knockout – including six knockouts in his first seven UFC fights. He has elite movement when he’s inside the Octagon, as he makes other fighters whiff repeatedly on their strikes, almost to the point of looking foolish, while he’s able to stick and move and land his punches. McGregor has faced some of the best strikers in the sport, including Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo, Dennis Siver and Dustin Poirier. He defeated them all and basically beat them at their own game: the stand-up game.
Also, as I said before, McGregor is supremely confident. He simply does not believe he will ever lose. While he has tasted defeat in his career, he goes into every fight predicting victory and almost always predicts doing so in early fashion. McGregor’s mind games are legendary; it was pretty obvious to everyone that he set up real estate in Aldo’s head prior to their clash at UFC 194 last year. If McGregor has you beat mentally before the fight, his victory during the fight is all but guaranteed.
Weaknesses: But believe it or not, McGregor isn’t unbeatable. His losses are few and far between, but they are also recent. Even though he redeemed himself against Diaz at UFC 202 in August, Diaz drew first blood at UFC 196 in March. Diaz, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, badly exposed McGregor on the ground and scored a rear-naked choke victory. But that’s about the only blemish on McGregor’s record to date, and when the two faced off again in August, McGregor didn’t take the bait to go to the ground with Diaz again.
Alvarez is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, so it’s likely he would have the advantage over McGregor if their bout goes to the mat. However, it’s also likely that McGregor will take the same approach to his fight with Alvarez that he did with his rematch with Diaz, and keep the fight standing.
Strengths: Pound-for-pound, Alvarez is one of the toughest fighters in MMA. He comes forward, comes to fight and never gives an inch. He’s already been part of some of the more memorable fights in MMA; if you haven’t already, look up his battles with Michael Chandler in Bellator MMA. Alvarez has also put on great performances in the UFC, including victories over Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to win the belt.
Basically half of Alvarez’s 28 total victories have come via knockout, but he also sports seven submission victories – including five straight at one point in his career. Alvarez is one of the more well-rounded fighters in MMA, which along with his toughness, makes him an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone.
Weaknesses: But like many fighters, his toughness can be his greatest asset, but also his biggest enemy. Alvarez doesn’t back away from a fight, which means he’s all-too-willing to abandon his game plan and just engage in a slugfest. That strategy may be exactly what McGregor is planning, and he may plan to goad Alvarez into a stand-up war where McGregor can use his elite striking to his advantage. Though Alvarez is every bit McGregor’s equal in the stand-up game, it didn’t end well for the last few guys who tried that.
Alvarez must stay disciplined and not be drawn into McGregor’s mind games. If Alvarez keeps McGregor in the pocket, forces him to get down and dirty and not use his movement, then Alvarez can grind out a tough, hard-fought victory. But if he chases after McGregor and swings wildly, he will play directly into McGregor’s hands.
This has all the makings of a classic. Two elite strikers. Two fighters who love to duke it out. The hype so far has lived up to the expectations and I do not expect a finish in this bout. I think this will go all five rounds, both guys will land hard shots and both guys will look like they’ve been through a war when all is said and done. I see this fight unfolding a lot like McGregor’s second fight with Diaz. Alvarez will land his shots and make McGregor earn every inch.
But I just think McGregor will land more. He’ll stick and move, pick his shots with technical expertise and stay away from any dirty boxing or any other down-and-dirty fighting that Alvarez will want to do. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the loser gets an immediate rematch. But I like McGregor to prevail and further build his legacy.
Winner: McGregor by unanimous decision
Photo Credit: Sports Interaction