Even though UFC 205 is still six weeks away, the buzz for it is already starting to overshadow everything else the organization has going on through the month of October. Such is the power of Conor McGregor, and the UFC has been wise to cash in on him as much as possible (UFC 200 debacle notwithstanding). The Irishman’s attempt to make history by becoming the first fighter to ever concurrently hold UFC titles in two different weight classes will be the biggest narrative of UFC 205, even bigger than the long awaited debut of the promotion at Madison Square Garden. Of course, current lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez will have some say in how McGregor’s plans unfold. After upsetting Rafael dos Anjos to become the first fighter to hold both UFC and Bellator titles, Alvarez will again be the underdog against McGregor. This time, rather than having to overcome the overall game of dos Anjos, he’ll have to find a way to manage the power and accuracy of McGregor. The betting line has already been released for the headline bout, and McGregor has been installed as a slight favorite. After opening at -125 (bet $125 to win $100), he has moved up to -135, with the comeback on Alvarez at +105 (bet $100 to win $105) at 5Dimes Sportsbook. McGregor/Alvarez is not the only title fight on UFC 205 however. Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley finds himself in a similar spot to Alvarez. Despite being the champion, he’ll be coming in as the underdog (currently +145) against a deadly striker. Stephen Thompson always had the striking to compete in the UFC, but an early career loss to Matt Brown showed gaping holes in his grappling game. Since then he has worked diligently to improve that part of his game, and it has turned him into one of the toughest fighters in the sport to deal with, and a -165 favorite in his first UFC title bout. The third title bout on UFC 205 is something that seemed impossible just a couple of years ago. A pair of undefeated Polish women will be squaring off for the strawweight title. Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk has been dominant in the division, dispatching all comes with her brutal and relentless Muay Thai attack. Karolina Kowalkiewicz has consistently shown that she gets better the longer fights go, so perhaps she will buck the trend of Jedrzejczyk dominating the championship rounds of her fights. This bout, along with the recently announced Khabib Nurmagomedov-Michael Johnson showdown, are the only two main card fights without lines. The remainder of the six fight main card is incredible as the three title fights, as former middleweight champion Chris Weidman (-165) looks to get back on track against former Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero (+145). Also, Donald Cerrone (-160) turns up for what is approximately 342nd fight in the past couple of years against rising welterweight contender Kelvin Gastelum (+140). The depth of UFC 205 doesn’t just end with the main card either. Former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar takes on slugger Jeremy Stephens, former women’s bantamweight champ Miesha Tate faces Raquel Pennington, and former light heavyweight title holder Rashad Evans drops to 185 to take on the returning Tim Kennedy. It’s quite possible that UFC 205 is the strongest main card the organization has produced, while simultaneously being the the deepest card too. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting odds for the remainder of the UFC 205 card today at 5Dimes Sportsbook. ——————– UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor NOVEMBER 12, 2016 Madison Square Garden | New York, New York Fight Card Lightweight Title: Eddie Alvarez -105 Conor McGregor -125 Over 1.5 -165 Under 1.5 +135 – Welterweight Title: Tyron Woodley +120 Stephen Thompson -150 Over 2.5 -175 Under 2.5 +135 – Strawweight Title: Karolina Kowalkiewicz +265 Joanna Jedrzejczyk -355 Over 4.5 -230 Under 4.5 +170 – Yoel Romero +150 Chris Weidman -190 Over 1.5 -185 Under 1.5 +145 – Kelvin Gastelum +135 Donald Cerrone -175 Over 2.5 -180 Under 2.5 +140 – Michael Johnson +220 Khabib Nurmagomedov -300 Over 2.5 -130 Under 2.5 -110 – Raquel Pennington +175 Miesha Tate -245 Over 2.5 -165 Under 2.5 +125 – Jeremy Stephens +250 Frankie Edgar -350 Over 2.5 -160 Under 2.5 +120 – Rashad Evans +170 Tim Kennedy -230 Over 2.5 -165 Under 2.5 +125 – Tim Boetsch +130 Rafael Natal -170 Over 1.5 -170 Under 1.5 +130 – Jim Miller +135 Thiago Alves -175 Over 2.5 -130 Under 2.5 -110 – Belal Muhammad +125 Lyman Good -165 *Good out of fight replaced by V. Luque Over 2.5 -210 Under 2.5 +160 – Vicente Luque -105 Belal Muhammad -135 Over 2.5 -185 Under 2.5 +145 – Liz Carmouche +115 Katlyn Chookagian -155 Over 2.5 -175 Under 2.5 +135 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: It’s going to be interesting to see how Kowalkiewicz approaches a fight where she doesn’t have the striking advantage. Will she try to wrestle Jedrzejczyk, or simply try to stay competitive early and hope that her cardio can allow her to find success late in fights where all of Joanna’s others challengers have faded. Either way, it’s hard to imagine her having enough success to dethrone the champ. Joanna’s takedown defense is too good for a wrestling gameplan to really be effective, and Karolina is too hittable on the feet for her to stay close enough with Joanna early to sneak out a decision on the strength of the championship rounds. Perhaps Kowalkiewicz surprises me and makes a leap as a more dangerous striker or improves her offensive wrestling, but I just don’t think it’s in the cards. The pressuring Michael Johnson who should have beaten Beneil Dariush and had early success against Nate Diaz would be doomed against Khabib Nurmagomedov. However the Johnson we saw recently against Dustin Poirier has a much better shot. First, Khabib’s striking has never looked good against southpaws. Second, in order to stop his wrestling — without being an elite takedown defender like Gleison Tibau — shutting takedown attempts before they start is the key. Johnson’s increased movement could limit when Khabib can try to get inside, but it will be interesting to see how long Johnson can maintain that style. If he fades, Khabib will take over in the second and third rounds. If he can maintain, we will see something interesting as Khabib will be forced to really adapt for the first time in his career. Miesha Tate is going to struggle with opponents who can beat her with cleaner technique. That’s not really how I would describe Raquel Pennington. Pennington needs to turn fights into a grind in most cases, and that’s where Tate is most at home. In a clinch battle, while Pennington may be throwing more strikes, I expect Tate to eventually get takedowns and put her superior ground game to work. Frankie Edgar has to look old at some point, right? He’ll be 35 by the time this fight goes down, and is coming off a loss in his second shot at a featherweight title where he was clearly outclassed. That was all after Edgar had shown the best form of his career. If it were anyone but Frankie Edgar, I’d think that person was ripe for a letdown. Of course it may not matter against Jeremy Stephens, as he can put anyone out. Until I see otherwise, I have to assume Frankie is still there, and that his speed, movement, and seamlessly integrated wrestling will carry the day. It’s weird that Tim Boetsch and Rafael Natal are only two years apart in age, because it seems like Boetsch is far more shopworn at this point. He still has his power, and Natal doesn’t have the greatest chin in the world, but in every technical aspect of the fight I think Natal has an edge. At distance, Natal should be able to use his kicking game, on the ground he’s the far better submission artist, and I even think he can set up some takedowns here. As long as ‘Sapo’ avoids turning this into a clinch battle where Boetsch’s power can come into play, I think he wins comfortably. So Thiago Alves — the guy who used to struggle to make welterweight — is now going to drop to lightweight? For real? MMA can be a crazy thing. If all goes well with the weight cut, Alves will bring massive strength and striking advantages into the cage, and his takedown defense has always been strong. If he’s at 100%, I think Alves is extremely tough for Miller to beat. My brain just can’t wrap itself around the concept of Alves making 155 with no issues. It’s strange that a fighter can look better in an effort where he got dropped three times and lost, than in scoring a third round stoppage, but Belal Muhammad managed it. It makes breaking down this fight tricky, as you would assume that Muhammad has the advantage at distance, but does he? He just lost the striking battle to a guy who couldn’t distance himself from Cathal Pendred on the feet. Lyman Good is better than Augusto Montano at range, and more of a threat in the clinch as well. I guess I’m leaning Good’s way, but that’s only because Muhammad’s last performance raised more questions for me than anything. This is the fight where we find out who he really is, and I’m not prepared to bet on it. Kaitlyn Chookagian just beat Lauren Murphy clearly, while Liz Carmouche’s last performance was a bit of a controversial win over Murphy. Still, the way these styles match up I have to favor Carmouche. She’s much more of a physical presence than Murphy, and more willing to engage to get the fight where she needs to go. With the success Murphy had when she showed some urgency against Chookagian, I think Carmouche has a clear path to victory that should be easy for her to follow. I worry about how little Chookagian was really able to distance herself from a limited striker who was allowing her to play her game, and Carmouche doesn’t seem like the type to do that.
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