Alvarez x McGregor / Woodley x Thompson / Jedrzejczyk x Kowalkiewicz
Picks, Parlays, and Predictions
This city better never sleep, because we’ve got three title shots and eight hours of fights.
McGregor x Alvarez
Thompson x Woodley
Jedrzejczyk x Kowalkiewicz
Weidman x Romero
Tate x Pennington
Stephens x Edgar
Khabib x Johnson
Miller x Alves
Boetsch x Natal
Carmouche x Chookagian
NY STATE OF MIND EDITIONAlvarez (+120)
$2.05 to win $10.00
THE EMPIRE STRIKES EDITIONCarmouche (+145)
$1.00 to win $17.03
UFC, NYC, MSG, HISTORY
Eddie Alvarez x Conor McGregor for the Lightweight Championship
Conor McGregor took the featherweight belt less than 11 months ago. Since then, he’s taken two big paychecks… I mean fights at welterweight and now he’s fighting for the lightweight strap. That arguably puts him in the upper echelon of three different divisions, yet everyone wants him to vacate one of the belts if he wins. Listen, I’m not a huge McGregor fan but where were all of you when Aldo was taking his sweet time defending the featherweight belt? McGregor is so active in the sport and attractive to the audience that it makes no sense to stifle him. It’s a non-issue. Nobody has ever held two belts at once and he might be the guy to do it. And, if he continues this pace, he won’t have any difficulty defending them both – if he can get them.
There's no guarantee the fighting Irishman will be walking away with two belts on Saturday night. His opponent, Eddie Alvarez, was the lightweight champion in Bellator and now he's the lightweight champion in the UFC. He has been fighting professionally for over 13 years and the only way you're going to get an easy fight out of someone that experienced is if they are already in a wheelchair. Conor may be younger and flashier but he's not going to intimidate his way through Alvarez. McGregor will be forced to deal with a hard-nosed brawler who's not afraid to bite down on his mouthpiece and give it his all. The wrestling game is a factor, too. We've seen Conor struggle with cardio in past fights and Chad Mendes faced little resistance escorting him to the canvas (right before Mendes got smashed into bits, of course). To me, Alvarez is a bigger and meaner version of Mendes and that could spell trouble for the featherweight king. Even though McGregor has overcome the similar challenge, Eddie has the right combination of grit and cardio to keep the belt around his waist.
I feel safe giving Conor a power and speed advantage over Alvarez, but the cardio issue is ever present. The safest way to take the lightweight champ out is slow, methodical point-fighting. Obviously, that's not going to be Conor's game plan as he prides himself on being a human highlight reel. I'm still picking McGregor. Even though he made his name as a featherweight he will still, somehow, outsize the lightweight champ. A finish is definitely possible. Conor’s fight IQ is leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else in the sport. He’s fully aware of the pitfalls of this matchup – expect him to play to his strengths and pull out another unbelievable victory. Nothing against Alvarez, but let's make history.
Tyron Woodley x Stephen Thompson for the Welterweight Championship
All-American wrestler, welterweight champion, and the first guy to knock out Robbie Lawler in over 12 years. What can’t Tyron Woodley do? This is not someone to count out of a fight. He can rob you of your consciousness in a matter of minutes or smother you until the bell rings and the boos become deafening. He’s the newly crowned champ and the crowd has decided to hate him for taking the belt – whatever. Tyron may have a very defensive approach, but he absolutely has the ability to explode and burn down the entire ring. Wrestleboxing isn’t anything new to the UFC, but it has always been a successful style at welterweight and it’s being perfected by guys like Tyron.
To make things interesting, you can expect Stephen Thompson to be anything but traditional. You can also expect the majority of the crowd will be rooting for “Wonderboy” to wheelkick Woodley’s face off. Look out for spinning strikes and combinations straight out of a Summer blockbuster. Thompson is seven wins deep in the division and overdue for a title shot. With names like Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks under his belt, this one sure doesn’t look good for Tyron. Stephen has learned how to create enough space to work his magic against grapplers and one as defensively minded as Tyron will likely give Thompson too much time to get creative. The champion favors single strikes, allotting him a puncher’s chance against a karate expert like ”Wonderboy”. A high-pressure wrestling offensive may spell trouble for the challenger, but that’s not a huge part of Woodley’s game. I see him getting too confident in his hands and subsequently pieced up beyond repair by Stephen Thompson. Out of the three belts on the line on Saturday, this one looks most likely to change hands. It’s all Thompson if he can stop the takedown.
Joanna Champion x Karolina Kowalkiewicz for the Women’s Strawweight Championship
Alliterative aggression, Polish power! Joanna Jedrzejczyk is the most dominant female fighter in the UFC. She’ll never be a household name, or frequent Ellen guest, because her opponent’s faces fall off. Her victims look like crime scene photos – the champion is a butcher and she keeps getting better. Grappling was the only questionable area of her game, but she’s made massive improvements. Combined with her lightning-quick hands and alarmingly accurate strikes, Jedrzejczyk is an insurmountable nightmare. Especially when her pace forces opponents into a corner. She’s undefeated and it’s staying that way.
Karolina is also sporting an undefeated record and a hectic pair of hands. The only blemish in her career was a lone amateur MMA loss to...you guessed it - fellow Polish contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Expect her first professional loss, to the same fighter, on Saturday. Revenge is not on the menu. Karolina doesn’t have anywhere near the professional striking background as the champion. She’s tough, gutting out entertaining firefights with solid clinch work, but Jedrzejczyk has an advantage in every area. I hope Karolina learns from this fight and continues to get better, but at the moment she is an unpolished version of the champion. Unless NYC makes Joanna feel particularly chinny, she’s not going anywhere. Enjoy this violent, bloody mess while it lasts and know that there’s at least two 115 pound women out there who could murder you.
New York we love you, please don’t bring us down.