Round 3 brought more of the same, though the champion’s leg kicks seemed to be landing with more of a snap.
As a championship fight, this bout was scheduled for five rounds, rather than three. And the crowd finally had something to cheer about in Round 4, when Kowalkiewicz stung Jedrzejczyk with a punch and put her on the back foot for a few moments. Jedrzejczyk reasserted herself in the round’s last moments, using her long legs to land some more kicks.
Quarter was neither asked nor given in the fifth round, as the combatants traded blows.
Jedrzejczyk won a unanimous decision, but Kowalkiewicz gave a remarkable account of herself as a 4-1 underdog.
Yoel Romero Defeats Long Island’s Chris Weidman
Chris Weidman held the middleweight title for more than two years before being surprisingly knocked out by Luke Rockhold last December. In his first fight back, the Long island native faced a tough matchup with Yoel Romero, the dynamic former Cuban Olympic wrestler.
Romero, known as the “Soldier of God,” was decidedly unpopular with the Madison Square Garden crowd compared to the local Weidman, known as the “All American.”
An elite wrestler in high school and at Hofstra, Weidman went for takedowns in the first round, but they were eluded by the speedy Romero, who had executed a cartwheel and backflip upon arrival in the ring. Weidman only finally brought down his man with 30 seconds left, and even then did not gain complete control.
In the second round, Romero claimed he had been poked in the eye, leading to a chorus of dubious jeers from the crowd. Shortly afterward, he used his own Olympian wrestling skills to gain back control over Weidman and eventually brought him to the mat.
With the fight in the balance in round 3, Romero sealed the deal by catching a ducking Weidman with a knee to the face and then immediately flipping over the cage in celebration.
Romero is now expected to be given a shot at Michael Bisping for the middleweight title.
Miesha Tate Retires After Losing to Raquel Pennington
Tate was the women’s bantamweight champ for only four months, losing by rear naked choke to Amanda Nunes in July after having taken the title from Holly Holm. The loss cost her a lucrative high-profile fight with Ronda Rousey.
Instead she got a date with Pennington tonight. A chance to get back to the top ended up as a career-ending loss; Tate announced her retirement after the fight.
Tate, who entered the ring to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” was always one of the women’s game’s best wrestlers. She used those skills for a takedown in the latter part of the first round. But the second and third rounds were largely a static war of attrition fought against the cage.
Neither fighter seemed to be able to establish her will over the contest, but Pennington, who was once coached by Tate on the reality show “The Ultimate Fighter,” did enough to win by unanimous decision.
A Legend Gets the Garden Crowd Cheering
No one is tougher than Frankie Edgar, the former champion who is legendary for absorbing beatings, and dishing them out as well. He has spent six hours in total in the Octagon, a record. In 26 fights, dating to 2005, he has never lost except by decision.
His opponent tonight was Jeremy Stephens, a knockout artist who has fought many of the top names in the featherweight division.
In the first round, Edgar got Stephens against the cage, but couldn’t land any decisive blows. In the second, Stephens landed a flying kick that would have finished most mortal men, but not Edgar, who jumped up seemingly none the worse for wear and responded with a big takedown in the final minute that got the crowd chanting “Frankie, Frankie.”
A couple more takedowns in the third sealed the unanimous victory for Edgar.
And the Show Begins
The early fights on a U.F.C. card can be sleepy affairs, but for this first appearance at Madison Square Garden, quite a few talents and big names were brought out.
Perhaps the most notable is Khabib Nurmagomedov, the next big thing of mixed martial arts, who brought a 23-0 lifetime record into his bout with Michael Johnson.
The Russian Nurmagomedov took a few early shots from the puncher Johnson, but once he performed his specialty, the takedown, he brutally schooled Johnson with “ground and pound” for the rest of the round. The second round was more of the same, as was the third, and Nurmagomedov eventually got a battered and exhausted Johnson to submit to the “kimura,” a wrist lock.
Nurmagomedov staked a claim to a title shot against the Conor McGregor-Eddie Alvarez winner and will be a formidable opponent for either.
In other bouts, Tim Boetsch, 35, who had lost four of his last six fights, rejuvenated his career with a first-round knockout of Rafael Natal.
The up-and-coming Vicente Luque knocked down Belal Muhammad just over a minute into the first round, then quickly finished him off on the mat. And in a battle of veterans, Jim Miller decisioned Thiago Alves.
The Octagon Makes Its Debut in New York
The scantily clad “ring girls,” the stentorian announcer Bruce Buffer, and most importantly, the iconic eight-sided cage-surrounded ring, the Octagon, were in place, as they are several times a month all over the country, and the world. But tonight for the first time they were in New York City, where mixed martial arts is newly legalized, adding an extra frisson of excitement. Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden, and stars like Patrick Ewing and Wayne Gretzky regularly electrified the home fans. But the Garden has never seen anything quite like the spectacle of the U.F.C.
In the opening bout, Liz Carmouche took down the Hoboken bartender Katlyn Chookagian in a split decision.
Questions That Should Be Answered Saturday Night
Can Conor McGregor Do What No One Has Done Before?
McGregor has become the U.F.C.’s most popular fighter, combining explosiveness in the Octagon with a confident and colorful personality. The featherweight champion, he is moving up to lightweight to try to be the first man to hold two U.F.C. belts simultaneously.
McGregor got into trouble moving up in weight before. He quixotically jumped up two full weight classes in March only to be choked out by Nate Diaz. He avenged that loss in August.
He is only moving up one weight class this time, but he fights the champion, Eddie Alvarez, who knocked out Rafael dos Anjos in under four minutes for the lightweight title in July. Ever brash, McGregor dismissed that bout: “He got blessed with a lucky shot.”
If McGregor knocks Alvarez from his perch and wraps two belts around himself Saturday night, he will cement his legendary status.
Can Tyron Woodley Show He’s Not a Fluke?
Woodley was not on too many fans’ radar when he surprisingly knocked out the welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in two minutes in July. His first title defense comes against a stern challenger, Stephen (Wonderboy) Thompson, an expert in karate and kickboxing who has won seven in a row, many of them impressively against strong competition.