UFC 205, Alvarez vs McGregor was a successful and historic event at Madison Square Garden, and three fighters statements stood out.
A night filled with many personal triumphs, UFC 205 didn’t come close to disappointing. The fighters had the greatest stage in sporting history to perform upon at Madison Square Garden, and the UFC’s stars shone in the spotlight.
However, three fighters’ statements spoke particularly loud.
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Here is a quick rundown of some standout performances from the UFC’s successful first night in New York City…
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 12: Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia celebrates his KO victory over Michael Johnson of the United States (not pictured) in their lightweight bout during the UFC 205 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
3. Khabib Nurmagomedov
UFC 205 was a night of immense pressure. Every single fighter felt that as they walked out into Madison Square Garden with the world watching. Each fixated on proving themselves on the biggest stage of them all. But I would argue that Khabib Nurmagomedov had a little bit more to prove than almost everyone else.
In response to this pressure, he put on a clinic of how to handle stressful situations. And in the process, he put to shame my nervousness during literature exams.
His utter domination of Michael Johnson settled any niggling queries regarding his title credentials. It was a performance which is impossible to deny – an aggressive masterclass. His ability to manhandle an opponent is unrivaled by anyone on the lightweight roster, and it is perhaps unrivaled in the entire history of the UFC.
“The Eagle” is a pedigree fighter and although for his fans he simply asserted what we already knew, this victory was the most important of his career. Technically, it was damn near flawless. He sent a message to the lightweight division, and his kimura finish ensured it was sent via first class post.
But beyond the fight itself, the Russian was a star for other reasons. He made the correct call by surging into a tirade against Conor McGregor and his fans during his post-fight interview. That anger was real, but whilst also being authentic, it was a perfect marketing tool for ensuring he doesn’t get overlooked again.
UFC 205 will be remembered for many reasons, but Khabib Nurmagomedov’s performance will always stand out.
NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 12: Miesha Tate of the United States (right) fights against Raquel Pennington of the United States in their women’s bantamweight bout during the UFC 205 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
2. Raquel Pennington
Not many people envisioned Raquel Pennington walking away from UFC 205 with one of the biggest success stories of the evening, not that she had no chance. She has consistently improved since her stint on The Ultimate Fighter, and as her recent record showed, that evolution was continuing.
No, it wasn’t a lack of faith in her; it was more that we expected Miesha Tate to be at her best. To claw away at the horrid memories of UFC 200, and reaffirm herself once more. But the story played out very differently from what we expected.
“Rocky” Pennington controlled the fight. So much so that she made her former mentor look distinctly average. As the final seconds ticked away in the third round, Miesha Tate knew her only chance was to pull out some magic. She needed something reminiscent of her crowning moment against Holly Holm. But alas, it was not to be.
The pupil rose above the tutor and Miesha Tate announced that this fight would be her last. It was an emotional and capricious moment for the winner. To be the person who instigates your friend’s retirement must be an unusual moment. But in a weird way, it was fitting.
As Tate stepped down, Pennington completed her transition into a top-contender. This was her greatest victory to date, and she did it on the biggest stage of all. Now riding a four-fight win streak, she will take the confidence from beating the former champion into her next fight.
UFC 205 was the biggest moment of her career, and the future looks promising for Raquel “Rocky” Pennington.
Yes, you predicted this. But any other choice would have been a blatant attempt at being “different.” Come on, we all know its true. While UFC 205 was filled with many personal triumphs, none rise above that of Conor McGregor, no matter how much it might hurt some to say it.
Reflecting back on the ego-shattering loss to Nate Diaz in March, it was difficult to imagine McGregor’s year ending in such remarkable triumph. In the space of eight months he has turned a devastating loss into redemption and then finished where he intended to start back in March. That narrative made this achievement even more captivating.
His stylish silencing of Eddie Alvarez is remarkable by itself. A man who had never been finished by KO in his distinguished career, and McGregor barely exerted himself in the process. Almost every fighter in the UFC seemed to think that the Irishman would be flying across the Atlantic with just his featherweight belt for company.
As it turns out, almost every fighter in the UFC was mistaken.
The fighting Irish left their mark on New York City, from the streets of Dublin to the first two-weight world champion in UFC history. Be careful of any limitations you impose on Conor McGregor – he just might have to prove you wrong.