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UFC 205: 3 Prelim fighters to watch

Rafael dos Anjos from Brazil, right and Khabib Nurmagomedov from Russia fight in a mixed martial arts event on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at UFC Fight Night in Orlando Fla.. Nurmagomedov won. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)
(AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Saturday night, the UFC comes to you live on pay-per-view with its biggest card of the year. It is the first major MMA event to be held in New York City at the world famous Madison Square Garden, and it features three title fights in the lightweight, welterweight and strawweight divisions.

In the main event, Eddie Alvarez defends his UFC Lightweight Championship against featherweight champ Conor McGregor. Then, welterweight king Tyron Woodley takes on top contender Stephen Thompson in the co-main event. Finally, UFC Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk takes on fellow Pole Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a big rematch.

Also on the card are former champions such as Chris Weidman, Miesha Tate and Frankie Edgar, among others, including former title challengers. It should be an amazing night of MMA. With that, let’s look at the prelim card, which comes before the pay-per-view, and give you three fighters to watch.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

It wasn’t long ago that Khabib Nurmagomedov was a shoe-in to be the next UFC Lightweight Champion. The problem is that he couldn’t stay healthy and time seemed to pass him by. However, he has a chance in his second fight since coming back to cement that title shot, whether it be against Conor McGregor or Eddie Alvarez.

Nurmagomedov’s return fight was supposed to be against Tony Ferguson, but a late injury forced El Cucuy off the card. Instead, Khabib was tasked with taking on UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher in a no-win situation fight. He certainly wasn’t going to earn a title shot off a man who hasn’t even stepped foot in the Octagon yet, right? Right.

So he now must take on one more fight before getting the title shot. It won’t be an easy one, as he takes on Michael Johnson, an athletic boxer and wrestler coming off a massive knockout win over Dustin Poirier. If Nurmagomedov wants to keep his title hopes alive, he is going to have to perform much better than he did against Horcher.

Thiago Alves

Since 2012, Thiago Alves has fought just three times. Three. Injuries, including a blown out knee and broken ribs, have sidelined one of the most exciting fighters the UFC has. Now, 18 months since his last outing, Alves jumps back into the cage, this time in the lightweight division.

Alves has long been feared as one of the most lethal strikers in MMA. His muay Thai ability is tight and technical, as he is able to accumulate damage with minimal volume. In addition, he throws flashy techniques with good precision, such as flying knees and other jaw-dropping strikes. He’s rarely on the ground, so don’t expect him to wrestle-grind somebody into oblivion.

He returns to the Octagon with a tough task on his hands when he takes perennial top-15 lightweight Jim Miller, fighting in his backyard from New Jersey. Alves has a tough boxer/wrestler on his hands which could match up poorly for him, unless he can get going early and often.

Liz Carmouche

Here’s a trivia question for you. Can you name the first woman who challenged Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship? The answer: That’s right, it was tough-grinder Liz Carmouche. So where has she been recently? Not in the cage, but she finds her way on the biggest card of the year on the prelims of UFC 205.

A former military member, Carmouche is as rugged as they come on the lady’s side. She is a grinder and uses her wrestling and cardio to make opponents uncomfortable. The problem is that she has not fought since April of last year, when she took a unanimous decision over Lauren Murphy. In that time, her name has sort of disappeared from any talks of being at the top end of the division.

Her return comes in a pivotal fight for the former title challenger, as she is tasked as being the measuring stick of current top prospect and undefeated East Coast staple Katlyn Chookagian. She is in dire need of a win to get into relevance. If she falls to Chookagian, she falls into a dangerous category of potentially past her prime and our of the title picture for the foreseeable future.

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