UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor
Saturday, January 23 – UFC Apex, Las Vegas
The man who is arguably the biggest superstar in MMA is back as Conor McGregor makes his return to UFC and the Octagon as part of UFC 257. This is the first pay-per-view card of 2021 for the company and it is a chance for McGregor to come back with a bang and establish himself as of the elite lightweights in what is already a top-heavy division. This is the second fight between McGregor and Dustin Poirier – with the current No. 2 ranked challenger to the crown of Khabib Nurmagomedov (assuming he hasn’t retired) looking to avenge a defeat against the Northern Irishman who is currently ranked as the No. 4 fighter in the division.
The first bout was one that really put McGregor on the scene. Both were up and coming featherweights – Poirier was the more established fighter of the two – but McGregor used his now trademark mouth and verbal shots to make Poirier fight in a way he wasn’t accustomed to. Poirier fought with his anger and not his brain. The result was he walked into a left hand early in the first round and the fight was over basically before it even started. The result was the first knockout loss of Poirier’s career and it is one he would love to avenge here on a much bigger stage.
Poirier is a solid 10-2 – with one no-contest – since returning to the lightweight ranks and his fight against Dan Hooker in 2020 was one of the best bouts of the year. His body of work over the last three years can be held up against anyone not named Nurmagomedov, that is how good he has been. McGregor – a man who obviously has multiple interests outside of the cage – will be fighting in his first lightweight bout since UFC 205 and in just his fifth bout at any weight since 2016. It is hard to imagine that he will be able to step in and fight without any rust. McGregor is making the right noises though – recent interviews about making his body year-round as opposed to just an eight-week fight camp could see him be even more athletically trained than usual – while his one fight last year against Donald Cerrone was a clinic that not many thought McGregor capable of putting on.
The way to beat McGregor is through wrestling and grappling – see the Nurmagomedov fight – but Poirier is much more of a striker than a mat specialist. This bodes well for the Northern Irishman to win if it stays as a standup battle, with McGregor’s strengths in this area being better than those of Poirier.
Michael Chandler makes his UFC debut in the semi-main spot against Dan Hooker in what also should be an explosive bout. Long considered one of the best fighters outside of Dana White’s promotion – Chandler had a 21-5 record overall including in Bellator – the winner here becomes yet another contender in the lightweight ranks. Hooker – who does have a four-inch reach advantage – has proven to be hittable in his career inside the octagon and that will be his downfall here against a fighter who has 16 of his 21 wins by stoppage due to his punching power. Take the UFC newcomer at 1.04 with BetXChange to win as an underdog.
Elsewhere on the card Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood are looking to get back into the mix in the 125-pound flyweight division. Each has lost two of their last three, but with the way champion Valentina Shevchenko is dominating the division, there is a path back into the championship picture for the winner of this one. This one will likely go the distance – Eye doesn’t have a stoppage win since 2014 – and that favors Calderwood as she finds it easier to carry cardio at the weight and is a much more active and accurate fighter. Calderwood at 0.86 is the pick here.