UFC 205 Preview
Coming out of UFC 204 I wasn’t compelled to write my typical ‘Post UFC X Thoughts’ article because there just weren’t many plot lines of interest following the event. It was a surprisingly fun night of fights for being the worst Pay-Per-View of the year on paper but there wasn’t much impact beyond that. Michael Bisping narrowly got past 46 year old Dan Henderson in his retirement fight to revenge his infamous knock out loss at UFC 100 and he’s a guy that was barely ranked in the top 15 of the Middleweight division. And now Bisping wants to fight either George St. Pierre, a man who has been retired for three years and never fought above 170 pounds, or Nick Diaz coming off a suspension for marijuana and another guy who has fought at Welterweight for the bulk of his career. Meanwhile Middleweight is as strong and deep as it may have ever been and all of the top contenders are currently scheduled to fight each other. I can’t take anything away from ‘The Count’, he’s had a hell of a year to win the belt, but he was lucky to even get that title shot with Chris Weidman pulling out due to injury not long before the bout and he was gifted a title defense against an aging veteran. It makes sense to keep him busy if he’s willing and able while the other guys in the division already have fights booked but he better enjoy his time at the top because he’s got a bunch of killers waiting to get their shot at him next year.
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For as lackluster as UFC 204 was in terms of talking points, UFC 205 makes up for that in spades. Quite frankly its the best event the UFC has ever put together. Now, last time I did one of these previews for a huge event it was UFC 200 and things were looking great there until Jon Jones popped positive for two banned substances the day after I posted the article. UFC 205 puts UFC 200 to shame despite the fact that it was still a great card albeit disappointing with as high as expectations were. First of all its the first MMA event to be sanctioned in New York after they finally became the last state in the US to make it legal. Its also the first ever MMA event to be held at Madison Square Garden which was home to many great boxing matches back in the day. To reward them, and us, we’ve got three title fights that are sure to be entertaining and full of action as well as six other fights that are all deserving of higher placement if they were on any other card. November as a whole is great for fans of the sport so I’m going to preview some other stand out matches of the month as well as the top nine fights of UFC 205.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor (Lightweight Championship) – This event would be huge even if this was the only noteworthy fight of the night. Whenever Conor McGregor headlines a Pay-Per-View its going to make a ton of money for the UFC as witnessed by the fact that the other two times he fought this year (both his matches with Nate Diaz) he broke the record for PPV buys. I think hes going to do it again as he finally gets a shot to become the only UFC fighter to hold two belts from two different weight classes at the same time. He was supposed to fight Rafael Dos Anjos for that distinction in March before he broke his foot and Diaz stepped in to start that rivalry. On the same week that UFC 200 took place Eddie Alvarez did get a shot at RDA’s lightweight belt and he knocked him out in the first round. The first name uttered out of his mouth as to who he wanted to defend his new title against? ‘The Notorious One’ of course. Everybody wants a piece of the McGregor pie. Win or lose hes sure to give you the biggest payday of your life even if he makes fun of how little that number is to him.
But it wouldn’t be a Conor McGregor fight if there wasn’t some drama leading up to it. The main event wasn’t announced until the last minute, the day before the press conference six weeks out from the event. There was speculation that Khabib Nurmagomedov would be fighting Alvarez but that it would have to be at a later event. Ultimately it was a game of chicken to get us to the fight everyone wanted to see as long as Conor was still unwilling to cut back down to Featherweight to give Jose Aldo his rematch. As far as the fight itself it should be a good one. Alvarez is tough and has had some epic wars in the past but of the Lightweight top five is probably the best match up for McGregor stylistically. Hes smaller in stature and doesn’t have the wrestling or jujitsu that guys like RDA, Khabib, or Tony Ferguson have. I feel like Conor will finish the fight in the first couple of rounds but if it goes into deep water things should get very interesting. McGregor hasn’t had the best cardio of late when hes throwing his hardest shots but he proved in the second Diaz fight that he has the heart to get past it. If his hand is raised at the end of the night he’ll have more options than anyone in the sport has ever had.
Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson (Welterweight Championship) – It was a shock to a lot of people when Tyron Woodley knocked out Robbie Lawler in the first round at UFC 201 to win the Welterweight championship and challenger Stephen Thompson was one of them. ‘Wonderboy’ was angling for a fight against Lawler in the lead up to UFC 201 and Woodley noticed the lack of respect calling out GSP and Nick Diaz (seems to be a trend nowadays) after winning the belt. Everyone including the UFC matchmakers saw through that and gave the title shot to Thompson who has been super impressive on his seven fight winning streak, the last two being against two guys at the top of the heap in Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks. His entertaining striking style goes up against the power punching and power wrestling of Woodley. Thompson’s takedown defense has gotten better each time out so as long as he can avoid that big right hand that knocked Lawler out cold I think he should be able to accumulate enough damage to finish the fight in the later rounds or at least win a decision. With a guy like ‘Wonderboy’ at the top and potential fights against Lawler, Donald Cerrone, and a returning GSP it would be a fun division to watch for a good while.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Women’s Strawweight Championship) – The first of the three title fights on this card is certainly no slouch, don’t sleep on these girls with hard to pronounce last names. This is a fight that could’ve easily headlined an event in Poland as both of these polish combatants are undefeated high level strikers. Jedrzejczyk is coming off the most impressive performance of her career at the TUF 23 finale where she endured a good amount of damage from Claudia Gadelha in the first two rounds before taking over and winning the last three. At the end of the high paced 25 minutes she looked like she hardly broke a sweat. Kowalkiewicz hasn’t faced the same level of competition but she did just beat Rose Namajunas soundly and seems to get better and better every time out. Its hard to see how Joanna Champion loses this one just because even if they start off breaking even on the feet (I would give the edge to Jedrzejczyk) she has shown she has the stamina to maintain her level of performance over all five rounds. I think the first two or three rounds will be close but the champion will take over in the late rounds to keep her belt.
Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero – This fight was the second to last one announced for the card but it was the biggest no brainer of the bunch. Weidman has worked tirelessly to help get MMA and in turn the UFC into the state of New York and to leave him off of this card would have looked like a slap in the face. The local former champion was supposed to get an immediate rematch against Luke Rochold after his failed spinning back kick led to the first loss of his career but a neck injury forced him out. Michael Bisping entered and you know what happened from there but it was a scary injury and its good to see Chris get back in there so soon after. Romero is facing some adversity of his own. This is his first fight since being suspended for banned substances. He was originally facing a two year suspension but had it dropped to six months after it was discovered to be from a tainted supplement. Prior to his suspension he had a great case for a title shot of his own coming off a close decision victory over ‘Jacare’ Souza. It would seem like the winner of this fight would get the next Middleweight title shot but theres an outside shot it could go to the winner of Rochold and Souza who fight later in the month. This is a very tough fight to call but I’ll give the nod to Weidman. I think he’ll have a better game plan in place.
Donald Cerrone vs. Kelvin Gastelum – This fight was originally announced as Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler and the entire MMA universe was abuzz but it didn’t last long as Lawler pulled out shortly after. Coming off of that huge tease Kelvin Gastelum being the replacement was met with a collective ‘meh’. But after letting it marinate for a while its still a damn good fight in its own right. ‘Cowboy’ is coming off his third straight stoppage victory since moving up to Welterweight from Lightweight with each one being more impressive than the last against tougher competition each time. Gastelum is a big Welterweight having dropped down from Middleweight after winning ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ but has had mixed results of late. He has impressive wins over Johny Hendricks, Nate Marquardt, and Jake Ellenberger but has split decision losses to Neil Magny and Tyron Woodley and has had trouble making weight in the past. At 25 Gastelum is still a young prospect in the division and a loss here wouldn’t be the end of the world for him. Meanwhile Cerrone looks like a man on a mission. At 33 hes not old but hes already had two failed runs up the ladder at Lightweight and I think the extra determination will give him the edge in this fight. Hopefully if he does win we’ll be able to see that fight against Lawler sometime soon.
Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington – The Pay-Per-View opener sees Miesha Tate try to rebound after losing her Bantamweight belt in the UFC 200 main event to Amanda Nunes. Nunes will defend her belt against Ronda Rousey at UFC 207 in December but Tate is forced to try and climb back up the ladder that she was only at the top of for a brief moment. She worked so hard and pulled off some upsets on her way up the last time, culminating in the fifth round submission win over Holly Holm to win the belt. Her time in the spotlight has left her as probably the third most popular female fighter in the sport behind Rousey and Holm and here she faces off against her former TUF teammate Pennington. ‘Rocky’s’ UFC career started off a little… rocky, splitting wins and losses over her first four fights. One of those was against eventual champion Holm and she has gone on a three fight win streak since then. This looks like a fight made for Tate to get back on the winning side of things and bounce back into the top five but its a great opportunity for Pennington to put her name into the mix if she is able to pull off the upset.
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens – The fact that Frankie Edgar is on the seventh fight down and headlining the prelims just speaks to how great this card is. He’s coming off a tough loss to Jose Aldo for the interim Featherweight belt at UFC 200 and I’m honestly surprised his next fight is again at 145 pounds. With two losses now against the man at the top of the division (assuming Conor McGregor doesn’t make his return) its hard to see a way for him to get another title shot here. I assumed he would cut down to Bantamweight and try to make a run there where he doesn’t have any history. He could also try to move back up to Lightweight where he was once king. The only reason I can think of that has him fighting Jeremy Stephens is that he wanted to be on this card, a stone’s throw away from his home in New Jersey, and this was the easiest way to make that happen. Maybe if he wins this fight, which he should, he can see if anything changes at the top of the division and if not then he can make a move up or down. As for Stephens hes a tough fighter with some power and wrestling but looks like the perfect recipe for a Frankie Edgar unanimous decision after getting taken down and ground and pounded for three straight rounds. Stephens is most well known as the guy that tried to call out Conor McGregor at the UFC 205 press conference only to have McGregor say “who the **** is that?” I don’t think anyone is going to be asking that after this fight.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson – This was the last fight added to the card. A cherry on top as Dana White announced it so nonchalantly during the press conference. Khabib was mad that he didn’t get the title shot against Eddie Alvarez but insisted on being on the card anyway. The Dagestanian fighter is undefeated at 23-0 and already has a win over recent Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos in 2014 and the only reason he hasn’t gotten a title shot yet is because of injuries. He’s only had one fight over the past two and a half years and that was a TKO victory over late replacement Darrell Horcher after Tony Ferguson pulled out of their proposed fight due to injury. Here hes facing Michael Johnson who is coming off a very impressive knock out victory over Dustin Poirier to rebound from back to back close decision losses. ‘The Menace’ called for a money fight after his knockout win and while this may not be a money fight in and of itself, he got himself on the biggest PPV of the year, if not ever, and if he was able to become the first person to beat Nurmagomedov he would set himself up to get a big fight. I don’t think thats likely though. Khabib is a bad match up for everyone with his smothering wrestling that equalizes good striking and even with Johnson’s solid wrestling of his own I just see him being slammed around for three rounds. Khabib said if he doesn’t get the next title shot with a win here hes going to retire from the sport. Unfortunately for him I think there are scenarios coming out of this event that could challenge that statement. We’ll see.
Rashad Evans vs. Tim Kennedy – The first notable fight of the night will be this one which sees Rashad Evans dropping down to Middleweight for the first time in his career after having trouble over the last few years at Light Heavyweight. Hes lost four of his last six fights, the last of which saw him getting knocked out brutally by Glover Teixeira. I don’t know if dropping down to 185 pounds is going to solve ‘Sugar’s’ problems especially since injuries seem to have been the biggest issue lately. In Kennedy he’ll be fighting a guy who hasn’t fought in over two years since losing a controversial fight to Yoel Romero but he hasn’t been out because of injuries or lack of success. Hes a well rounded guy that could give Evans trouble. He won his first three UFC fights before the Romero knockout including a dominant decision over current Middleweight champion Michael Bisping. This fight has a lot of unknowns going into it but I have to think that the fresher, healthier fighter will knock the rust off and Tim Kennedy will win a decision that has Rashad Evans considering retirement.
Other Notable Fights in November
Liam McGeary vs. Phil Davis (Bellator 163, November 4th) – Undefeated Bellator Light Heavyweight champion McGeary takes on UFC reject Davis in one of the most interesting fights the promotion is able to put on at the moment. McGeary has been impressive but his last fight was against the long over the hill Tito Ortiz so its hard to know just how good he is. Meanwhile Davis came over from the UFC and immediately won a four man, one night tournament and went on to beat Muhammed Lawal to earn this shot. I think McGeary has the better jujitsu and will find a way to finish Davis at some point over the potential five rounds but ‘Mr. Wonderful’ could easily win a decision by controlling this fight with his wrestling.
Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Tony Ferguson (UFC Fight Night 98, November 5th) – I talked about how Khabib Nurmagomedov demanded the next title shot if he is able to beat Michael Johnson at UFC 205 but here we have a fight between the guy who just lost the Lightweight championship in RDA and Tony Ferguson who is on a eight fight winning streak. If ‘El Cucuy’ is able to win this fight he would have a great case of his own for that title shot since this fight could’ve been for a title itself if it happened six months ago. This is an incredibly hard fight to call but I’m leaning towards RDA. I just think hes the bigger, stronger fighter and I could see him wearing Ferguson down and finishing him late. But Tony has such crazy Jujitsu and good striking of his own I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way either.
Andrey Koreshkov vs. Douglas Lima (Bellator 164, November 11th) – Here we have another Bellator title on the line between the clear best two fighters in the division. At least until Rory MacDonald makes his debut next year. Its a rematch for the Bellator Welterweight belt which Koreshkov won via unanimous decision the first time around to win the belt that he defended once in a dominant victory over Benson Henderson. Koreshkov’s only loss on his record was against former Bellator champion and current One FC champion Ben Askren. Lima meanwhile only has two losses in his last 17 fights, the one to Koreshkov and one to Askren himself. The first time around it was a clear cut decision and that was only a year ago so I’m expecting similar results but whoever wins will most likely have to face former UFC title challenger MacDonald in their next fight. So more than a belt, the winner is in line for more exposure than they’ve ever had in their career.
Derek Brunson vs. Robert Whittaker (UFC Fight Night 101, November 26th) – This event was originally supposed to be headlined by Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza until a few days ago when Rockhold had to pull out due to injury. That would’ve been a UFC 205 main card worthy fight and one of my most anticipated rematches that could be made but instead the co-main event gets promoted to the spotlight and its not too shabby either. Both of these guys are Middleweight prospects entering the bottom of the top 10 and the winner should be in line for a big step up in competition. Brunson is on an impressive five fight winning streak and he’s won seven of his last eight with his only loss coming against top Middleweight contender Yoel Romero via a late knockout in a fight he was winning until that point. He handed Uriah Hall his first knockout loss of his career last time out. Whittaker is coming in on a five fight winning streak of his own since moving up to Middleweight after struggling a bit at Welterweight. He has a win of his own over Hall and won a dominant decision over Rafael Natal in his last fight at UFC 197. Its a fun stylistic match-up between two great strikers. If I had to pick a winner I’d say Brunson has the edge in power so that may be the difference over five rounds.
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.