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Alvarez predicts submission win over McGregor but insists he won't rely on his wrestling

“I think I’m going to land big shots.”

UFC 205 Mixed Martial Arts UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. Source: Julie Jacobson

– Paul Dollery reports from Madison Square Garden, New York

“AND STILL! AND STILL!”

Eddie Alvarez had to tolerate a few jeers at this afternoon’s UFC 205 open workouts on the floor of the arena at Madison Square Garden, but the reception certainly wasn’t as hostile as what Conor McGregor’s opponents have come to expect.

Last week, Alvarez promised to “make UFC great again” by getting the better of McGregor in this Saturday night’s main event at UFC 205. The UFC lightweight champion is adamant that he’ll still be the top dog in the 155lbs division after his inaugural title defence this weekend.

Perhaps impacted by the aftermath of Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election in the early hours, fewer than a thousand fans turned up for Alvarez’s open workout this morning at the home of the New York Knicks.

There were plenty of tricolours and Conor McGregor merchandise in among them, and while Alvarez was subjected to a few muted boos, the reaction was much tamer than what the likes of Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes have been subjected to from McGregor’s followers in the past.

“I’m blessed that you guys came out,” Alvarez told UFC presenter Megan Olivi at the end of a brief workout with coach Mark Henry. “If you’ve got a red [sic], white and orange flag, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got. You’re here and I appreciate you guys.”

Alvarez’s clash with McGregor will headline the first New York City event in the UFC’s 23-year history. A ban on professional mixed martial arts in the state of New York was lifted earlier this year and the UFC has put together an impressive card for its debut in the Big Apple.

“I fought 13 years of my life to put myself on this stage under the biggest lights and in front of the biggest crowd,” said Alvarez, who was Bellator’s lightweight champion before moving to the UFC in 2014. “I am super excited to go out there and do something violent, do something high-paced.”

Alvarez will aim to deny McGregor a piece of history this weekend. A win for the Dubliner, the UFC’s reigning featherweight champion, would see him become the first fighter in history to hold two UFC belts at the same time. A first-round TKO of Rafael Dos Anjos in July saw Alvarez crowned UFC lightweight champion.

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He said: “I overcome challenges every day. That’s what I’m good at, that’s what I pride myself on, that’s why I’m champion. I’m looking forward to him bringing it on Saturday night. Hopefully he’ll bring that dog out in me. Bring me some fight, please.”

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McGregor has vowed to stop Alvarez in the first round, although it’s widely expected that the Philadelphia native’s superior wrestling could be the key to a successful first title defence. Alvarez forecasted a win by submission but he expects his striking to open the door.

“I think I’m going to land big shots,” Alvarez said. “This guy is worried about a lot of grappling and wrestling. When his mind is on that I’m going to hit him with a big shot and submit him.”

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Paul Dollery

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