UFC expert Adam Matues provides his preview for UFC 205 as Conor McGregor taking on Eddie Alvarez.
“I’ll wrap one on one shoulder, and I’ll wrap another on the other shoulder”.
Those were the words of Conor McGregor as he prepares for his latest attempt at history. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Irishman will face off against lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and should he win, he will become the first fighter in the UFC to ever simultaneously hold two title belts.
Despite being the 145lb world champion, McGregor’s last two fights have been at 170lbs, but the former Cage Warriors lightweight champion could have found his perfect division at 155lbs and perhaps the conditioning issues surrounding him are due to fighting at the extremities of his weight.
The weight cut to get to 145lbs is too severe and the effects of such a gruelling preparation was seen in his fight with Chad Mendes, while he struggled with the high tempo in his fights against Diaz.
Alvarez’s intensity for five hard rounds is proven and you would expect that he will look to utilise his weight advantage and wrestling skills to neutralise McGregor on the mat, making over 2.5 rounds appeal at 11/10 with Sky Bet.
Mendes was able to take McGregor to the ground on multiple occasions and, although, the Irishman did show off much improved takedown defence in his last fight, an argument could be made for Alvarez to win by submission.
However, the Irishman has brought in Dillon Danis, a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to be his sparring partner and, from the training footage that has been released, McGregor looks confident and slick on the ground.
Alvarez may find he has underestimated McGregor’s ground game and after the first two rounds, switch his game plan and instead look to engage in a striking match, which will be a big mistake.
Not only does Alvarez find himself at a five-inch reach disadvantage, his opponent is one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA, who combines deadly precision with devastating power. Striking coach Owen Roddy put it perfectly when he said “Conor has 25 minutes to land just one big punch”.
Despite his great footwork, Alvarez’s ‘run forward’ high pressure style makes him easy to hit. McGregor was able to knockdown the much heavier Diaz but both he and Alvarez are tough, resilient brawlers that are hard to finish.
It’s a monumental task for McGregor to step up a weight division and KO the lightweight champion of the world for only the second time in his career.
McGregor is a natural lightweight with a welterweight reach and you can anticipate that when the fight is standing, he will be slipping Alvarez’s big right hand whilst countering with his brutal step back left hand, picking off Alvarez’s advances every time he looks to set up a takedown.
I’m also expecting him to impress the judges with a couple of knockdowns but fail to get the knockout. On top of this, four of Alvarez’s last five fights have gone the distance and therefore my main bet is going to be McGregor to win by decision at 15/2 with Sky Bet.
BEST OF THE REST
UFC 205 is the best fight card ever assembled and below are my best bets from the fights outside of the main event.
Nurmagomedov v Johnson
With a perfect 23-0 record in professional MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov is the sport’s hottest rising star right now. The Russian is unlucky not to be fighting Alvarez for the lightweight title himself and should have no problems extending his unbeaten record against Michael Johnson, who has lost two of his last three fights. However, Johnson has never lost via TKO/KO and therefore Nurmagomedov to win by submission at 4/1 looks a good bet.
Jedrzejczyk vs Kowalkiewicz
It’s the battle of the unbeaten Polish females for the first title fight of the night as straw weight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her belt against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The champion is arguably the best female fighter on the planet right now, although Cris Cyborg and Ronda Rousey may have something to say about that, but it’s not going to be an easy night for her in what could potentially be the fight of the night. The build-up started explosively with Jedrzejczyk seemingly head-butting her opponent at the weigh in. With seven of her 12 MMA wins coming via decision, you can expect the former kick-boxer to use aggressive and precise striking to successfully defend her belt via points. My bet is therefore Jedrzejczyk to win by decision at 10/11.
Weidman v Romero
This is closer fight than the odds would suggest, with both fighters having just one loss on their MMA records. Chris Weidman is the 4/7 favourite, which is too short for someone who hasn’t fought for 11 months, having suffered injury setbacks since losing his title. It looks an even worse price when we consider that his opponent Yoel Romero has won seven straight fights with the last six going to a third round. I’m going to avoid picking a side for this fight and instead my bet is going to be over 2.5 rounds at evens.
Nurmagomedov to win by submission, Jedrzejczyk by decision & Over 2.5 rounds in Weidman v Romero – 18/1