UFC 205 under-performed, but in the best way; the fights couldn’t have possibly replicated the talent level that packed the card end to end. Luckily Conor McGregor vs Eddie Alvarez ended the night in style, with the Irish superstar obliterating the champion to claim his second belt. The traditional knuckle dragging WWE style promo followed, but with two belts in two divisions McGregor gets a pass from me.
There’s not much to tactically analyze, so instead this will be an unabashed opinion piece.
3) I Hate Eddie Alvarez
No one with a solid grasp of MMA gave Alvarez a realistic chance of winning this fight. He won the belt fair and square from Rafael Dos Anjos but the sizzling right hook that curved perfectly behind the champion’s forearm was not indicative of his talent level, nor is was something he could reproduce on demand. Like Michael Bisping’s title win, fans walked away elated but also knowing that the worse man won.
What I’m trying to say is that everyone figured Alvarez would lose by knockout, and he still embarrassed himself.
Conor McGregor is the greatest counter fighter the UFC has ever seen, and I say that as a guy who dislikes him and the marketing shenanigans around him immensely. His ability to generate his own offense when necessary, athleticism and accuracy puts him ahead of vaunted peers such as Lyoto Machida and even Anderson Silva. His Sunday Punch is the left hand off of a missed right, a set up that has crumpled every person unlucky enough to eat it.
So imagine my utter disbelief when Alvarez, a wily veteran by all accounts, lunged and whiffed with a right at which point he was crushed with a pair of clean left hands.
As I tried to rationalize that perhaps the veteran wanted to test McGregor, he was immediately knocked down again off the exact same set up. Then twice more until the fight was mercifully called off.
A lot of people figured it was Alvarez’s habit of starting his offense by darting low that would be his undoing when McGregor would time him with an uppercut. And to his credit, Alvarez was never in danger of being uppercutted . . . because he kept his head still and whiffed right hands. Alvarez’s most realistic outcome was to grind the fight out against the fence until McGregor finally timed him and ended the fight.
Instead he did the one thing you’re not supposed to do against the Irish phenom, and very likely shaved a few years off his life for it. It was like warning your friend not to walk into the woods alone with a deer carcass, so instead he slathers himself in bear pheromones.
It doesn’t count as heeding a warning if your alternative is worse.
2) No Seriously, I Hate Eddie Alvarez
Rafael Dos Anjos against Conor McGregor had the potential to be the first true UFC superfight.
RDA was well on his way to becoming the greatest lightweight in MMA history, absolutely pasting Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. He had a vaunted forearm and cross guard, variations of the guard that Nate Diaz used to smother McGregor’s rushes. He was the first fighter who had every tool to beat McGregor in one package: leg kicks, clinch work, and wrestling.
Meanwhile, McGregor seemed to be the only fighter who could punish RDA for his aggression. RDA’s doesn’t seek to avoid blows as much as he tries to roll with them or have them glance off his forearms and shoulders, and McGregor’s thunderbolt left seemed like the one tool that could take advantage of the few gaps present.
Rolling or deflecting punches is never as safe as avoiding them entirely, and there are numerous instances where a fighter has mistimed their defense and eaten the punch cleanly (ironically, what happened against Alvarez). Plus Donald Cerrone was able to stifle RDA’s offense with his snap kick, and Conor’s is a cut above.
It was a match made in heaven, and Alvarez ruined it. We went from the most well rounded champion in history with a tough but short and predictable middling one. It was like watching the Clippers and the Thunder bring out their best against the Spurs in the playoffs and then blow 3-1 leads in the conference finals. Why play your heart out if you’re going to phone it in against the next guy?
1) McGregor is Incredible
Yes, Alvarez shouldn’t have repeatedly lunged with right hands.
But McGregor didn’t just punish Alvarez for it, he knocked him down. Every. Single. Time.
McGregor’s annoying ability to avoid his most dangerous match ups thus far has made it difficult to objectively gauge his greatness, but the theoretical ceiling on his career is staggering. This is a guy who changed his game plan in a rematch with Nate Diaz and managed to grind out a close decision against a fighter who was a stylistic nightmare for him. Making a mistake against him doesn’t just lose the fight, it puts you on the wrong end of a highlight reel.
Alvarez was a Bellator champion who found himself middle tier upon joining the UFC. Undersized and limited of skill, he still went 3-1 in four fights via sheer grit. And throughout all of it no one managed to beat Alvarez badly enough that we genuinely wondered why he stepped into the ring to begin with.
The best thing about McGregor holding the lightweight belt is there is no easy fight for him. The easiest fighters left in the top 10 are Edson Barboza, Beneil Dariush, and Michael Chiesa which is saying something. More likely he faces a man against whom he possesses an even greater physical and stylistic disadvantage than he did against Diaz.
The fact is that while Conor McGregor has achievements on paper, its his quality of opposition that stops him from leaping ahead of Jon Jones and Demetrius Johnson as the pound-for-pound greatest. A win over Tony Ferguson would abolish most criticism (even from me) and confirm him as a fighter whose caliber truly lives up to his billing.
Or since Khabib Nurmagomedov displayed a shaky chin against Michael Johnson, we may just see him next. Who knows anymore.