Check out UFC 257 tips and previews for all five main card fights in Abu Dhabi, including a hotly anticipated headline bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
- McGregor 22-4 (19 by KO/TKO)
- Poirier 26-6 (1) (12 by KO/TKO)
- McGregor def Donald Cerrone @ UFC 246 – Rd 1 – TKO
- Poirier def Dan Hooker @ UFC on ESPN – Rd 5 – Decision
Analysis: McGregor v Poirier 2 sees two of the UFC’s finest, fiercest competitors of the past decade come together for the first time since 2014. ‘The Notorious’ took less than two minutes to win that bout via a brutal TKO – and he’s predicting a victory in half that time at UFC 257. But plenty of water and blood has flowed under the bridge since that clash.
McGregor’s only fight since succumbing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018 was a 40-second knockout of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone last January. He’s nevertheless the $1.32 favourite to back up his boasts with a win.
‘Diamond’ Poirier also lost to Khabib in September, but won a decision over Dan Hooker in a classic bout last June. Wins over Justin Gaethje (Rd 4 TKO), Eddie Alvarev (Rd 2 TKO) and Max Holloway (Rd 5 decision) are also on his resume since the start of 2018.
There’s several factors working in Poirier’s favour. He’s fought far more often in recent years than McGregor, the fights he’s had have been much longer and he has remained in the lightweight division continuously since 2015 while McGregor – in between multiple retirements – has regularly switched weight classes. Poirier is more formidable physical proposition for McGregor when they last met under featherweight conditions. Meanwhile, a more mature, patient, mentally resilient and skilful Poirier will be less susceptible to McGregor’s mind games – which he freely admits brought him undone in 2014.
Everyone knows what McGregor is capable of…but has he had enough time in the octagon? If he can’t close it out in the first two rounds, Poirier should get on top and win on points.
- Hooker 20-9 (10 by KO/TKO)
- Chandler 21-5 (9 by KO/TKO)
- Hooker def by Dustin Poirier @ UFC on ESPN – Rd 5 – Decision
- Chandler def Benson Henderson @ Bellator 243 – Rd 1 – KO
Analysis: After going down to the seasoned Poirier in one of 2020’s most absorbing fights, Dan ‘Hangman’ Hooker regroups with a bout against a UFC debutant. But Michael Chandler is no novice. The 34-year-old has carved out an imposing reputation during more than a decade under the Bellator banner, winning the promotion’s Lightweight World Championship three times.
Hooker is the sixth-ranked UFC Lightweight and going the distance against Poirier did little to dent his reputation. While Chandler is unranked, his popularity means he’d be a handy notch on the tough, aggressive Kiwi’s belt.
This shapes as another ferocious, thoroughly entertaining fight. But Hooker’s all-round skillset and ability to absorb punishment render him the biggest challenge of Chandler’s career.
- Eye 15-8 (1) (3 by KO/TKO)
- Calderwood 14-5 (5 by KO/TKO)
- Eye def by Cynthia Calvillo @ UFC on ESPN – Rd 5 – Decision
- Calderwood def by Jennifer Maia @ UFC Fight Night – Rd 1 – Submission
Analysis: Ranked sixth and seventh respectively in the UFC Women’s Flyweight division, Eye and Calderwood are both looking to bounce back after losing two of their last three fights.
Eye fought current champ Valentina Shevchenko for the belt in 2019 but suffered the only KO loss of her career. Since then has beaten Vivane Araujo and lost to Cynthia Calvillo, both by decision. Scotland native Calderwood lost via first-round submission against current No.4 flyweight Jennifer Maia last August – after Shevchenko pulled out of a title defence with injury.
It’s a make-or-break fight for both competitors, with Eye’s durability making her a top-value underdog.
- Frevola 8-1-1 (1 by KO/TKO)
- Azaitar 13-0 (10 by KO/TKO)
- Frevola def Luis Pena @ UFC Fight Night – Rd 3 – Decision
- Azaitar def Khama Worthy @ UFC Fight Night – Rd 1 TKO
Analysis: Kicking off the lightweight festivities on UFC 257’s main card, 30-year-olds and relative newcomers to the promotion Frevola and Azaitar lock horns.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Frevola is four fights deep into his UFC tenure, beating Jalin Turner and Luis Pena on points in his last two. But he has not been in the octagon since 2019. German Azaitar is undefeated in 13 career fights, chalking up 10 knockouts. This is just his third bout in the UFC, after stopping Teemu Packalen in September 2019 and Khama Worthy in September last year.
Some have questioned how this bout ended up on the main card – but it should score high on the entertainment scale. Azaitar will likely need to finish things off early, having gone past the four-minute mark just three times in his career.
- Rodriguez 12-1-2 (5 by KO/TKO)
- Ribas 10-1 (3 by KO/TKO)
- Rodriguez def by Carla Esparza @ UFC on ESPN – Rd 3 – Decision
- Ribas def Paige VanZant @ UFC 251 – Rd 1 – Submission
Analysis: The UFC 257 main card gets underway with a women’s strawweight clash. Tenth-ranked Amanda Ribas – unbeaten in four fights since her first foray under the UFC banner in June 2019 – is the hot favourite. The 27-year-old went up to flyweight to face Paige VanZant at UFC 251, notching the fourth submission win of her career inside three minutes.
Eighth-ranked Marina Rodriguez – after drawing two of her previous four fights – is coming off the first loss of her career. But a split decision loss to Carla Esparza last June, the fourth-ranked contender in the division, was certainly no disgrace for the 33-year-old.
In a battle between the highly promising Ribas’ technical ability and knockout specialist Rodriguez’s brute force, I’ll give the edge to the younger competitor.