Eddie Alvarez makes his first UFC title defense Saturday night at UFC 205 against featherweight champion Conor McGregor in one of the biggest fights in UFC history. Much of the focus this week has been on McGregor and his chance at securing two UFC belts, but he faces a stiff test in Alvarez. Here are five reasons Alvarez will pull out the win at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night (Sunday AEDT).
HE'S TOO WELL-ROUNDED
Eddie Alvarez has been boxing and wrestling since he was a kid, so he's got some pretty extensive experience as a striker and grappler. His wrestling chops were on full display in wins against Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez, where he scored a combined nine takedowns - but it's his boxing that helped him win the belt as he thrashed Rafael dos Anjos with furious combinations. Alvarez has shown time and time again that he's comfortable anywhere the fight goes.
HE HAS TOO MUCH EXPERIENCE
Eddie Alvarez won his first MMA championship belt back in 2006 and has been racking up the accolades ever since. He fought then top-ranked lightweight Takeya Kawajiri in an all-time classic under the DREAM banner before going on to win the lightweight title twice while fighting for Bellator. Alvarez has taken on some of the best lightweights the world has to offer during his 13-year, 32-fight career, and those are experiences he'll certainly bring into the Octagon on fight night.
HE WON'T BREAK ... INSIDE OR OUTSIDE THE OCTAGON
Conor McGregor has an uncanny ability to get into his opponents' heads before they even step into the Octagon. We saw it against Diego Brandao, we saw it against Dustin Poirier and we definitely got a front-and-centre seat for his verbal destruction of Jose Aldo, all of whom also fell victim to "Notorious" once they stepped into the cage. Alvarez, like Nate Diaz before him, isn't taking the bait. The Philadelphia native has laughed off most of McGregor's taunts and even dished out a few of his own. If he can make it through Thursday's presser without getting too flustered, it will go a long way in helping him stay level-headed on fight night.
HIS WRESTLING IS TOO GOOD
We mentioned earlier that Eddie Alvarez is well-rounded, but it needs to be stressed how important his wrestling will be in this fight. When Nate Diaz knew he was in trouble on the feet against McGregor, he tried to take the fight to the ground, only to be stuffed by Conor's surprisingly solid takedown defense. But afterwards, Diaz admitted he didn't try hard enough to finish those takedowns, which could have led to different scorecards at the end of the night. Alvarez should learn from Diaz's mistakes and take the fight to the canvas whenever he can. He dominated talented grapplers Melendez and Pettis on the mat, so he shouldn't have too many issues with McGregor.
HE'S A CARDIO MACHINE
Conor McGregor's dominance has been a gift and a curse. On one hand, he's got a bunch of knockouts on his record. On the other hand, he's only gone a full five rounds once in his career. In both his fights against Diaz, his gas tank was called into question and the Irishman has taken drastic efforts to improve in that area. Fortunately for Alvarez, cardio isn't something he's ever had to worry about. The lightweight champion has fought for at least three rounds seven times in his career, including a full five rounds twice. No doubt he'll be ready for all 25 minutes on fight night.