Madison Square Garden.
In just under two weeks, the UFC will make its historic footprint, so to speak, when it holds UFC 205 in New York. It’s a huge step in the right direction for MMA as the first UFC show to be held in the state after years of protest and oppression. As the card was put together, many wondered who would end up being a part of history. Would Georges St-Pierre keep his word and finally re-enter the Octagon? Would Ronda Rousey be able to overcome her devastating loss from almost a year ago and make a triumphant return? Would Jon Jones finally be able to overcome all of his issues outside of the cage to make history yet again and reclaim the belt he never really lost? The answer to these questions: No.
UFC 205 is by no means a sleeper card, though. It features a whopping three title fights, a first for the UFC (aside from UFC 200, which ended up with only two when title bouts when all was said and done). In the co-co-main event, Tyron Woodley looks to defend his newly claimed welterweight title for the first time against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. That demonstrates the depth we’re looking at here. (A special shout out, too, to Liz Carmouche for not only being one half of the first women’s MMA bout in UFC history, but for now being the first woman in the UFC to step foot inside the Octagon in the Big Apple.)
What’s even more exciting is that New York will not only hold its first UFC card, but a women’s strawweight title bout is set to be part of the festivities. Even just three years ago, this seemed light years away from coming to fruition — the UFC had yet to even add a 115-pound women’s weight class yet. Now, undefeated strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk is out to defend her title for the fourth time when she takes on rising and exciting challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
And we still haven’t even touched on the main event yet!
Eddie Alvarez defends his lightweight crown for the first time against current featherweight champion Conor McGregor in the evening’s top attraction. It will be the third fight in a row for McGregor outside of his “home” weight class of 145 pounds. If victorious, the Irishman could make history in the UFC as the first man to simultaneously hold belts in two different weight classes. For Alvarez, it’s a chance for a big-money fight, something that he has been patiently waiting for all of these years.
Alvarez was the original face of the Bellator, the “other organization” when it’s talked about during UFC broadcasts. He has fought a who’s who of non-UFC talent around the world, and now he finally has a chance to take on arguably his biggest challenge to date. No, it’s not McGregor. It’s Alvarez himself. The former Bellator champion has a lot to lose if he is unable to defeat McGregor. His two UFC wins leading up to his title fight were less than impressive, but he was able to erase the bad taste with his first-round decimation of Rafael dos Anjos in July. If he is unsuccessful against McGregor, he not only loses his UFC title that he worked so hard to obtain for years, but also falls far down the ladder of the UFC’s deepest division.
On the flip side, McGregor has nothing to lose in this fight. It’s obvious that the purse for the bout is going to be astronomical. If McGregor loses, he goes back to featherweight while still holding a title. This will mark the brash Irishman’s third fight since dethroning José Aldo at UFC 194, but he has yet to defend it.
In the end, Alvarez is the one who has everything to lose. McGregor is in a position where a loss doesn’t hurt him at all. He got his rematch against Nate Diaz after being defeated in March. While he was successful in his second encounter with Diaz, the placement of this fight still proves that McGregor has a lot more pull than most fighters.
The real questions that fans will have on fight night are pretty straightforward. What belt will McGregor vacate if he is successful against Alvarez? What is McGregor’s big announcement that is supposed to be straight out of left field? What is next for the “Notorious” one? The big focus will be on the Irishman and his future, not the impact that the entirety of this card has on MMA and the future moving forward.