November 10, 2016
Whether you agree with him or not, Eddie Alvarez is confident in the result of Saturday’s UFC 205 main event against featherweight champ Conor McGregor.
"A lot of people are going to show up to love [McGregor]," Alvarez said recently. "But we’re going to silence the country of Ireland, make America great again, and make the UFC great again. We’re going to do a whole lot of good in one night.”
The fight, unlike any before it in the history of the sport, will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It’s already set UFC record after UFC record, both on Pay-Per-View and at the box office. That’s largely because the card itself is something of a record-breaker, featuring three title bouts and more past and present champions than you can count.
Or, to put it another way, Toms River native Frankie Edgar, a former lightweight champion and one of the most recognized names in UFC, is fighting in his own back yard and won’t even part of the main card on PPV.
And while all the fights at the Garden on Saturday night carry a certain level of intrigue, nothing comes anywhere close to the main event. Alvarez, who won the UFC title over the summer with a stunning first-round knockout (TKO) of Rafael dos Anjos, will face the sport’s biggest star in McGregor.
The fight will be at 155 pounds, a new weight for McGregor, who has previously fought at 145 (featherweight) and 170 (welterweight). That makes him the contender, as it will be Alvarez’s lightweight belt on the line. But that doesn’t mean the Kensington native and North Catholic grad is the favorite. Not according to fans. And definitely not according to Vegas oddsmakers.
Here’s a look at the current odds, via oddsshark.com:
Eddie Alvarez (+146) vs.
Conor McGregor (-171)
All over the place, experts are picking McGregor to win, making him just the third fighter to hold win UFC belts in multiple weight classes — and the first ever to hold them at the same time.
Not this guy (although I hardly consider myself an expert). Here are three reasons why I think Alvarez will still be holding the lightweight belt come Monday.
McGregor’s biggest strength is his boxing. As a southpaw, he’s a much better stand-up fighter than he is on the mat. Against Alvarez, however, that strength could be used against him.
“Here’s a unique statistic,” Alvarez said with a laugh. “I think every southpaw I’ve ever fought was my most vicious and violent knockout. I think if we go down the history of every southpaw I ever fought, I knocked every one out. Every single one.
“You know who I didn’t? Joachim Hansen, I didnt. He’s a southpaw, and may be the only southpaw I fought that I didn’t knock out. But I did knock him out in the first 15 seconds, but he woke back up and we got in a fight after that.”
It's true. Alvarez has had tremendous success against southpaws in his career, including in his most recent bout, a first-round knockout of then-lightweight champ (and heavy favorite) Rafael dos Anjos. Prior to that, he upset Anthony Pettis, who switches stances but mostly fights as a southpaw.
And this trend dates back to his days as the Bellator lightweight champ. In his second-to-last fight before jumping to UFC, Alvarez knocked out Shinya Aoki, a guy who sports a 39-6 record and has been knocked out just four times in his 13 year pro career. Furthermore, that loss to Alvarez is his only defeat in the last six and a half years (16-1).
So what is it about lefties that make them so vulnerable to his attack?
“I think they’re in line for my right hand,” he said. “And if they make a small mistake, they’re in line for my deadliest punch. And kick. So there’s a lot of bad things that can happen to them. It’s just up to me to fire away and land it.”
Just ask RDA what he thinks about Alvarez’s right hand … if he even remembers.
In the lead to the fight, Alvarez has been working on a bit of everything. The one thing he hasn’t been doing, however, is watching a lot of film of his opponent.
“I’m a student of the game, I like watching film," Alvarez said. But inside of my camp, I don’t watch too much film. I leave that to my coaches, to the people mentoring me, and to the people giving me my gameplan. I let them watch. Because, to me, watching my opponent too much, it just gives me a bunch of silly images that don’t really exist. Watching him do good things to another guy who isn’t me doesn’t do me any good.
"Regardless of his opponents in the past, regardless of what he’s done, he has not come up against a guy like me yet. And so whatever he’s done in the past means nothing come November 12th.”
McGregor is a skilled boxer. There’s no doubt about that. But in almost every other style, Alvarez is as good or better. And when it comes to boxing specifically, Alvarez is better than most (see above). His dad was a boxer. His grandfather boxed for Puerto Rico in the Pan American Games. It’s how he got his start in the fight game — before he wrestled at North Catholic and long before he started MMA.
And if McGregor’s biggest edge is in striking, that’s not necessarily good news for him considering his opponent’s history of success against southpaws.
Alvarez my be five years older than McGregor, but consider this: This is just the fifth fight for Alvarez since he moved over from Bellator to UFC in September of 2014. And in his last bout, he barely took any damage before it was over in the first round.
McGregor, meanwhile, is fighting for the seventh time in that same stretch, and even though he also won his last bout, it came in the form of a bloody, five-round decision. He is also now fighting in his third different weight class over that time. None of these things bode well for McGregor.
"Our time’s here now," Alvarez said. "And we’re about to take out arguably the biggest name in MMA. I’m excited to do that. I’m excited to be the guy to shut this guy up.”
Call me a homer, but I think the notorious trash talker out of Dublin is in for a surprise on Saturday night.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin