Exactly as I predicted down to the round, I told my friends when asked about my opinion of the main event in New York at Madison Square Garden (MSG), Conor McGregor knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the second round to win the UFC lightweight title and become the first two-class champion in UFC history. McGregor dominated from the opening bell of the main event of UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. The sold-out crowd at MSG must have been on McGregor’s side because you could hear the roar of the MMA hungry New York crowd. Madonna and Hugh Jackman showed up along with a long list of top celebrities. As I have blogged about a few times, the UFC was live and legal in New York for the first time since an MMA ban was lifted earlier this year. “This is the biggest event in the history of MMA,” UFC color commentator Joe Rogan told the crowd.
In conjunction with the sentiment of the fans and fighters, the UFC stacked the card with three title fights that were expected to help set a gate record of more than $17 million at MSG. The 1999 boxing match between Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield drew a record $13.5 million. So the UFC had high hopes. Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson went to a majority draw that allowed Woodley to retain his welterweight belt. I have to say that I have always like Wonderboy but he showed some serious heart in that fight and came back to almost upset the champ after a head-jarring shot followed by a cranking guillotine choke. Joanna Jedrzejczyk successfully defended her UFC women’s strawweight championship with a unanimous decision win over Karolina Kowalkiewicz, that was a display of heart and skill.
The UFC had never run a show in New York City because of a two-decade ban imposed by New York that left only unsanctioned and unsafe MMA fights in the state. State lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed in April to end the ban following years of failed efforts by MMA supporters. The law authorizing the sport took effect in September.
New York couldn’t wait for the biggest MMA promotion in the world to throw an event.
MSG was packed with nearly 20,000 fans and UFC was on pace to set a gate record for the arena. Historically, the UFC last ran a major show in the state at UFC 7: The Brawl in Buffalo on April 7, 1995. UFC, under Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, exploded into a global phenomenon, and became a staple on network television and ran PPV cards that hit 1 million buys during the ban. UFC 205 was expected to reach around 1.5 million PPV buys. I hae also blogged about the sale of the UFC which sold for approximately $4 billion to a group led by Hollywood entertainment conglomerate WME-IMG in July.
In one I didn’t predict, Yoel Romero caught Chris Weidman with a hard flying right knee and finished him off in the third round with a spectacular, bloody knockout victory. Weidman was bleeding as much as I’ve ever seen in MMA. It looked like he got hit with a machete. Romero’s win made him the No. 1 contender for Michael Bisping’s middleweight title and they wasted no time hyping that potential matchup. Bisping was scanned to by the camera to which he responded in a Bisping-like gesture that involved his middle finger. In another fight, Miesha Tate suffered another loss. We all know she played a pivotal role in the women’s division rise to prominence in UFC, announced her retirement inside the octagon following a loss to Raquel Pennington. The 30-year-old Tate says the loss played a role in her decision. “I had a lot more to give but I couldn’t pull it out of myself,” she said. Tate defeated Holly Holm in March to win the bantamweight title and then lost the belt in her first title defense to Amanda Nunes in July. Tate (18-7) had coached Pennington on “The Ultimate Fighter,” a reality show used by the UFC to recruit new talent. The Madison Square Garden crowd gave Tate an appropriately loud applause when she announced her retirement.
Needless to say, there was a lot of action in this event. The UFC has been so saturated with events lately that it is hard to get a good show from the first to the last fight. In my opinion, the UFC gave us a treat and the fighters stepped up to the challenge and made this show entertaining.