Khabib is one of the very elite lightweights in the world, a 23-0 ground virtuoso who deserves a shot at the lightweight title. Injuries have limited his activity, and he is looking for an impressive performance that would earn him the next shot over another very deserving contender in Tony Ferguson. Michael Johnson is an inconsistent fighter who is good enough to defeat the likes of Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier but who also has plenty of losses over the course of his career. This is an opportunity to move into the title contender mix.
Round 1. Michael Johnson asserts himself early, throwing a lot of punches from different angles to deter Khabib from moving in on him. Johnson has a big reach advantage, and he is connecting solidly on the chin of Khabib regularly. He hurts Khabib with a hook and is moving really well. Khabib finally gets a clinch two minutes in, a very important step given how the standup was going. Khabib throws Johnson down and has side control. Khabib gets Johnson in the crucifix position and drops down a series of elbows. Khabib is really having his way with Johnson on the ground with repeated punches. Khabib works his way into full mount but then loses it. He does continue with hard punches. Johnson tries to get up late but eats some big punches and the round concludes. That was a fascinating round. Johnson looked tremendous on the feet, dominating Khabib and seeming like the much better fighter. Once Khabib got it to the ground, it was all one-way traffic in the other direction. 10-9 Khabib.
Round 2. Johnson isn't throwing as much in the second, likely concerned about the takedown. However, he is throwing more than Khabib. Khabib answers with a few solid punches of his own and gets the clinch. Johnson is able to get out of there without being taken down. Khabib shoots for a takedown, but it is blocked. Khabib tries again, and this time Johnson grabs a guillotine choke. Khabib gets out and immediately passes into side control. He then takes crucifix position again. He lands some punches from there, but Johnson gets out. Khabib continues landing punches and smothering Johnson on the mat. Johnson has no answers on the ground, mostly just covering up as Khabib goes to town with offense. 10-8 Khabib.
Eddie Alvarez has traveled the world fighting, engaging in many thrilling classics for various organizations before arriving in the UFC. He wasn't impressive early in the UFC but knocked out Rafael Dos Anjos to capture the UFC lightweight title. Now Alvarez gets the biggest fight of his career, a huge money showdown against the Irish superstar Conor McGregor. The UFC featherweight champion McGregor seeks to become the first UFC fighter to simultaneously hold titles in different divisions. Alvarez and McGregor have engaged in a war of words in advance of this showdown, with Alvarez downplaying McGregor's ability.
Round 1. Alvarez opens with a leg kick. McGregor drops Alvarez with a hook. He looks to finish but Alvarez recovers really quickly and gets back to his feet. Alvarez charges in and gets dropped to a knee again, although that looked like more of a slip. McGregor drops Alvarez with another punch and goes to the ground to pursue Alvarez. He ends up in North-South position. Alvarez gets up and eats another hard punch. Alvarez lands a nice straight right hand. McGregor blocks a takedown attempt. 10-8 McGregor.
Round 2. McGregor catches Alvarez with a stiff 2 punch combination. Alvarez goes for a takedown but it is blocked. McGregor puts his hands behind his back to mock Alvarez. Alvarez moves in with a nice right hand and another moments later but McGregor counters with a harder punch that sends Alvarez off balance. Alvarez looks for a takedown up against the cage. McGregor hurts Alvarez with another punishing combination. Alvarez goes down, McGregor lands more shots on the ground and the referee mercifully calls it off.
Woodley, a high level wrestler with raw knockout power, captured the UFC welterweight title from Robbie Lawler in his last fight. He has a dangerous opponent for his first defense in the favored Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. Thompson comes from a karate and kickboxing background. He has adapted his distinct standup style for MMA and has come into his own in recent fights. Woodley and Thompson make for an interesting clash of styles.
Round 1. The feeling out process takes quite a while with neither man throwing much. Woodley catches a kick two minutes in and uses it to take Thompson down. Woodley lands some elbows and punches on the ground. Thompson is able to neutralize Woodley pretty well on the ground but isn't able to do much offensively himself. Woodley opens up a cut right around the eyes of Thompson late. 10-9 Woodley.
Round 2. Thompson is walking down Woodley but not throwing much, perhaps spooked a little bit by the way Woodley caught a kick for a takedown in the first. Woodley gets a clinch by the cage. Nothing ends up happening and they break. Woodley lands a nice spinning kick to the body. Woodley is standing stationary by the cage too much. Thompson lands a nice straight left hand. 10-9 Thompson.
Jedrzejczyk and Kowalkiewicz are rivals from Poland, as they fought as amateurs back in 2012 with Jedrzejczyk coming out on top. Both are undefeated as pros and Kowalkiewicz will seek to unseat her rival. Jedrzejczyk's calling card is her high level striking and she has dominated her division in the UFC. Kowalkiewicz won three in a row in the UFC to earn this title shot.
Round 1. Joanna demonstrates her hand speed early, landing some quick punches to Karolina. Joanna catches Karolina with a hard combination including a nice looping punch. Karolina seems content to stand but Joanna is getting off more and landing better. Karolina clinches against the cage but Joanna quickly turns her around and they grappled for position. They return to distance late with neither fighter having a marked advantage. 10-9 Joanna.
Round 2. Karolina looks for a takedown. Joanna blocks that, lands a hard punch, and separates. Karolina gets caught coming in a couple times. She's having difficulty dealing with that hand speed of Joanna. Karolina catches a kick and looks for a takedown. She has a pretty solid grip with a double leg but still can't get it on Joanna. Joanna lands a nice knee and a punch in the clinch. Joanna lands a head kick and spinning back fist late. 10-9 Joanna.
Chris Weidman is the popular former UFC middleweight champion who ended the long UFC unbeaten streak of the legendary Anderson Silva. He dropped his title in his last fight to Luke Rockhold, and he now returns looking to earn a shot at that title against Michael Bisping. The 13-1 New York native has long been targeted for the UFC's Madison Square Garden debut. Yoel Romero is a former Olympic silver medalist in wrestling. He has explosive knockout power, freakish athleticism and a 12-1 MMA record.
Round 1. Weidman starts out with a leg kick. Weidman is much more active early, throwing some shots to establish range. Romero is mostly just measuring Weidman. Weidman goes for a takedown and briefly gets it but Romero gets right back up and separates. Weidman attacks the body with some kicks and goes for a takedown, but it is blocked and Romero lands a hard punch on separation. Weidman goes for another takedown, but it is blocked again and Romero throws a few punches before breaking. Weidman goes for yet another takedown. He has Romero briefly down, but Romero is back up quickly. Romero looks for a kimura late but doesn't come close. 10-9 Weidman.
Round 2. Weidman has another takedown attempt stuffed. Romero is negating Weidman's offense, but he needs to do something himself. Romero throws a few straight punches and blocks another takedown attempt. Romero lands a hard body kick, but Weidman catches it and uses the leverage to set up a head kick of his own. Romero shoots for a takedown, but Weidman blocks it. Romero goes for it again and slams Weidman down. Weidman gets up quickly. Romero gets him down a second time, but Weidman pops up again. Romero gets a third takedown, and this time plants Weidman on his back. Romero lands some punches from the top as the round concludes. 10-9 Romero.
Following a unanimous decision loss to Raquel Pennington, former UFC and Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate announced her retirement. A pioneer in women's MMA, Tate has fought since 2007 and competed against many of the best fighters in the sport. She captured the Strikeforce title against Marloes Coenen in 2011 via fourth-round submission and then won the UFC title against Holly Holm earlier this year via fifth-round submission. The Holm fight was her crowning achievement as it was Holm's first MMA loss and an exciting come-from-behind submission.
Tate will be best remembered for her rivalry with Ronda Rousey. Rousey and Tate entered into a war of words in Strikeforce, with Rousey lobbying for a title shot and Tate feeling she didn't deserve it. Rousey submitted Tate in the first round to capture the title. Rousey and Tate rematched a little under two years later after coaching against each other on "The Ultimate Fighter." This time, Tate became the first opponent to make it out of the first round against Rousey but she still fell via submission in the third round. If Tate doesn't rethink her post fight announcement, she will retire at age 30 with an official record of 18-7.
Miesha Tate is one of the most popular women's fighters of all time, a former UFC and Strikeforce champion well-known for her rivalry with Ronda Rousey. She dropped the UFC title in her last fight to Amanda Nunes and seeks to rebound here. Pennington has three wins in a row in the UFC and is looking for the biggest win of her career.
Round 1. Tate throws a few punches to the body early. Pennington lands a few punches to the head, and Tate just covers up. They clinch and exchange punches from that position before Tate ducks down and goes for a takedown. Pennington grabs a guillotine choke, and Tate uniquely defends by walking up the cage multiple times to lessen the leverage. Tate then secures the takedown with two minutes left in the round. Pennington works her way back to her feet. They end up entangled by the cage late with Tate looking to take Pennington's back. 10-9 Tate.
Round 2. They exchange punches early in the second with both landing solid blows. They clinch by the cage, and Tate again looks for a takedown. Pennington defends effectively. Pennington then looks for a takedown of her own on Tate. Tate defends that and lands some knees to the body on Pennington. For the most part, however, this round has been a clinch stalemate. Both rounds have been pretty even. 10-9 Tate.
Frankie Edgar is one of the most successful lighter weight fighters in the history of the sport, a former lightweight champion who has beaten many of the best fighters at 155 pounds and 145 pounds. He is looking to work back into title contention after an interim title loss to Jose Aldo. Jeremy Stephens is a powerful striker with a wrestling background and is coming off a noteworthy win over former bantamweight champ Renan Barao. Edgar is from New Jersey and is a local favorite here at the Garden.
Round 1. Edgar shoots in for an early takedown but Stephens blocks it easily. Edgar lands a few solid punches on Stephens. He lands a couple more moments later. At the halfway point he looks for another takedown attempt and then transitions into a guillotine choke attempt. He switches back to a takedown try. Edgar briefly gets Stephens down but Stephens pops up immediately. Clearly Edgar's round as he was getting the better of the striking and also mixing in the threat of a takedown. 10-9 Edgar.
Round 2. Edgar throws a few low kicks early while Stephens is looking for a power punch to land on the chin of Edgar. Edgar closes distance, lands a couple punches and goes for a takedown. He finally gets the emphatic takedown but Stephens again is able to work his way back up. Stephens stuffs a takedown and lands a huge head kick that drops Edgar. Stephens runs in with a knee but doesn't land that. Edgar goes for a desperation takedown but eats some elbows and can't get it. Edgar is still badly hurt and unsteady on his feet. Stephens is looking to line up the knockout shot but he isn't throwing much and Edgar is recovering. Edgar gets the takedown with a minute left. Stephens looks to stand up but Edgar grabs a guillotine choke. Stephens momentarily looks in trouble but gets out of danger. Edgar then takes top position. Edgar grabs a mounted guillotine choke but can't get it. He lands a few big elbows from mount and the round ends. That is a tough round to score. Edgar dominated much of the round but Stephens nearly finished the fight. 10-9 Stephens.
Natal, a successful fighter who doesn't usually earn a lot of style points, trains out of New York. He has won four of five in the UFC and seven of ten overall. Boetsch first fought in the UFC in 2008. He is a rugged wrestler with some knockout power. However, he has lost three of his last four and six of his last nine.
Round 1. Boetsch hits Natal with a sturdy right hook in an early exchange. Natal lands a few low kicks from the outside. Boetsch is walking down Natal while Natal circles away and looks to counter. Natal lands a few nice straight punches while moving away. Boetsch drops Natal with a massive looping punch and lands a few more on the ground for good measure to bring about a stoppage.