November’s debut at Madison Square Garden, NYC
|Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor: UFC lightweight title |
After McGregor’s initial attempt at making history as the first man to simultaneously hold two UFC titles fell through and brought about his two-fight series with Nate Diaz, the featherweight champ is once again set to challenge for the lightweight title when he takes on Alvarez in a bout the newly minted king of the 155-pound ranks asked for following his first-round knockout win over Rafael dos Anjos during International Fight Week.
This is a bout that will answer myriad questions about both men and, beyond everything else, has the potential to be an absolute barnburner to close out the show. Rarely is either man in a boring fight, and with the tensions already high between these two with six more weeks before they’re able to step into the Octagon, the next few weeks should be filled with non-stop banter in the press and on social media.
While McGregor is out to make history, Alvarez is looking to start his lightweight reign with a bang and “prove there is no Santa Claus” by derailing McGregor’s quest to be a two-division champion. Will the long-time “Underground King” continue to sit in the lightweight throne or will “The Notorious” one add a second UFC title to his collection?
|Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson: UFC welterweight title |
Fresh off knocking out Robbie Lawler in less than half a round, Woodley begins his tenure as welterweight champion with a matchup against the hottest fighter in the division, as Thompson enters on a seven-fight winning streak.
The current leader in the “most underappreciated UFC champion” discussion, Woodley doesn’t get enough respect for what he did at UFC 201. Though some disagreed with “The Chosen One” getting the title shot, the results speak for themselves and now the former Strikeforce standout has designs on a lengthy stay atop the 170-pound ranks.
Thompson, of course, has other ideas, and after dominating Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald earlier this year, “Wonderboy” would like nothing more than to keep his winning streak intact and close out 2016 with the UFC welterweight title around his waist.
|Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz: UFC strawweight title |
This clash between the two undefeated Polish standouts has the potential to steal the show at UFC 205, as Jedrzejczyk has quickly developed into a legitimate star with a vocal, growing following thanks to a string of stunning efforts in the Octagon, while Kowalkiewicz has shown poise and tenacity in picking up three straight victories since joining the UFC to arrive at this point.
Last time out, Jedrzejczyk had to show her championship mettle in battling back against her chief rival Claudia Gadelha. After three straight lopsided victories, it was the kind of steely performance that should remind everyone that “Joanna Champion” is the real deal and someone capable of ruling this division for a long time.
But Kowalkiewicz is unflappable – she stood eye-to-eye with Jedrzejczyk at the press conference at MSG and has handled each step up the competitive ladder (and the increased media attention that comes with it) with aplomb, and this time should be no different.
|Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero |
Given all the hours he logged in the effort to get mixed martial arts legislation passed in his home state, it would have been a shame if this card came together without Weidman included. Though it’s not the headlining assignment he envisioned, the Long Island native can put himself right back into the thick of the title chase in this compelling bout opposite Romero.
Weidman hasn’t fought since losing the middleweight title to Luke Rockhold last December as a neck operation scuttled their rematch at UFC 199 and opened the door for Michael Bisping to shock the world and claim the strap. Healthy and clearly fired up about competing on home soil for the first time in his career, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if “The All-American” turns in his best performance to date when he steps into the Octagon inside “The Mecca” on November 12.
The former Olympic silver medalist (freestyle wrestling, Athens 2000) Romero is a perfect 7-0 in the UFC, most recently coming out on the happy side of a narrow split decision against Jacare Souza at UFC 194 in December. After sitting out for nine months testing positive for a banned substance due to a tainted supplement, the 39-year-old Cuban powerhouse aims to spoil Weidman’s homecoming and assert himself as the No. 1 contender in the middleweight division heading into 2017.
|Donald Cerrone vs. Kelvin Gastelum |
Not only does this one look like a whole lot of fun on paper, but it also carries some significance in the competitive welterweight division as well.
In just three fights in the 170-pound weight class, “Cowboy” has gone from “looking to stay busy” to “legitimate threat” thanks to impressive stoppage wins over Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote and Rick Story. He’s come out guns blazing in all three bouts and has shown a more tactical approach in all three outings as well, hitting well-timed takedowns and using his underrated ground game to help set up his sharp, crisp striking combinations.
A little over three years removed from winning The Ultimate Fighter, Gastelum continues his climb towards the top of the welterweight division. Last time out, the 24-year-old picked up the biggest win of his career, sweeping the scorecards against former champ Johny Hendricks at UFC 200, and if he can halt Cerrone’s march up the rankings, he’ll be in line for a major opportunity next time out.
|Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington |
After realizing her championship dream at UFC 196 with a come-from-behind submission victory over Holly Holm, Tate’s reign at the top of the women’s bantamweight division was short-lived as Amanda Nunes quickly snatched the belt from her hands at UFC 200. Meanwhile, Pennington has quietly put together a three-fight winning streak while going 4-1 over her last five, with her lone setback being split decision loss to the aforementioned Holm.
This one is bound to fly slightly under the radar due to the cavalcade of compelling matchups scheduled for the November 12 fight card, but make no mistake about it: this is an outstanding matchup and a pivotal moment for both parties.
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