The UFC’s week-long trilogy of fighting cards ends this Saturday night with a giant fight in the lightweight division.
By putting Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor up against each other, a weight class up and seven years after their first meeting, the two attackers will look to rubber stamp their name for any future title implications at UFC 257.
As chief support for the PPV main event, the accompanying lightweight candidate Dan Hooker will welcome Michael Chandler to the promotion after leaving Bellator as their long-serving 155kg king.
With a fun preliminary map containing exciting match-ups and warriors like Movsar Evloev and Arman Tsarukyan, UFC 257 looks set to be one of the biggest events of 2021.
Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) vs. Conor McGregor (22-4)
Since both men have grown exponentially as warriors since their first meeting, I think the biggest factor for the change between then and now will be the lack of a truly drained weight loss and the effect that their durability has.
After their first fight ended quickly, I simply do not think Poirier could not now cope with the blow that put him down all these years ago.
In addition to his improved durability since that time, Poirier’s striking defense is much more refined. While he may still be hit and have been in quite a few wars recently, ‘The Diamond’ will parry, ride or watch punches cast a glimpse of him as opposed to eating the full burden.
For Poirier to win, he will likely have to take this fight beyond the third round, and when he finds success, he will have to pile on the pressure. McGregor’s problems with his conditioning are well documented, and when things start to go against him, I’m not sure his temperament allows him to come back as Poirier can.
Getting into the later rounds, however, is a monumental task against ‘The Notorious One’. The Irishman is perhaps the best starter at the elite level in MMA today and apparently takes no time at all to establish the interval where he wants to work.
With his flashy kicks and electric hands, his power is predominant throughout his striking arsenal, and it can only take one exact stroke to spell the beginning of the end.
Although I’m very interested to see if Poirier can find continued success with his slanted kicks to the body, or if he can pull counters and return to McGregor, I think the former doubles champion will get the job done.
His accuracy combined with his power is great for people to handle, and with his ability to start in fifth gear, I think McGregor will find an opportunity to jump if he finds a dizzying punch.
Choice: Conor McGregor
Dan Hooker (20-9) vs. Michael Chandler (21-5)
The fact that this match is three rounds as opposed to five is really interesting for Michael Chandler.
I am used to the full 25 minutes thanks to his Bellator success and I think the shortened time will have a negative effect on him and his adaptation to a difficult and difficult striker.
With few opponents the size of Hooker on his record and perhaps joining the UFC a few years too late to put a serious mark on the division, I just can not see ‘Iron’ Mike coming out of any persistent offense.
While his explosive strike could be a battle changer, Hooker’s feints, jabs and contract knees appear to be a disastrous match-up for Chandler and with his added durability and submission threat, I think ‘The Hangman’ wins this pretty easily.
Select: Dan Hooker
Jessica Eye (15-8, 1 NC) vs. Joanne Calderwood (14-5)
This is a tough call, as both are remarkably inconsistent, which version of itself is shown in octagon.
Technically, this is Calderwood’s fight to lose. She is far more refined with her Muay Thai, and the introduction of the flyweight department has allowed her to struggle with a more natural weight.
Eye, meanwhile, has proven to be aggressive and has excellent victories in the UFC through clinch work.
While positioning in clinch could be an important factor here, I think Calderwood simply has more about her as a fighter and she should really win this fight if she wants to maintain any title aspirations.
Select: Joanne Calderwood
Andrew Sanchez (12-5) vs. Makhmud Muradov (24-6)
Andrew Sanchez’s physical has seen him win few in the UFC, whether through his removals or strikes, but he has struggled with high-performing fighters or those with their own power.
Makhmud Muradov has proven to be nimble on his feet, but his ability to jab and move combined with his own big frame should see him through here.
With a higher striking output and my own strength, I think ‘Mach’ wins the victory here.
Select: Makhmud Muradov
Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) vs. Amanda Ribas (10-1)
This is a really interesting match-up between two warriors evolving.
While Rodriguez has gone undefeated in her last two, she has shown improvements in rounding off her shortcomings, especially her takedown defense and working out of her back.
On his feet, Rodriguez throws a lot and can land stabbing blows, but Ribas is not too far behind in his own strikes landed per minute.
Where this fight could open up, however, is how Ribas strings together his striking and fighting.
Ribas is happy to end combinations with takedowns and with a threat of submission, I think that will be crucial here.
Pick: Amanda Ribas
(Last predictions: 4/6, Total: 6/11, 55% success rate)
(Success rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19 ′: 57%, 20 ′: 67%)