This week saw the reveal of several fights for the UFC’s upcoming debut event at Madison Square Garden in New York, expected to be one of the biggest and most important events in UFC and MMA history overall.
There is a lot of pressure on the UFC to deliver big with this card. Given that until recently MMA was banned in New York for so long, and considering the fight that the sport has had to get back into the New York market, as well as the history and prestige of MSG, the stakes are high at UFC 205.
However, looking at the announced card so far this week, it seems underwhelming so far and lacking some star power or something special. This is not dissimilar to the problem that the company had in the lead up to UFC 200 back in July.
The line-up so far features:
-Tyron Woodley defending his UFC Welterweight Championship against Stephen Thompson
-Joanna Jędrzejczyk defending her UFC Bantamweight Title against Karolina Kowalkiewicz
-Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone taking on Kelvin Gastelum; New Jersey native Frankie Edgar challenging Jeremy Stephens
-Tim Kennedy faceing New York native Rashad Evans
-Rafael Natal meeting Tim Boetsch; Katlyn Chookagian testing Liz Carmouche
-Long Island’s own and former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman taking on Yoel Romero
-Lyman Good facing Belal Muhammad
-Miesha Tate facing Raquel Pennington
-Jim Miller facing Thiago Alves.
The main fight as of now features two unproven draws in the Welterweight Division taking centre stage. Woodley just won the title in his last fight, so he isn’t an established champion, and Stephen Thompson gets his first shot at Welterweight glory here. This is not a fight I can see as the headliner for one of, if not the, biggest show in UFC history.
It is backed by a co-main event of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, as the two Polish natives battle it out for the UFC Bantamweight Title. This could be a good fight. However, the champion is only beginning to rise up as a draw and the challenger is unproven, only managing to defeat Rose Namajunas in her last fight by split decision. Perhaps this fight would have been better and more important if held in Poland. It could get lost in the shuffle on this card and end up being just another dominant win for the champion.
Cerrone against Gastelum could be a show-stealer, as could New York native Chris Weidman against Yoel Romero. The rest of the card is solid overall. A lot of fights which could be good, with a lot of well-known names involved including Frankie Edgar, Rashad Evans, and Miesha Tate.
It still feels like it is missing that “something special” to send it over the top, such as the return of Brock Lesnar gave UFC 200 the boost it needed.
Top name, main event level fighters should be on this card. Ronda Rousey won’t be back until 2017 apparently and Jon Jones is still banned after failing his USADA test, which leaves Conor McGregor.
McGregor expressed his desire to fight Eddie Alvarez for the UFC Lightweight Title at the event, which of course would have added a big champion vs. champion superfight and some needed star power to the event. That is looking very unlikely at this point.
First of all, Dana White tweeted out that Khabib Nurmagomedov would be the next challenger for Alvarez’s Lightweight Title, not McGregor, and afterwards according to the UFC, Eddie Alvarez vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov is now being targeted for UFC 206 in Toronto, Ontario.
There have been conflicting reports about McGregor. “UFC Tonight” reported this week that McGregor has a leg injury and will be unable to fight at the UFC 205. Ariel Helwani has reported that McGregor is not injured and that he is “ready and willing” to fight Alvarez at UFC 205.
This card could really use someone like McGregor. Time will tell if he will fight at UFC 205 or not.
Then you have the GSP rumors which have been swirling this year. Without McGregor, Rousey, or Jones, maybe they will want to go with a tried and true draw like him, a special attraction for the event. The catch is, he may be saved for an event in Canada for his big return instead.
If UFC 205 has no McGregor, Rousey, GSP, or Jones on the card, the Stipe Miocic vs. Fabricio Werdum rematch for the UFC Heavyweight Title backed with Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title as the co-main event would be a great boost for this card.
I highly doubt that the UFC would blow both of these big fights on one event, but it certainly would add a lot of weight to the event. It would make it an undeniably stacked and important card.
Both Stipe and Werdum were open to fighting once again for the UFC Heavyweight Title after Miocic’s latest win against Alistair Overeem, with UFC 205 mentioned as a possible destination for them both. So why not add a fight for the Heavyweight Title in MSG, a venue famous for putting on massive Heavyweight Title fights in several sports?
Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson are also due to clash soon for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. This would add another big anticipated fight to the card from one of the biggest divisions in the UFC.
With a press conference due to happen this Tuesday for the event in The Theater at MSG, surely the UFC will have something big up their sleeves to change the complexion of this event and add that “special something” which it is currently missing.
UFC better come up with something big on Tuesday or else their MSG debut will go down as a good, but not remarkable, line-up on paper unworthy of such a historical date in their history.
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(D.R. Webster writes “The Sunday Supplement” for MMATorch each week and also authors the MMATorch Daily Trivia feature. He has written for Daily Record Sport, WrestleTalk TV, Sports Kings, and a variety of other combat sports sites and publications, includinv review shows and DVDs, news reporting, columns, and fantasy articles.)