Post UFC 205 Thoughts
The UFC’s first attempt at a stacked super event to celebrate a milestone this year fell a little flat with UFC 200 but they nailed it with this one. UFC 205 lived up to all the lofty expectations. It had great fights, spectacular knockouts, a surprising retirement announcement, a little bit of controversy, and history being made. New York is officially spoiled. The first event in the state since MMA got sanctioned will be hard to top, setting every record in company history according to UFC president Dana White. The $17.7 million live gate was not only the biggest in the sports history, it was the biggest in the long, illustrious history of Madison Square Garden. From that statement it looks like the Pay-Per-View record was broken yet again, the third time this year that a Conor McGregor headlined event has done so. He now holds four of the top five PPV numbers. There were a bunch of storylines coming out of UFC 205 but it all starts with ‘The Notorious’ one.
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A Man of His Word – All that talking, all that hype and it all came to fruition. Conor McGregor has been saying for a while now that he was going to be the first ever champion at two weight classes at the same time and he lived up to that on Saturday night, knocking out lightweight title holder Eddie Alvarez in the second round. It was a dominant performance for the entire duration of the fight. An early exchange in the first round nearly knocked Alvarez out cold but he was able to recover enough to survive the first round. He wasn’t as lucky in the second as McGregor slipped a right hand and fired off a four punch combination that put him down on the mat. Conor followed him to the ground and landed a few more punches there before referee John McCarthy called a stop to the fight. On the mic afterwards he was as good as ever. The reason people tune in to watch his fights is to see what he’ll say next and because he’s proven that he will back up most of it.
What hes saying now is that he has a baby on the way in May of next year and he’s going to take a break from fighting as he prepares for that life changing event. Hes also saying if the UFC wants him to come back and continue to make them boat loads of money their going to have to give him something that no fighter has ever had before, equity in the company. McGregor continues to break new ground and if he gets his latest demand he will have again accomplished something that is unprecedented. The UFC is of course going to reject this at first and start a long negotiation process with the sports biggest star. But maybe it makes sense for both sides. If McGregor’s success is tied into the success of the company as a whole then he will be motivated to fight often and do more promotion in between, which was a sticking point in past negotiations. Also this would extend their relationship to after hes done fighting. If anyone could replace Dana White as a promoter to be the face of the franchise it would be Conor McGregor. But there are hurdles they would have to clear. This is only the beginning of a power struggle that is sure to play out over the next six months or so.
As for what is next for McGregor inside of the cage if and when these things get sorted out he said it best himself, he has options. And those options are growing every time he goes out there and wins. He could go back down to featherweight and finally defend the belt he won last December when he knocked out Jose Aldo. Or he could fight the next challenger at lightweight. Be it Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson, or the winner of a fight between the two of them. Or he could even venture back up to welterweight and fight for a third title. He did plant some seeds for that this week leading up to UFC 205, talking trash with champion Tyron Woodley and even having a small confrontation with him after the weigh ins on Friday. But what makes the most sense to me is the trilogy fight between Conor and Nate Diaz with the lightweight championship on the line, in a stadium in Ireland. It doesn’t make sense from a sporting sense but when has that ever stopped the UFC from making the fight that will earn them the most money. You can even have fights under the main event that would advance his story line no matter what happens. Put the welterweight and/or featherweight championships on there and a lightweight top contender fight. But its way too early to know whats going to happen.
The Draw Heard Around the World – In the co-main event of the evening champion Tyron Woodley and contender Stephen Thompson fought to a majority draw for the welterweight title with Woodley keeping the belt. Despite the lack of closure in the contest it was still a fantastic fight that saw both fighters find success throughout the fight. In the opening round Woodley was able to get Thompson to the ground and from there he landed a vicious elbow opening up a gash on the bridge of his nose. ‘Wonderboy’ controlled rounds 2, 3, and 5 with his karate style but almost got knocked out in the fourth. He survived a big overhand right and another flurry of punches and ended up in a tight guillotine for about a minute but somehow managed to survive. When the scorecards were announced they were originally read wrong declaring ‘The Chosen One’ the winner before it was corrected moments later. I had the fight scored a draw myself and I think the right thing to do next would be to run it right back as soon as both guys are healthy enough to fight. Bad break for Damien Maia who was waiting to fight the winner but thats the risk you take, just ask Anthony Pettis. Maybe he can fight Georges St. Pierre in the meantime in a fight that would be bigger than a title fight anyway.
Joanna Champion Stays Dominant – In the men’s flyweight division Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson has ruled over everyone in the weight class pretty much cleaning out all challengers and Joanna Jedrzejczyk is starting to find herself in a similar situation. She is so clearly better than everyone at this point and seemingly only getting better. Here she beats her fellow undefeated country-mate in a dominant unanimous decision. She did take the biggest shot of her career in the fourth round when Karolina Kowalkiewicz tagged her with a right hand that wobbled her and made her nose swell up but she was able to recover fairly quickly and get back to winning almost every exchange. There are a few names out there that would be interesting matches next year (Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas if she can win one or two after losing to Kowalkiewicz) but at the top of the division it would have to be a rematch because shes beaten everyone up there. The difference between her and ‘Mighty Mouse’ though is that she has been entertaining each time out. Not to say that he hasn’t been but his wrestling base isn’t as fan friendly as her striking. With Ronda Rousey saying she only has a few fights left in her career Joanna Champion has a chance to become the face of women’s MMA in the UFC if she can keep it up and I see no reason to think that she cannot.
We Have Our Middleweight Top Contender – The highest placed non-title fight on the card was an exciting Middleweight bout between New York’s own Chris Weidman and Cuban Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero. The day before the fight Dana White announced it would determine who the next challenger for Michael Bisping’s belt. Both fighters came into the match with question marks and something to prove. Weidman was coming off the first loss of his career when he lost his belt to Luke Rockhold last December. He also had a scary neck injury that delayed his return this year and put into question if he would be available to fight in the first New York event since he helped make that happen. Romero was coming off a suspension for banned substances, albeit a shortened one because they agreed it was from a tainted supplement, and is also 39 years old. Who knows how many years and fights at his peak he has left but that time has not come yet as he proved when he obliterated Weidman with a flying knee to the head that knocked him out cold. Blood was still pouring out of his opponent’s head as he called out Bisping who was there to cover the event for FS1. ‘The Count’ has said he will only continue fighting as long as he has the belt. Well that time might be coming sooner than later if Romero can replicate what he did Saturday night.
Miesha Tate Retires – What a roller coaster of a year for Miesha Tate. It started off great when she shocked the world by submitting Holly Holm in the fifth round to win the women’s bantamweight title in what will surely be the pinnacle of her career at UFC 196. She followed that up by getting blitzed and finished in the first round by Amanda Nunes to lose the belt immediately at UFC 200 in July. This fight against Raquel Pennington that kicked off the Pay-Per-View Saturday night was supposed to be a relatively easy bounce back to get her right back into the thick of things but instead she looked listless while losing a unanimous decision. After the fight she announced that she was going to retire which was a big surprise to me and I’m sure a lot of other people. If she sticks to her word she can be happy with her career in the sport. She won the UFC and Strikeforce championships, she fought Ronda Rousey twice and gave her probably her toughest tests other than when she got knocked out by Holm, and she was a big part of some of the biggest cards the UFC had to offer. ‘Cupcake’ is one of the biggest names in women’s MMA and if she took time off and wanted to return sometime down the road I’m sure they would welcome her back with open arms.
Khabib or Tony? – I mentioned above that Khabib Nurmagomedov was in the running for Conor McGregor’s next fight as lightweight champion and that was because he put in a dominant performance earlier in the night, submitting Michael Johnson after beating him to a pulp on the ground to improve his record to 24-0. It looked bad early on as he took some shots from ‘The Menace’ that seemed to hurt him a bit but once he was able to get the fight to the ground it was all but over. ‘The Eagle’ is a phenom when it comes to holding fighters down and punishing them, probably the best in the sport. It was a statement win and he would give McGregor the toughest test of his career with his wrestling abilities but on the other hand Tony Ferguson did something similar last weekend by beating Rafael Dos Anjos. RDA was the guy McGregor was originally supposed to fight for his second belt back in March in what seems like years ago after all the Nate Diaz drama. Instead Dos Anjos went on to get knocked out by Eddie Alvarez in a fight he was winning until he wasn’t. It didn’t get much easier with ‘El Cucuey’ in a back and forth exciting fight that Ferguson got his hand raised in. Both Nurmagomedov and Ferguson are deserving to be the next title challenger but I have a feeling they’re going to have to fight each other to determine who it ultimately ends up being. That will be an incredible fight but what a bitter feeling it will be for the loser of that one. Both guys would pose problems for McGregor but I think Conor will be rooting for the guy that doesn’t excel in the one area that he doesn’t excel in himself.