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Jon Wertheim: UFC's return to New York is another step into the mainstream
1:27 | MMA
Jon Wertheim: UFC's return to New York is another step into the mainstream
Friday November 11th, 2016

The biggest fight card of the year is almost here: UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Coverage begins Saturday on FS1—or streamed live via the Fox Sports Go app—with the Prefight Show at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the preliminary bouts at 8 p.m.

After two fiery opponents finished their lengthy political bout on Tuesday, Americans can look forward to another highly-anticipated (but much shorter) clash on Saturday night.

For the first time, the Ultimate Fighting Championship takes center stage in New York City, with a glimmering prize and potential history on the line. Conor McGregor and Eddie Alvarez will vie for the lightweight title on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, headlining a stacked UFC 205 card. Already this week the tension between the fighters nearly spilled over, with McGregor nearly throwing a chair at Alvarez during a press conference. 

For UFC fans and general sports fans alike, Saturday is must-watch television. And if you're a casual MMA fan looking to know more, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s a look at why UFC 205 is going to be must–watch. 

Conor McGregor is good, and could be historically good

The 2016 year has been busy for Irish UFC star Conor McGregor. The current UFC featherweight champion was originally scheduled to fight in Las Vegas over the summer at UFC 200, but was pulled after refusing to participate in promotional events prior to the fight.

McGregor then avenged an earlier loss to Nate Diaz with a win at UFC 202 in August. Now, he has an even bigger opportunity.

A win on Saturday night would give McGregor two UFC weight class titles. Few fighters have won UFC titles in two different weight classes, and no one has ever held two different belts simultaneously.

UFC president Dana White has said that if McGregor wins, he’ll have to relinquish one of the two belts. McGregor agreed, on one condition.

"Let me go onto the side of that Octagon and raise two world titles,” McGregor said, asking to enjoy the moment first. “What's never been done before, before talking about stripping me. Let me get the f------ things, let me do it.”

With eight career wins and only one loss, McGregor has already taken UFC by storm. That being said, one of McGregor’s biggest criticisms is his wrestling ability, which is also one Eddie Alvarez’s strengths. Saturday could be McGregor’s toughest test yet.

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Eddie Alvarez has won as an underdog before

Despite being a three-to-one underdog in his fourth career UFC fight, Alvarez took down Rafael dos Anjos in July to win the lightweight championship. Now, Alvarez has a fellow champion in McGregor staring him in the face.

Alvarez, a Philadelphia native of Irish and Puerto Rican descent, figures to once again be the underdog going into UFC 205, but that doesn’t mean that he’s intimidated. McGregor unleashed some of his notorious pre-fight trash talk last week, saying that Alvarez’s wife and kids won’t be able to recognize him after the fight. Alvarez responded later with a laugh, saying that comments like that make McGregor seem “desperate.”

Although Alvarez has fewer UFC fights under his belt, the 32-year-old has plenty of MMA experience that could be valuable against an aggressive, offensively-minded fighter in McGregor. The key to an upset victory may be to push the fight into the later rounds, as outlasting a slugfest may be easier than going for a quick knockout against McGregor.

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The other bouts are also must-watches

While the main event speaks for itself, this fight card is solid from top to bottom. Saturday boasts 13 fights in total, with three of them set to decide a new champion. Besides Alvarez-McGregor, Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson will battle for the men’s welterweight championship.

Woodley, also known as “The Chosen One,” currently holds the welterweight belt and has only one career UFC loss on his ledger. But he comes in as an underdog to the Thompson, his challenger. Thompson also has only one career UFC loss, which came in 2012.

• Five fights you don't want to miss at UFC 205

On the women’s side, two Polish fighters will compete for the strawweight title when Joanna Jędrzejczyk takes on Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Jędrzejczyk currently holds the title and won her last two fights by unanimous decision. The challenger, Kowalkiewicz, can take a UFC belt and the status as Poland’s best female fighter if she beats her compatriot on the sport’s biggest stage. Both fighters are unbeaten in their professional careers heading into Saturday.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (left) hopes to defend her UFC strawweight title against challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz (right)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The fights without championship implications are also notable. Among them is the middleweight bout between Chris Weidman and Yoel Romero; Weidman is a Long Island native looking to put on a show for the hometown crowd, an opportunity that was impossible until recently due to MMA-restricting laws in the state of New York.

UFC makes its New York City debut

New York laws prohibited mixed martial arts events from taking place in the state until earlier this year, so Saturday’s showdown is the first ever UFC event in the Big Apple. The only other UFC event to ever take place in the state was in September 1995, when Buffalo hosted UFC 7.

Combining a stellar fight card with the bright lights of Madison Square Garden makes UFC 205 one of the most anticipated events in the history of the sport. On Saturday, we’ll see if the fights live up to the hype.

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