UFC boff David Walker (@WalkerDavid32) highlights the best betting opportunities for Sunday morning's dust-up between Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor.
Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez | Sunday 05:00 | BT Sport 1
UFC 205 is undoubtedly the biggest card that the company has ever put together and the main event for the lightweight championship between Eddie Alvarez and Conor McGregor could be on of the most significant fights in the UFC history.
Should the Irishman come out victorious, he will be the first fighter in the organisation to hold titles in different weights consecutively. Previous greats such as BJ Penn and Randy Couture have held belts in different divisions but never at the same time.
As he has done throughout his career, ‘The Notorious’ is looking to break new ground…
Looking at the fighters, it could be seen as a classic striker versus grappler. It is very obvious what McGregor will be looking to do in the fight and that is to hit Alvarez flush with his precision accurate left hand.
Alvarez, on the other hand, will look to take the fight to the ground and grapple his way to victory. Quite a rudimentary breakdown there, so we will look at the fighters, their styles and potential game plans in greater detail.
The Underground King
Alvarez, the current lightweight champion, is referred to as ‘The Underground King’ due to his early days as a MMA fighter, beginning in 2003, which saw him fight in lots of smaller shows around New Jersey and dog fight his way to more reputable events for organisations such as DREAM, then Bellator and ultimately, the UFC.
At the beginning of his 13-year career, Alvarez started out as a wrecking machine finishing his first 10 opponents (nine by KO, one by submission) as he used his heavy hands and quick feet to capitalise on a weaker calibre of fighter.
In his 22 fights since (W18-L4), the Philadelphia native has a further eight wins via KO, including when he finished the former champ RDA to life the lightweight title, and five submissions showing that Alvarez is much more than just a grinding wrestler.
As with many talented MMA wrestlers, the wrestling is simply a platform for the fighter to build upon and allows them to develop their skills in other areas. Alvarez has a takedown defence success rate of 92% meaning that he seldom has to worry about the BJJ of other fighters or being ground and pound.
Alvarez's solid defence in this area allows him to focus on his own skills and to implement his own strategy. As such, Alvarez has been able to focus on his boxing resulting in some many KO finishes.
The general consensus is that Alvarez will look to take McGregor to the ground and with an average 3.9 takedowns landed per 15 minutes with a 41% accuracy, this would not be a surprise. However, there is little doubt in my mind that Alvarez will look to trade with the Irishman to see if he can hurt him.
Needing not worry about being taken down himself, that allows Alvarez is to plant his feet a lot more in the Octagon and ensure that when he fires, he fires with everything he has. With his heavy overhand right, it is important for Alvarez to plant that left foot outside of his opponent before pivoting off his right and finding as much torque as possible through his body to generate the power that his seen him hurt so many people.
Not having to be concerned about his opponent taking him down will permit Alvarez to get his body into this position more frequently in the fight should he choose to trade with McGregor.
In terms of his striking, ignoring the power, which we have highlighted, Alvarez statistically falls into the average category of UFC fighters. He has a 3.64 significant strikers per minute average with a 43% accuracy.
This is not spectacular in any fashion but it is the power that Alvarez possesses that is his weapon added to his relentless flurries once he has hurt an opponent.
Look back to his finish against RDA or his loss to Donald Cerrone and when Alvarez felt he had his opponent in trouble, he piled on the pressure throwing punches in bunches; often wild, but full of intent nonetheless.
Alvarez has undoubtedly proven that he has the cardio to match his relentless style of grinding grappling, heavy overhand right bombs and relentless flurries. And he has questioned McGregor's ability to last the distance in fights so expect the American to push the pace from early on in the fight to try and wear the featherweight champion down.
McGregor wants it all
Conor McGregor wants it all. The belts. The money. The acclaim. You name it, he wants it and invariably, this is a man who gets what he wants.
The UFC threatened to strip him of his featherweight belt if he refused to return to 145lbs and defend it, yet somehow, he ends up headlining the biggest ever UFC card with the prospect of becoming the first ever UFC fighter to simultaneously hold titles in two divisions and, heavens know, how much money he will walk away from this one with. Seems too good to be true.
But the Irish man very seldom fails to live up to his word and McGregor has been adamant (even before being in the UFC) that he would be a two-weight champion.
He has already achieved this feat in his previous organisation, Cage Warriors, and the perfect outcome for him in the early hours of tomorrow morning would be to walk away with a belt over each shoulder.
How will ‘The Notorious’ win?
In order to win, McGregor will need to hope that his takedown defence is at his best. Against Chad Mendes when Conor fought for the interim featherweight title, he was taken down too easily at times, although, it must be said that he was always able, to get back to his feet and absorbed any strikes without much impact.
Facing Nate Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202, it was obvious that McGregor had improved on his takedown defence, however, as Alvarez himself recently pointed out, Diaz is not known as being a powerful or effective wrestler and McGregor will face a much different beast in him.
To date, Conor has a fairly solid takedown defence of 70% and through many videos of his training throughout this camp, we have seen him focus on improving in this area, particularly against the fence where Alvarez likes to force his opponents against and grind on them as he did against Anthony Pettis, a similar type of fighter to McGregor.
John Kavanagh, McGregor's long time coach, has stated that this grinding against the fence should not pose too much of a problem for his protégé as, unlike many fighters, Conor uses his posture to prevent takedowns and not his muscles. As a result, Kavanagh claims that Alvarez will tire himself more than Conor should he look to implement this game plan.
Unlike Alvarez who is able to largely ignore the threat of takedown, Conor will need to be more mindful when trying to throw his kicks and punches as he does not want to spend too much time n his back in this fight.
Luckily for McGregor, he is a different type of boxer than Alvarez in that he does not always need to plant his front foot to generate finishing blows. Conor has shown against the former featherweight champ and pound-for-pound great, Jose Aldo, that he is capable of landing devastating finishes on the move and on the balls of his feet.
Learn and adapt
Outside of his self-belief, one of McGregor's greatest strengths is his ability to learn and to adapt. With an incredible self awareness, he is able to focus on areas that need to be improved and since his solitary UFC loss to Nate Diaz, there has been a dramatic change in the Irish man's training methods as he has become much more focus around routine and structure as he has attempted to improve his cardio in particular, but also his grappling skills.
Unlike many of his fellow fighters, money is not an issue for McGregor, therefore everything and everyone that he brings into his camp are at the top of their game.
To improve his cardio, Conor has brought in Dr Julian Dalby, a former Irish cycling champion and power lifting world record holder. This process has been very scientific, monitoring his blood levels and checking his Vo2 Max regularly to ensure that McGregor was pushing himself when he was able and resting when he needed it.
Everything has been completed to the finest detail to ensure that Conor arrives on fight night in the best possible condition. Believing that his cardio is where it needs to be to face a potentially gruelling 25 minutes against a fighter of Eddie Alvarez's calibre, McGregor will be able to focus on how he is going to try and win the fight.
An elite striker
Clearly, his best chance is on the feet, striking. Against every single opponent in the UFC, Conor has shown that he is a truly elite level striker. With 6.02 significant strikes landed per-minute and a 48% accuracy, it is clear that the current featherweight champion throws a high number of strikes per round and this will be his key to victory against Alvarez.
McGregor is capable of landing killer blows from many different angles to the chin, to the temple, to the liver. Unlike many MMA fighters such as Alvarez, who rely on me predictable shot such as an overhand right, Conor is extremely diverse in throwing uppercuts, hooks, overhands, body shots and also a wide range of kicks, all of which are able to finish his opponents.
In order to land these shots, McGregor will need to focus on his movement. Conor is a fighter similar to Dominic Cruz and Stephen Thompson in that he studies movement and patterns of movement.
In the past, McGregor talked about his obsession of watching animal documentaries and studying how gorillas and lions in particular moved. As a result, McGregor has extremely predatory movement inside the Octagon as he stalks his opponents, closing off their escape routes as he seeks that finishing strike.
So what’s the bet?
I believe that the Irishman will win which can be backed at 4/5 with Paddy Power but where I am genuinely torn in this fight is whether or not Conor will be able to finish Eddie.
Alvarez absorbs 3.21 significant strikes per-minute and, from previous fights, he gets hit hard, however, he is very durable and has lost by TKO only once in his career having faced some very good strikers. Yet, as McGregor and Kavanagh often say, once they feel the power of McGregor's left hand, it's a different story.
I believe that Alvarez will attempt to stifle McGregor early on and get him to the ground, however, with his improved grappling and having greater power at a more natural weight of 155lbs, I feel that Conor will be able to spend more time on his feet on the attack than on his back.
As a result, there will be greater opportunity to land strikes and ultimately hurt the lightweight champion and walk away as a two division champion.
To do that via KO/TKO at 11/10 with Paddy Power is only marginally better than the 4/5 on offer for the win so I would personally recommend taking the win for McGregor and I will be placing a normal stake on McGregor by decision as I think it will be a tough fight with Conor regularly fending off the takedown but landing more damage on the feet.
McGregor by decision can be backed at 9/10 with BetVictor.
Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez – Conor McGregor to win (4/5 Paddy Power)
Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez – Conor McGregor to win by decision (9/1 BetVictor)