McGregor will be a two division UFC Champion after first ever NY card

November 08, 2016 3:08 AM
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The UFC returns this coming Saturday and the stage is set to make it a historic evening in more ways than one.

For starters, UFC 205 is being hosted for the first time ever in the state of New York after the ban on mixed martial arts was lifted. Also, the main event offers the opportunity for a fighter to hold two UFC titles in different weight classes simultaneously. Lastly, a more suitable venue could not have been chosen for such a momentous occasion than the iconic Madison Square Garden.

Throughout the history of combat sports, Madison Square Garden has received many of the boxing’s greatest and most memorable bouts and the UFC has done everything in their power to continue that tradition. Stacked from top to bottom, the UFC 205 card includes multiple bouts capable of holding the top billing separately. But bring them all together for the same event, and there is a high probability this card will forever be mentioned amongst the promotion’s best of all time.

In the main event, current UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor (20-3) aims to add another piece of hardware to his stash when he meets current UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (28-4). In doing so, McGregor is attempting to be the first to possess multiple UFC straps concurrently. According to odds makers “The Notorious” is favored to do exactly that, as they opened the line as high as -155, with the take back on Alvarez at +125. Since then, the betting line has moved both up and down slightly but as we go to print the market average is still around McGregor -155.

The 32 year old Alvarez is a veteran of the sport, who has applied his craft all around the world and for different promotions prior to signing with the UFC in 2014. He lost his debut to Donald Cerrone but has since rolled off 3 straight wins against top level competition. In his last bout, Alvarez captured the 155 lb title with a 1st round finish of Rafael Dos Anjos. Though he isn’t belted in Brazilian Jiu Jistsu, the champion is quite capable on the mat. Alvarez has a wrestling and boxing base, making him a very well rounded.

Statistically, while standing Alvarez has landed 43% of strikes while avoiding 59% from opponents. More importantly he averages almost 4 take-downs per 15 minutes, and has been successful on 41% of attempts while being able to defend against 92% of his opponents. Against top lightweights and former champions Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez, the Philadelphia native emerged victorious by putting them on the mat a combined 9 times, though neither took him down even once. Simply put, a close look at his record reflects his success is dependent on being able to win the take-down battle.

The 28 year old McGregor will enjoy a 5 inch reach advantage over Alvarez, something he’s procured in the majority of his previous bouts, and one he’s leveraged into a major edge over opponents. Coming from a boxing background, his greatest asset thus far in his career has been his striking. Though McGregor had just one amateur MMA fight before turning pro, he trained boxing under two-time Olympian Phil Sutcliffe and became an All-Ireland boxing champion before that. So it should come as no surprise that 17 of his 20 victories have come by way of knock-out, with 13 of those in the very first round.

McGregor is a highly skilled striker with very fast hands and excellent footwork. He’s become extremely disciplined on his feet, not wasting many punches and staying patient. He’s connected on 48% of strikes while avoiding 56% of his opponents. Also, McGregor has shown to be a very efficient counter striker with one-punch finishing power even when going up in weight. Conor has also defended against 70% of take-downs, and has been successful on 62% of his attempts.

Stylistically I expect McGregor to come out quickly but not wild, and look to take the fight to Alvarez. Dos Anjos was able to hold the center of the Octagon and keep Alvarez with his back against the cage until he got caught. On the flip side, I foresee Alvarez attempting to survive the early rounds and take the bout into the later rounds where we’ve seen McGregor fade in the past. One of the possible problems with this approach is if he takes too much punishment early, the threat of Alvarez employing his greatest asset, take-downs, begins to diminish. With that said, if Alvarez attempts to go on the offensive from the opening bell, he will have to do so moving forward as he’d get picked apart by McGregor backing up.

Bottom line, I believe that even if Alvarez is able to put McGregor on his back, he won’t be able to keep him there and do much damage. Against McGregor, all opponents will ultimately be forced to stand with him and that is where the greatest contrast will become evident. Working from the southpaw stance, I expect the featherweight champion’s striking game to be way too dominant for Alvarez to overcome. McGregor’s precision when coupled with increasing volume will systematically begin the break Alvarez down. He lands almost twice as many strikes per minute as the lightweight champion and more importantly is so much more fundamentally sound on his feet. Even a fighter as tough as Alvarez can only take so many straight lefts to the head and body.

Conor McGregor was a two-weight champion prior to joining with the UFC, and I’d be surprised if it takes the judges to make that happen once again.

PICK: CONOR McGREGOR

Twitter: @Greek_Gambler