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UFC 257: Preview, Predictions

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UFC 257: Preview, Predictions for Poirier vs McGregor 2 

Image: Getty Images

The biggest star in mixed martial arts will look to make a splash on Fight Island as Conor McGregor returns for a rematch over six years in the making. The former two-weight world champion will lock horns with Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi with the world watching. Repeat or revenge?

Things were far more bad-blooded the first time these two met at UFC 178. McGregor was midway through his meteoric rise that saw him claim both the featherweight and lightweight titles in the space of one unprecedented calendar year, while Poirier was a young, emotional fighter looking to silence one of the biggest trash talkers in the game.


That night concluded with "The Diamond" being cracked with one of the most wicked left hands combat sports has ever seen. Following a build-up rife with animosity, the Irishman cleared out his counterpart inside 2 minutes, as Poirier joined a growing list of victims that made up the pieces of McGregor's unprecedented ascension to the top of the sport (something I predicted after that fight).

Image: Irish Mirror

A lot has happened since that summer night in Las Vegas. After claiming double gold McGregor would go on to box Floyd Mayweather in one of the richest fights ever observed, while Poirier - with the exception of one blip against Michael Johnson - found new life at lightweight, capturing the interim championship and riding momentum all the way to the pinnacle of 155 lbs, a date with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Losing to the unbeaten Russian kingpin was part of a growing list of similarities that these two fighters have developed after their paths diverged following UFC 178. Both would be forced to tap at the hands of the undisputed lightweight champion's chokehold, but then would bounce back with stellar performances in their next, and most recent outings. McGregor ripped through Cerrone 12 months ago, while Poirier showed exactly the metal he was made of in a fight-of-the-year victory over Dan Hooker. Outside of the cage, Conor and Dustin have become fathers, community figures and philanthropists among other things, and perhaps its now only fitting that their paths converged again with initial talk of this being a charity fight.

Image: Forbes

And now here we are, in one of the richest parts of the world, with the riches of a UFC lightweight title and quite possibly, a shot at redemption against a semi-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov. Per Dana White, Khabib wants to see "something spectacular" to lure him back into the Octagon for a shot at 30-0. And the chances are we just might see that.

How poetic it will be to see these two mix it up once again, after a dramatic whirlwind of a six years that few could have ever conceived before McGregor's touch of death removed Poirier from his consciousness. And here we stand, mere days away from UFC 257 - with their paths about to converge again.

The oddsmakers and majority of the MMA community are banking on a McGregor victory, in similar fashion and time to the first meeting. Others have written off McGregor from that 145 lbs phenom that took the world by storm, suggesting that the money and lifestyle has deviated him from the obsessive love for the sport that got him to this position in the first place. Poirier's inspiring rally from that heartbreaking night may have given him the lessons and experience he needs to finally conquer the left hand that has undoubtedly haunted him ever since. 

There are many questions, many alternating factors that we could ramble on about all day, but the essence is still the same. McGregor has proven he has the power to knock Dustin out before, chances are if he lands cleanly again the Louisiana native will suffer a crushingly familiar fate. But Poirier knows what needs to be done, he knows what happened that night and mistakes cannot be afforded with the stakes so high. Equally, Poirier knows that "The Notorious" is not immortal - far from it. He will be favoured if he can drag this into the later rounds, perhaps with some leg kicks and wrestling to tax the gas tank that has been an Achilles heel at times for the Irishman. 

Image: MMA Fighting

Poirier's willingness to exchange - a characteristic that has won him many-a-fan around the world - may be his undoing. He cannot afford to taste McGregor's power once again, but we will only find out on fight night if he can put the instincts to one side and wait for Conor to make the mistake this time. Chances are we will find out very early in the contest too, meaning it could be over before Dustin even has a chance to get going. 

The stage is set, the fans are back (in their socially distanced minimum) and the world is watching. A McGregor win will put him within one win of the 155 lbs crown, and perhaps one more crack at Khabib Nurmagomedov. A Poirier win would right the wrongs of over six years' past, and perhaps in the process put McGregor's career on life support - which would be spectacularly ironic considering it was his knockout loss that really propelled McGregor into the stratosphere the first time round. These five rounds - most likely much less than that - will arguably define what is to come for the next 6 years and more of these individuals' careers and lives. 

Before Poirier and McGregor run it back, there is a pivotal co-main event on deck, as Michael Chandler finally steps foot inside the UFC Octagon. There will be no warm welcoming for him though, as he has drawn a tough assignment in the form of Dan Hooker, the unrelenting, durable Kiwi who will quickly help us to determine just how credible Chandler is in the highest level of MMA.

Image: Yahoo News UK

"The Hangman" has a reputation for thrilling fights, just look to last year for an example. After a thrilling win over Paul Felder in Auckland, he was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Poirier in one of the fights of the year. Hooker is a UFC veteran coming into his own at this point, and there's not a chance he is willing to roll over for a newcomer, no matter how many Bellator titles he has won.

Michael Chandler is fast-paced, exciting and wouldn't mind a brawl if push comes to shove. But he also has excellent wrestling skills that could sway the outcome of this fight. Chandler may control where it goes, but Hooker will be persistent in determining how it will go. Either way, we're in for a fun one come Saturday night, and the main eventers may have a large deal to live up to when it comes to it.

When Conor McGregor is on the card, all eyes are on you, and that usually results in the level of fights really going up a notch. This could be the case for the rest of the main card too.

Joanne Calderwood was closing in on a shot at Valentina Shevchenko before Jennifer Maia's submission skills sent her crashing down the rankings. Jessica Eye meanwhile has already tasted the power of "Bullet" but continues to truck on, and now their paths will cross to determine who goes forward. There isn't an incredible amount of appeal for this fight barring the fact that these are two experienced UFC athletes and it's actually surprising they haven't met earlier.

After Ottaman Azaitar's safety-compromising antics got him cut from the UFC, Makhmud Muradov's bout with Andrew Sanchez has now been bumped up to second in the main card.

Opening the main card will be Amanda Ribas, whose infectious personality has ironically given her traction in the post-COVID-19 world. The Brazilian was initially slated to face Michelle Waterson but now draws Marina Rodriguez, whose last outing on Fight Island saw her handed her first loss. These are two strawweights who could potentially go all the way in the division.

Predictions

As much as Dustin deserves credit for his response to that first loss, moving to lightweight, putting on a remarkable run and capturing the interim title, you can't completely dismiss the first fight. Poirier's style draws him into wars where he will get hit a lot, and I expect McGregor to take full advantage of those opportunities, landing a left hand at some point in the first round to take out "The Diamond". I am no psychologist but there's also the potential mentality factor - Dustin knows Conor can knock him out cold, and when you consider McGregor's front-foot pressure, I believe he will overreact and give Conor a counter opportunity to ice him and pick up a massive win. Prediction: Conor McGregor via KO (round 1)

Image: Sports Betting Dime

The co-main event will be exciting because Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker tend to have very fun fights. With that being said, I believe Hooker's UFC experience will give him the edge. Not to discount what Chandler has achieved in Bellator, I just think Hooker has gone through much tougher trials and will stifle the American on his big debut. Prediction: Dan Hooker via split decision

I'm picking Joanne Calderwood to outpoint Jessica Eye. Prediction: Joanne Calderwood via unanimous decision.

And finally, it has to be Ribas when you consider her momentum and the fact that Marina is taking this on short notice. Prediction: Amanda Ribas via uannimous decision.

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SportingMatrix • We Live For Sport: UFC 257: Preview, Predictions
UFC 257: Preview, Predictions
The biggest star in mixed martial arts will look to make a splash on Fight Island as Conor McGregor returns for a rematch over six years in the making
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SportingMatrix • We Live For Sport
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