After splitting his first two attempts to climb weight classes, featherweight champion Conor McGregor (20-3, 17 KOs) makes his next attempt when he meets lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez (28-4, 15 KOs) in the UFC 205 Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
McGregor, a braggadocios Irishman with a strong following, is almost four months removed from his revenge decision over welterweight Nate Diaz and looks to hand the Philadelphia native Alvarez his first loss in more than two years while ushering UFC to the Big Apple for the first time.
During Thursday’s press conference, UFC president Dana White opened by shouting: “Finally! We’re here!” McGregor did not show up for the start of the event, but the crowd in attendance were still on his side and booed Alvarez mercilessly.
McGregor actually tweeted from his official account seven minutes after the conference began.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) November 10, 2016
Before exiting the stage prematurely, Alvarez said: “I don’t even have an opponent. When he comes let me know.”
McGregor would show up 21 minutes late, shouting: “Sorry I’m late but I just don’t give a f***!”
Alvarez came back on the stage and slid a chair over to McGregor’s side, causing McGregor to react by charging at Alvarez until White intervened and restrained him.
While each fighter attempts to gain an edge in the mental game, oddsmakers appear to favor McGregor but are calling for the scheduled five-round bout to go longer than at least 2.5 rounds. The latest odds have McGregor as a -145 favorite compared to Alvarez at +115, and the over-under is set at -155 for over 2.5 rounds and +115 for under 2.5 rounds, according to Sportsbook.ag.
Based on the “Tale of the Tape,” McGregor clearly has the edge as long as the fight doesn’t go to the matt. Reach (74 inches to 69), knockout-rate (85 percent to 65), significant strikes landed per minute (6.02 to 3.64), and strike accuracy (48.51 to 43.4) are all in McGregor’s favor.
But Alvarez, who achieved a first-round technical knockout over Rafael dos Anjos in July, has proven to be a far better grappler and is likely to stay close to McGregor to reduce the damage from his powerful strikes. The 32-year-old Alvarez averages nearly four takedowns per match and is even stronger when it comes to parrying opponents’ attempts to take him down at 92.31 percent defended.
Betting Odds: McGregor -145, Alvarez +115 from Sportsbook.ag
Over/Under: Over 2.5 rounds -155, Under 2.5 rounds +115
Prediction: The fight will ultimately come down to whether or not McGregor can stay upright and employ his considerable punching power. Alvarez has displayed similar, though not equal, power but he has to avoid a slugfest, something McGregor’s prone to force opponents into.
Look for McGregor to win with a knockout in the second round.