NEW YORK -- Conor McGregor is no doubt a transcendent Ultimate Fighting Championship and mixed martial arts talent. So much so that many want to be like him, talk like him and even walk like him. There must have been at least 50 or so McGregor impersonators wandering in and out of Madison Square Garden for the historic UFC 205 event on Saturday (online betting), with their beards and splayed-footed gaits. They walked around as if the world were at their feet -- as McGregor feels.
Meanwhile, Eddie Alvarez was counting on his preparation to pay off. The rugged UFC lightweight champion from the gritty streets of Philadelphia, where he learned to fight, was training at 1 a.m. to get his body acclimated to the time he would fight the Irish juggernaut. Alvarez was hoping to make his first title defense a street war. It did not exactly work out that way.
McGregor made history, becoming the first fighter to hold two UFC titles simultaneously. He is now the proud owner of the featherweight and lightweight championships. McGregor quickly dispensed of Alvarez, who dropped to 28-5, at 3:04 of Round 2. It was not much of a fight. McGregor, who improved to 21-3, dominated almost every second of it.
“Where’s my [expletive] second belt,” McGregor said. “Nothing was surprising. They’re not on my level. You have to have size, reach and the attributes. Eddie shouldn’t have been in here with me.”
McGregor was the much larger fighter when the two stood next to each other. Something also seemed apparent: Alvarez was not in the same class as the Irishman. A left by McGregor decked Alvarez early, and he floored him again with another left with around three minutes left in the first round.
From there, it seemed a matter of time. Within the first minute of the second, McGregor’s superior reach tapped Alvarez on the chin, but the Philadelphian backed away just in time. Alvarez could not hurt McGregor with the strikes he did land; and when McGregor touched Alvarez, it came with the shock of a bomb. A left to the back of Alvarez’s head dropped him again, and this time, referee “Big” John McCarthy stepped in and called the mismatch over.
Within minutes of the end, three McGregor lookalikes in the upper balcony of the Garden began doing the arms-waving, wide-gait McGregor strut.
Woodley, Thompson Fight to Controversial Draw
The first two minutes of the Tyron Woodley-Stephen Thompson UFC welterweight championship fight started slow. Neither fighter was willing to engage. Then everything burst open for one of the more enjoyable fights of the night, as Woodley retained his welterweight title with a majority draw against the lanky, stubborn Thompson.
Woodley’s record moves to 16-3-1, while Thompson goes to 13-1-1.
In the fourth round, the fight looked over. Woodley poured it on, as a right to the temple started everything. Thompson was a bloody mess and was in serious trouble, but he never gave up. In the last 30 seconds of the fourth, Thompson squeezed out of Woodley’s attempted guillotine choke, moved on top and pounded on the champion. He returned to his corner a crimson pulp, but he was still standing and still in the fight.
Thompson certainly did not look as pretty as he did when the entered the Octagon, but he had created a larger fanbase with his fortitude by the time he left it. Thompson won the fifth. His charge seemed to come too late, but when the scorecards were read 47-47, 47-47 and 48-47 for Woodley, ring announcer Bruce Buffer incorrectly declared Woodley the winner. He was not. The fight ended in a majority draw, which enabled Woodley to retain the belt.
Stats suggest Woodley won. He was in control for 4:54 to Thompson’s 2:29, and he landed 113 of 200 (57 percent) total strikes to Thompson’s 60 of 181 (33 percent). Woodley was also superior in significant strikes, connecting on 61 of 141 (43 percent) to Thompson’s 43 of 161 (26 percent).
“I don’t know what to think,” Woodley said. “At the end of the day, it’s a big difference to get the draw than to get the win, but I’ll take either over a loss any day. I just hate leaving the Octagon in that type of situation. I had some good moments. I could’ve pressed him more, but I feel like the only significant damage done in that fight was by me.
“I should’ve created a little more distance when I rocked him so I could land more shots and end it. I went for the guillotine and feel like that was a bad decision. Even then, I thought that was close to a 10-8 round. I don’t agree with the draw. I thought I won, but he’s a tough kid and it was a great fight.”
Thompson thought he did enough to win, though the numbers said otherwise.
“I thought that I did enough to finish out that last round and get the draw,” Thompson said. “Of course, I’d rather have the win, but it is what it is. We both went out there and fought our hearts out. I hope we can do it again. Nothing else would interest me. I want the rematch. I don’t want anything but that rematch.”
Jedrzejczyk Outlasts Kowalkiewicz in Strawweight Title Defense
You would figure two undefeated fighters would cause a commotion. These two did not. There was hardly any sound from the sold-out Garden, nor much action from UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her title defense against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. In fact, with around 3:30 left in the third round, there was a spattering of boos.
Then, with about 3:30 left in the fourth, things picked up. Kowalkiewicz connected with a few punches that had Jedrzejczyk reeling backward and awoke the Garden crowd from its slumber. However, before Kowalkiewicz could take complete advantage of what was happening, Jedrzejczyk fended her off and dragged the fight into the fifth round.
In the end, the final two rounds made it interesting. Jedrzejczyk had a nasty welt on the right side of her face. Kowalkiewicz had swelling over her right eye. Jedrzejczyk came away with a 49-46 unanimous decision and retained the belt.
“I wasn’t hurt very badly [in the fourth],” Jedrzejczyk said. “I felt like I was controlling all of the fight. Polish girls are the toughest in the world. Karolina was very tough. I am the best in the world and I continued to prove that tonight. I will be champion for a long time. Do you know why I stay champion? I work hard every day; I work hard every day. I challenge myself every day. I wasn’t going to disrespect Karolina. I knew it was going to be a tough fight.”
Jedrzejczyk moved to 13-0. Kowalkiewicz lost for the first time, falling to 10-1.
“I am very proud of my performance,” Kowalkiewicz said. “I did my best to push her and I know that I hurt her. She is a great fighter, but I want to do this again. Next year, I want to do this again in Poland, and I will be the new champion.”
Romero Smashes Weidman
Being from New York State, Chris Weidman just had to be on the UFC 205 card. It was just too bad it had to be up against man-machine Yoel Romero. Weidman was making his first appearance since Luke Rockhold destroyed him in December. With UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping watching ringside in a splashy blue suit, Romero made his bid for a title shot by plowing his left knee into Weidman’s head, forcing a stoppage at 24 seconds of the third round.
Romero’s victory set up a shot at Bisping -- who proceeded to give Romero the finger, then a double-digit whammy as Romero, who is 12-1, was speaking. Weidman dropped to 13-2 after losing his second straight, possibly stirring some debate as to where his future lies.
“I am extremely happy,” Romero said. “There are no words to express how I feel in this moment. Every fight of this magnitude will always be difficult. There was a lot of back and forth and I did my best to take advantage of situations as they came. I waited on him to rush in. I thought he was beginning to feel comfortable enough to do this and then I caught him with the knee. It is an honor to be a part of UFC 205 in Madison Square Garden but now I want my shot at the title.”
Pennington Upset Retires Tate
Raquel Pennington threw a shock into the MMA world by upsetting Miesha Tate, and then Tate did her conqueror one better by announcing her retirement after being dominated from start to finish by someone who once trained under her on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show.
Tate encountered trouble early. With around 2:20 left in the first round, things looked a little dangerous when Pennington picked up Tate by her neck on an attempted guillotine choke. From the start, Tate just did not seem right, possibly still recovering from the devastating loss she suffered to Amanda Nunes at UFC 200.
There were very rare moments when Tate had the advantage. Pennington smothered her and Tate just seemed to be hanging on for the sake of lasting. Pennington won by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, picking up her fourth straight win to move to 9-5.
“It’s an honor to be here. It’s exciting to be a part of the first UFC card at Madison Square Garden,” Pennington said. “It’s surreal to me. I tried to put all of that pressure to the side, so I think it’s still setting in and will feel even better over the next couple of days. This was a huge fight for me -- the biggest fight of my career. She’s a huge name in the sport and a former champion. During ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ we developed a friendship, but business is business. I knew I had to go out there and take care of business tonight.
“I feel like a lot of people underestimate my ground game, but I am a grappler at heart and I feel my most comfortable there, so her submission attempts didn’t feel threatening. I just waited for her to make small mistakes, and when she did, I was ready to start teeing off. I want to keep working my way up. I’ve been the dark horse of women’s MMA for a while, and I feel like I deserve the top spot. I want the title shot, but I will fight anyone above me.”
Then Tate laid down the bombshell by announcing her retirement.
“I’m incredibly proud of Raquel. She’s worked so hard and I’m excited to her do so well, but I’m announcing my retirement,” Tate said. “You guys, I love you all so much. I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I’ll love this sport forever, but it’s not my time anymore. It’s because of the result [of the fight]. I had a lot more to give, but I couldn’t pull it out of myself. I’ve taken a lot of punishment. This is it for me.”
Then the crowd rose and gave Tate a standing ovation as she walked out of the Octagon for the final time.
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.