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UFC 205 look ahead: Prelims preview

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DON’T MISS THE UFC 205 MAIN CARD PREVIEW

 

Q: How good is the lineup for UFC 205?

A: So good that the preliminary card fights could make up a pretty damn solid UFC on FOX event.

Here’s a look at the action scheduled for the non-Pay-Per-View portion of the show.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson

Denied a chance to challenge for the lightweight title, Nurmagomedov asked for a matchup with “The Menace” and his wish was quickly granted, meaning not only is the title on the line on November 12, but the next challenger for the belt could also be decided as well.

Had Nurmagomedov been able to stay healthy over the last couple years, he would have already fought for the title, but a series of injuries have limited him to just one appearance over that span. After starting off a little slow, the undefeated Dagestani contender found a rhythm and finished Darrel Horcher in the second round of their April encounter in Orlando. A strong showing here and it will be really difficult to deny the unbeaten 28-year-old a chance to fight for the lightweight title.

Johnson is wasting little time getting back to work, accepting this opportunity less than 10 days after knocking out Dustin Poirier in the main event of the UFC’s debut show in Hidalgo, Texas earlier this month. Eager to prove he’s capable of competing with the best in the division on a nightly basis, the 30-year-old Johnson could potentially earn himself a title shot if he’s able to become the first man to defeat Nurmagomedov.

Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens

While the status of the featherweight belts remain in limbo, these two contenders will battle to cement their place in the pecking order.

After amassing five straight victories and looking the best he had in his entire career, Edgar fell short in his quest to claim the interim title against Jose Aldo at UFC 200, falling to the Brazilian legend for a second time. Not one to dwell on his setbacks and lick his wounds for too long, the pride of Toms River, New Jersey wasted little time in signing up for this one as he was champing at the bit to get another win streak started and compete at Madison Square Garden.

A fixture in the Top 10 for the last couple years, Stephens scored a unanimous decision win over former bantamweight champ Renan Barao in his last outing and looks to finally take the next step forward in his career when he steps in opposite Edgar at UFC 205. The powerful “Lil’ Heathen” has struggled against elite competition in the past, but he’s also never looked better than he has over his last three outings, so this could be the fight where he puts himself in the Top 5.

Get ready for UFC 205: Fight card for Nov. 12 | Champions Alvarez, McGregor to headline historic card | Woodley-Wonderboy welterweight title clash set | Polish stars Jedrzejczyk, Kowalkiewicz perfect for NYCFew tickets remain, buy now

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson: UFC welterweight title

Tim Kennedy vs. Rashad Evans

This compelling clash of veterans marks Kennedy’s return to the Octagon for the first time in more than two years and Evans’ debut in the middleweight division after a decorated career competing in the light heavyweight ranks.

Kennedy pressed pause on his fighting career following a controversial loss to Yoel Romero at UFC 178, but seeing Michael Bisping ascend to the top of the division helped lure the Army Ranger back to the cage. Boasting a previous win over the reigning champion and former welterweight champ Robbie Lawler, Kennedy has all the skills to cobble together a quick and impressive winning streak and establish himself as a contender should he win here and opt to stick around.

The move to middleweight is one Evans talked about for a number of years and on the heels of back-to-back losses, the perennially undersized former champion is finally relocating to the 185-pound ranks. There are numerous question marks surrounding “Suga” heading into this one, but a strong showing against the returning Kennedy would provide a lot of answers.

Tim Boetsch vs. Rafael Natal

Earlier this summer, Boetsch quickly cast aside all doubts about his place in the division after losing three straight with a victory over Josh Samman in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The durable and dangerous “Barbarian” has been a fixture in the middleweight division for a number of years now and his second-round stoppage win over the former Ultimate Fighter favorite shows he has no plans of allowing that to change any time soon.

After stringing together four straight wins, Natal was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result when he faced off with Robert Whittaker at UFC 197 back in April. The 33-year-old Brazilian brings an awkward approach and well-rounded skill set to the cage and is 9-4-1 in his last 14 fights after beginning his UFC career with a loss.

While it certainly isn’t the most high profile pairing on the card, this clash of 185-pound veterans should be fun nonetheless.

Jim Miller vs. Thiago Alves

Once a fixture near the top of the welterweight rankings, injuries have limited Alves to three appearances since April 2014 and now the 33-year-old Brazilian is looking to start fresh as a lightweight.

In a division already lauded as the deepest and most talent rich collection in the sport, the addition of Alves into the mix has the potential to be an interesting wrinkle heading into 2017 if the former title welterweight challenger is healthy and carries the explosive power that made him a perennial threat earlier in his career to his new weight class. He gets a stern test right out of the gate in the form of Miller.

The gritty veteran intended to call it quits following his bout at UFC 200 against Takanori Gomi, but after finally getting back to full strength after two years spent battling the effects of Lyme disease and picking up a quick finish of the Japanese veteran, Miller opted against walking away and subsequently earned a second consecutive victory in his rematch with Joe Lauzon at the end of August. If he can make it three straight to close out the year, the Sparta, New Jersey native should find himself back in the Top 15 by the time we ring in the New Year.

Lyman Good vs. Belal Muhammad

Well over a year after picking up a second-round TKO victory over Andrew Craig in his promotional debut, New York’s Good gets a homecoming assignment at MSG when he takes on Muhammad in this battle of welterweight hopefuls.

After seemingly missing out on his opportunity to compete in the UFC after failing to earn his way into the house on Season 19 of The Ultimate Fighter, Good finally got the call in July 2015, filling in for Edgar Garcia and making the most of it by earning an impressive finish. Injuries have kept him out of action since, but you can be sure the Team Tiger Schulmann product will be fired up about fighting at home on the biggest stage in the sport.

Muhammad made a positive impression in a losing effort against Alan Jouban in his UFC debut, battling tooth and nail in a Fight of the Year contender before coming up short on the scorecards. Earlier this month, the 28-year-old collected a third-round stoppage win over Augusto Montano and he’s wasting little time in trying to earn a second UFC victory by jumping at the chance to face Good at The Garden in November.

Liz Carmouche vs. Katlyn Chookagian

Returning for the first time since earning a unanimous decision win over Lauren Murphy in April 2015, Carmouche, the first female fighter to ever cross the threshold into the UFC Octagon to compete, is looking to re-establish herself as a threat in the bantamweight division. Having shared the cage with a collection of the top names to compete in the women’s 135-pound ranks, Carmouche is a seasoned vet with a wealth of experience; now she just needs to stay active in order to reclaim her stop in the upper echelon of the division.

Like Carmouche, Chookagian’s last UFC appearance also came against Murphy, but the 27-year-old with the on-the-nose nickname “Blonde Fighter” got the nod over the MMA Lab product and will look to make it two-in-a-row in the UFC 205 opener. The first of several members of the Ricardo Almeida/Mark Henry-trained crew from New Jersey competing in NYC, the undefeated Chookagian aims to stay that way and announce herself as someone to watch in the bantamweight ranks heading into next year with a win over Carmouche.



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