UFC 205, emanating from ‘the World’s Most Famous Arena’ Madison Square Garden in New York, looked to be the biggest night in the history of mixed martial arts. With a stacked card, the fight organisation looked to break the record for biggest live gate for both the UFC and for a combat sports event (read: fight) in Madison Square Garden itself. The record for the former, set by a UFC 129 headlined by Canadian hero Georges St-Pierre in Canada, sat at around $12m, while the latter was set by a boxing match between Lennox Lewis & Evander Holyfield in 1999, drawing approx. $14m.
This, of course, was the first UFC event to be held in New York since the ban on professional MMA fighting was lifted in the State this April. An event of this calibre demanded a fight card to match it, and it would not disappoint. The preliminary card, main-evented by a fight between hometown boy Frankie Edgar and Jeremy Stephens, could easily be the main card for any other event.
UFC 205 opened with a rather pedestrian fight between Liz Carmouche and Katlyn Chookagian, with Carmouche being the first UFC fighter to win a fight in The Garden. Thiago Alves missed weight by 6.6lbs, so due to a rule in the New York State Athletic Commission that no fight can take place with a weight limit greater than 5lbs, opponent Jim Miller actually gained weight to make this Catchweight contest. Some well-timed takedowns by Miller led to him winning by unanimous decision. Belal Muhammad, a law graduate fighting out of Palestine, will be happy to have his degree to fall back on, as he was decimated by Vicente Luque, who had apparently dropped 30lbs for the fight; one punch and it was over. Tim Boetsch handily beat Rafael Natal in a Middleweight contest, cutting Natal with an early blow that Natal never recovered from, later knocking him down with a right hook to win. In a pre-match promo, Lightweight contender Mike Johnson said he was going to take the spotlight from Conor, and in a way he did, as he was dismantled by the scary Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, who systematically dismantled Johnson to the point that the fight really could’ve been stopped at any time. Nurmagomedov finished Johnson with a Kimura on the ground, and went full 80s bad-guy wrestler after the match, calling out McGregor. In the prelim main event, hometown boy Frankie Edgar came back in the third round to beat Jeremy Stephens by 29-28.
The main card opened with a Women’s Bantamweight contest, as former champ Miesha Tate lost to Raquel Pennington, who she had once coached on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. Tate shocked the arena when she used her post-fight promo to retire from Mixed Martial Arts, aged 30. In a number-one contendership fight for Michael Bisping’s Middleweight belt, and heading into the third round, Yoel Romero’s corner clearly felt Chris Weidman might win should the fight go to decision, as Romero came out swinging, landing a brutal flying-knee, following it up with some unnecessary hard shots on the ground. Romero will face Bisping at a later date. Up next was a Polish dream match for the Women’s Strawweight Championship, as Joanna Jędrzejczyk defeated challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision. In the night’s penultimate contest, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson challenged Tyron Woodley for his Welterweight title. Woodley dragged Thompson to the ground in the first, grinding away on Thompson, splitting his nose open with an elbow. A cagey fight indeed, with both fighters showing great respect for each other. It ended in bizarre fashion, as announcer Bruce Buffer incorrectly called it a win by split decision for Woodley, when in fact it was a ‘majority draw’. Woodley retain the title regardless.
Then it was time for the main event. Crowd decisively pro-McGregor, though one could tell that by hearing the consistent “Olé” chants throughout the other fights on the card. ‘The Notorious One’ hoped to become the first fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold two championship titles from two divisions in this fight, as a win tonight would add the Lightweight Title to his Featherweight belt he won from Jose Aldo last year. McGregor dropped Alvarez thrice early in the first, with that big lift hand of McGregor shocking Alvarez every time. Alvarez recovered well, but the round was clearly McGregor’s, should the fight go to decision. In the second round Alvarez looked to go takedown McGregor, but Conor’s TD defence has come on leaps & bounds in the last year. Sensing he was ahead, at one point Conor put both of his hands behind his back, really starting those ‘mind-games’. Alvarez tried to hold McGregor against the cage, but Conor broke out and, with less than two minutes to go in the second round, Conor unleashed a flurry of hands, knocking Alvarez to the ground and finishing him. Conor McGregor is your new UFC Lightweight Champion, making history in the process. McGregor refused to confirm or deny that he would drop either of his belts in the post-fight promo, but it’s likely that UFC will strip him of the Featherweight title in the coming days.