Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez - UFC 205 Pre-Fight Analysis

UFC 205 represents greatness. After years of relentlessly attempting to receive the permission to host a mixed martial arts event in the Big Apple, the authorization was finally given earlier in the year. As a result, matchmakers Sean Shelby and Joe Silva went to work with one goal in mind: putting together the greatest card in the organization's history. Looking at the fights, you can't deny it- their goal was achieved. From top to bottom, the combination of fights couldn't be any more attractive. With three title bouts and an amazing set of athletes, New York is in for a treat. To begin our coverage, we'll analyze the evening's main event, which will feature the Notorious Conor McGregor battling Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship. Without further ado, let's get to it:

Before we dive into the matchup itself, I briefly want to address the war of words that has been going on for the past couple of months between the fanbases. More often than not, MMA fans love to discredit their favorite fighter's opponent. Don't ask me why. Therefore, if you're with Conor, Eddie is nothing more than a stuffed, slow wrestler with sloppy boxing. On the other side, Alvarez supporters swear that McGregor is merely a decent striker with no ground game whatsoever who is yet to prove himself on the big stage. Let me be clear: both statements are entirely false. In 2016, you don't become a UFC champion by being decent. It just doesn't happen. These two belt holders are equally exceptional and impressive, in their respective fields of expertise. That's the magical part about Saturday's headliner: we get to find out who is more special.

2015 unquestionably belonged to Mystic Mac. Plain and simple. With KO victories over Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, he cemented his status as MMA's hottest property, shattering a stunning amount of records. While his plans for the current year featured big money bouts with Rafael Dos Anjos and Georges St-Pierre, Stockton's golden boy wasn't with it. His UFC 196 loss against Nate Diaz effectively altered his near-term future, forcing him to focus solely the Diaz rematch. After getting the win back this past August at UFC 202, we didn't really know what was next for Conor. However, we quickly learned that McGregor was "chasing glory". In the company's historic first New York City event, The Notorious would be looking to obtain a historic achievement: simultaneously holding UFC belts at two different weight classes. In order to secure said accomplishment, he will have to defeat the current lightweight king: Eddie Alvarez.

Eddie Alvarez is extremely underappreciated among combat sports fanatics. Honestly, if you exclusively watch the UFC product, you could make a solid case for your dissatisfaction. Since 2012, all of his victories had come via split decision. Regardless, Alvarez proved to be a very dangerous man when he knocked RDA cold on his feet this July. After years of searching, the Underground King was ultimately crowned. Now, he's going to main event the organization's most important PPV ever.

Stylistically, this is a beautiful bout. When it comes down to it, I believe the fight's outcome will mostly depend on striking and wrestling. Grappling and clinching will potentially play an important part, but I don't think they will be the defining factors. So, who has the advantage? Striking-wise, I'm leaning McGregor. He combines a brutal amount of power with unorthodox movement and a fantastic understanding of distance and timing. That said, Eddie is no slouch. He is an experienced striker with a very nice jab and a powerful step-off right straight that he utilizes to stay out of his opponent's range while landing his own shots. Furthermore, his skills have been sharpened since he began working alongside Mark Henry (a tremendous coach).

Thing is, Alvarez has a tendency to get caught too often. And this Saturday, he'll be facing off against a pinpoint counter fighter who owns a nasty left hand that he can pretty much land at will in the early rounds. The current 155 champ doesn't have an excessively strong chin, but he has displayed an inhuman amount of resiliency, managing to avoid being finished in situations that seemed destined to end with a stoppage. But if someone can finish him, it's the Irishman.

While Conor holds the edge when the fight takes place on the feet, the tables turn the second wrestling enters the picture. Contrary to what many people believe, McGregor is a proper grappler. He has top-notch training partners (Gunnar Nelson, Dillon Danis), and he has shown good technique throughout his career. Nevertheless, Philly's own possesses superior technical knowledge, pure strength, and top control. Through smart gameplan execution, he has been able to take down strikers and nullify their biggest tools, like he did with Anthony Pettis. Since his ring awareness is much better, I don't think McGregor is nearly as prone to being neutralized as Pettis was. But a scenario in which Alvarez manages to get the takedown and finish the bout on the ground is completely possible.

UFC 189 marks the last time the 145 champion faced an opponent with a similar style to Eddie. Although Conor was able to obtain the TKO towards the end of the second round, Chad Mendes gave him some trouble. Worrying about the takedown, The Notorious ate a few bombs as a consequence of keeping his hands low. Eventually, Mendes landed a couple of takedowns, and he connected with several heavy strikes from guard. If he goes into UFC 205 with the same recklessness and impatience opposing a larger/stronger opponent, he will lose the fight. Nonetheless, Conor's rematch versus Nate showed me that he's able to adapt and quickly develop as a martial artist in order to overcome increasingly difficult obstacles.

Regardless of the outcome, this is bound to be among the most memorable evenings of the year.

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