The UFC 205 main card is getting all the attention but the prelims are also stacked. Headlined by former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar, the preliminary card also features a potential title eliminator at 155 pounds with the unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov taking on knockout artist Michael Johnson, plus two longtime fan favourites Jim Miller and Thiago Alves clash in a fun lightweight contest.
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Here’s a look at what you can expect to see during the six preliminary bouts:
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens
Edgar can make a case as the UFC’s best non-champion. The future Hall of Famer lost a heartbreaking decision to Jose Aldo and looks to rebound against the always dangerous Stephens. The fight goes one of two ways: Either Edgar utilizes his in-and-out movement to beat Stephens on points or Stephens lands a big haymaker and becomes the first fighter to finish the New Jersey native. Chances are, Edgar wins a decision but not without an early scare.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson
After initially being linked to the title fight, Nurmagomedov gets a crucial tilt against the resurgent Johnson. Nurmagomedov is unbeaten and arguably the best wrestler in the promotion but has battled long layoffs and multiple injuries. Johnson is a wrestle-boxer coming from a one-round knockout of Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov can’t strike with Johnson and will wrestle but Johnson has the ability to keep the fight standing long enough to win on points.
Rafael Natal vs. Tim Boetsch
Natal is fighting out of New York and may get the audience to sway the judges to his favour but he’s also the better fighter. He has pronounced kickboxing, a strong clinch game and good timing on his takedowns. What he lacks is cardio and consistency. Boetsch has only won three of his last nine fights but has a knack for pulling a shocker when everyone counts him out. This won’t be one of those times.
Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad
Luque and Muhammad may just steal the show. Both fighters are action-oriented and have a good combination of striking and grappling. Luque is only 24 but has more fighting experience than Muhammad. He has the heavier hands and submissions from top position but Muhammad is the better boxer who can wrestle when he needs to. This may be a battle of attrition that Luque might win by utilizing his reach to outscore Muhammad early.
Jim Miller vs. Thiago Alves
Miller and Alves have 44 combined UFC fights. Miller is as gritty as they come and has wild boxing with a solid grappling background, while Alves was once one the most explosive striker at welterweight. This fight hinges on how Alves looks following his first cut to 155 pounds. Historically, older fighters don’t fare too well when dropping weight classes. Miller should outlast Alves in a scrappy affair.
Liz Carmouche vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Carmouche returns after a one-year layoff and takes on the promising Chookagian who upset Lauren Murphy in her UFC debut. Chookagian trains with Frankie Edgar’s team and is assertive with her boxing. Carmouche is a tough veteran who gave Ronda Rousey a tough challenge back at UFC 157. Chookagian could win if she is the more active fighter.
The UFC 205 prelims air before the PPV, which is headlined by a rare champion vs champion matchup pitting lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez against the “Notorious” Conor McGregor. It is the UFC’s debut event at Madison Square Garden.