Jim Miller (27-8-1 MMA 16-7-1 UFC) v Thiago Alves (21-10 MMA 13-7 UFC) (155lbs)
i was really looking forward to seeing ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta, especially at MSG where he was sure to be a local favourite. That unfortunately fell through after negotiations crashed and a public fallout ensued. Miller though is a more than worthy replacement, more exciting still is seeing Alves debut at 155lbs. He’s always looked like a good-sized welterweight, once battling GSP for the 170lbs title. His power was never in question at that weight so i cant wait to see how he transitions into the lightweight division.
GASP verdict – Jim Miller is a seasoned veteran of the sport and a durable opponent, unfortunately im not giving him much hope in this one. I see the power of Alves being far to overwhelming. Thiago ‘Pitbull’ Alves wins via 2nd round KO.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (23-0 MMA 7-0 UFC) v Michael Johnson (18-10 MMA 9-6 UFC) (155lbs)
Undefeated and so far walking through every opponent that is put in front of him, Khabib Nurmagomedov looks a champion in waiting. Johnson does however have some great stand up, and although outclassed on the feet two fights ago against Nate Diaz, is coming off a great finish of Lightweight contender Dustin Poirier. I just don’t see that stand up helping him too much though, Khabib seems to rag doll everybody and i fear for his opponents the second he gets his hands on them.
GASP VERDICT – not a hugely difficult one to call in my books, the grappling and wrestling of ‘The Eagle’ should be too much to contain for Johnson. If Khabib comes in completely healthy and injury free look for him to drive the will out of Johnson with his relentless pace and aggression. Khabib Nurmagomedov wins via 2nd round Stoppage after a brutal session of ground and pound.
Tim Kennedy (18-5 MMA 3-1 UFC) v Rashad Evans (19-5-1 MMA 14-5-1 UFC) (185lbs)
We haven’t seen Kennedy since the ‘Stool gate’ debacle against Yoel Romero and if that had gone his way, or ended the way it should have, he could have been right in the mix at the top of the middleweight division. Rashad on the other hand has looked vulnerable in the octagon as of late, increasingly so last time out against Glover Teixeira. Theres no doubting the legacy of Evans who is a pioneer of the sport, taking it into the new age that we see today but a debut against a legitimate 185 contender is a huge mountain to climb.
GASP VERDICT – Rashad will be looking to reignite his career after a string of lacklustre performances and a brutal knock out loss at the hands of Teixeira last time out. I’m not sure the drop to 185 is a step in the right direction for Evans though, Tim Kennedy is a top Middleweight contender and i feel Rashads deteriorating chin will be his downfall. Tim Kennedy wins via 3rd round KO.
Preliminary Headline (155lbs)
Frankie Edgar (20-5-1 MMA 14-5-1 UFC v Jeremy Stephens (25-12 MMA 12-11 UFC)
A fight between two of the best featherweights on the UFC roster, this one would easily be a co-main event on any other main card. Frankie will be used to five round fights and going the distance when required so cardio will be no downfall of his in this one. He’s going to have to find a way to nullify the nuclear power ‘That Guy’ Jeremy Stephens carries in his hands. Look for Edgar to dictate the pace and stay out of range of those nasty combos.
GASP VERDICT – if Stephens is going to have any chance in this one he is going to have to come out fast and firing early. That being the case, i just see Frankie being too smart and avoiding too much danger. Frankie Edgar win comfortably via unanimous decision.
Meisha Tate (18-6 MMA 5-3 UFC) v Raquel Pennington (8-5 MMA 5-2 UFC)
This is a comeback fight for Tate. I am a big Pennington fan, and she showed a whole lot of talent by almost beating Holly Holm but it is hard to envision her winning this fight. Tate is the better wrestler, the better submission grappler and the better striker, by virtue of her speed, power and adaptability. Pennington is tough enough and skilled enough to make her work and maybe even make her look bad, but this is Tate’s fight to lose.
GASP VERDICT – I just don’t see Pennington getting enough time and room to implement her game plan, Tate via unanimous decision looks the best bet here.
Donald Cerrone (31-7-1 MMA 18-4 UFC) v Kelvin Gastelum (12-2 MMA 6-2 UFC)
A great matchup for two fighters looking to propel themselves up the welterweight ranking charts. An incredibly close match up to call for me with Cowboy looking so impressive since his move up to 170lbs. I feel Gastelum has a lot to offer in this fight though, one of the biggest Welterweights in the division, he has an outstanding wrestling and grappling pedigree. As long as Gastelum has his weight issues under control i feel he is more than a match for Cerrone, who has looked one of the UFCs most exciting fighters since his defeat to Rafael Dos Anjos.
GASP VERDICT – Look for this bout to be back and forth, Given Gastelum makes the weight efficiently, he’s right in this one. Cowboys striking is some of the best in the world which makes this one such a difficult one to call. I’m going for Gastelum to just edge this one winning via decision.
Chis Weidman (13-1 MMA 9-1 UFC) v Yoel Romero (12-1 MMA 7-0 UFC)
This fight card would not hae been the same without Chris Weidman on it, heck it might never have gone ahead without all of his help in campaigning for the legalisation of MMA in the state of New York. As goes for the fight, another tough call between two of the divisions elite. Two superb wrestlers, i like to give Weidman the edge. The former 185lbs Champion has some outstanding stand up (as long as he’s not throwing any spinning wheel kicks of course) and the cardio to go with it. Cardio however is something that Romero clearly struggles with (just ask Tim Kennedy). The Olympic wrestling gold medallist has undeniable talent and seems to grind out win after win, but can he cope with the relentless championship mindset of Chris Weidman?
GASP VERDICT – I see Weidman playing this one smart, he’ll undoubtedly have to weather an early onslaught from the powerful cuban, but that’s exactly what he’s been used to. I see Weidman taking Romero deep into the fight to make the most of his cardio. Chris Weidman wins via 3rd round KO.
Strawweight World Championship Bout. Co-main event.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (12-0 MMA 6-0 UFC) v Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-0 MMA 3-0 UFC)
The battle of the Polish Warriors. I just can’t look past the 115lbs phenom Jedrzejczyk in this one. A vicious and savage fighter, I don’t think ive seen anyone enjoy a scrap quite as much as her. Karolina though, is coming off a good win against a tough Rose Namajunas. This fight is a whole different world of unarmed warfare. Joanna is the elite of the elite with her striking being arguably the best in the world, male or female. A fan favourite i feel Karolina is going to struggle.
GASP VERDICT – I think Karolina looked out of her depth under the bright lights at the 205 press conference and a previous loss to Joanna in her amateur days may just add to the pressure of the occasion not to mention the mental warfare that Jedrzejczyk will throw at her. Kowalkiewicz is tough but not on Joanna’s level in my opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised if JJ finishes this one but im going for Joanna Jedrzejczyk win via unanimous decision.
Welterweight World Championship bout. Co-main event.
Tyron Woodley (16-3 MMA 8-2 UFC) v Stephen Thompson (13-1 MMA 8-1 UFC)
Woodley put on a scintillating performance at **UFC 202?** knocking out then Champion Robbie Lawler with a thunderous right hand. Woodley, looking to cement himself as the king of the 170lbs division couldn’t have chosen a more difficult opponent and stage to do it on. MSG is the biggest card in history, not to mention the most iconic combat sports arena in the world. Too add to the pressure he’s coming up against a lot of people’s favourite Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. Wonderboy has been doing everything he needs to in order to get his shot at gold, knocking out former champions and comfortably beating former #1 contenders. I was surprised to see Woodley so flustered when booed at the 205 press conference and as petty as it may be, i feel that has an effect on him no longer being a fans favourite.
GASP VERDICT – Thompson exudes confidence and i believe, the best style to trouble Woodley. The long range, point winning style just seems too good for him to not come out on top. AND NEW! Stephen Thompson wins via unanimous decision.
MAIN EVENT. Lightweight World Championship bout.
Eddie Alvarez (28-4 MMA 3-1 UFC) v Conor McGregor (20-3 MMA 8-1 UFC)
What a headliner to kick off this momentous card for the UFC in New York. Mr Main Event himself in an all out war against one of the toughest guys the UFC has to offer, Eddie Alvarez. A surprising new champion after stopping Rafael Dos Anjos in savage fashion, Alvarez looked a little overwhelmed at the 205 press conference, where as usual, media magician McGregor was in his element. The Philadelphia native has come up against some of the toughest and best opposition in the world on his road to gold, never though, has he come up against someone quite like Conor Mcgregor. McGregor has mental warfare like no other and with his first UFC loss against Nate Diaz avenged at record breaking UFC 206, rightfully headlines the historic first Madison Square Garden card. As good as McGregor has been in his undefeated Featherweight Championship run, scary enough I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him. An outlandish statement i know, but the 155lbs weight limit just seems like the perfect weight. We know how much power he carries at 145lbs and im sure Nate Diaz can confirm that power resonates at 170lbs as well, knocking the Stockton bad boy down no less than three times. Alvarez is the Champion for a reason and some of the wars he’s been in within the UFC and also in Bellator speak for themselves. I genuinely can’t wait for this match up, like any other McGregor fight, the anticipation is beyond that of the norm.
GASP VERDICT – Im looking forward to these two getting into a Bloody war. That being said, i feel Conor has just too much, his power, his speed and his sharp angles will be too much for Alvarez to contend with. McGregor has also been involved in 3 of the 4 companies biggest PPVs. He thrives off such pressure, where im not sure Alvarez will be used to anything like this.
AND NEW! Conor Mcgregor wins via 2nd round KO.