Will this be the year former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor finally gets out of his own way and returns to the level of activity we saw from his Octagon debut in 2013 to the epic UFC 205 card in 2016?
The question will cloud over Saturday evening’s highly-anticipated UFC 257 card, which is headlined by the returning McGregor as he faces Dustin Poirier in a sequel to their fight from Sept. 27, 2014. The first fight was a clean first-round TKO win for McGregor as Poirier came into the fight a little too emotional due to McGregor’s knack of getting into the minds of his opponents. However, that won’t be the case Saturday as both men have been cordial to each other throughout fight week and neither man depleted themselves to make weight.
This fight is the epitome of two of the very best in their respective division meeting at their peak form.
I can’t tell how this fight is going to play out, but I believe we are in for a show. Poirier and McGregor are going to stand and trade. This is a given. However, Poirier is going to need to mix it up and have McGregor chase him in the Octagon. He can’t allow a center, stationary target for McGregor to land because McGregor will find those precision shots.
For Poirier to win, he’s going to need a pull from the Nate Diaz playbook against McGregor. He has to lull McGregor into a sense of comfort where he feels like he can land the finishing blow at any moment. Then, that is when Poirier can do his most damage. What should be his main weapon? Attacking the legs.
McGregor is all about movement and quick feet. He loves bouncing around the Octagon and cutting off his opponent’s angels, suffocating their personal space in the process. Poirier will have to constantly land kicks to McGregor’s legs to neutralize McGregor’s swift movements.
So who wins?
Like I said, it’s a tough one to call. The enigma that is McGregor is enough to make me lean his way, but Poirier has been through enough brawls and adversity to really have me think he loses by a KO or TKO.
I’m gonna go out on a limb and take Dustin Poirier to win in a hard-fought, five-round decision and earn his way back into the title picture.
Co-main event: Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler
The three-time Bellator Lightweight champion makes his UFC debut at 34-years old and will take on one of the best lightweight contenders out there in Dan Hooker.
Both men are multi-faceted in their offense and I expect this to be a popcorn affair that gets everyone stoked for the headliner. With Chandler’s lack of elite competition since his 2016 win over Patricio Freire, I’m giving the edge to Hooker, who has gone through a Murderer’s Row of lightweight competition.
Prediction: Hooker via TKO
Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood
Let’s be honest, Jessica Eye is a gatekeeper for the future of the women’s flyweight division. She just doesn’t possess the oomph that championship fighters show when they perform. In her 15 wins, she only has four to come via finish and she hasn’t finished an opponent since Leslie Smith back in 2014. Her resumé is as bland as they come.
Meanwhile, Calderwood has always grasped my attention when she fights. I think she has a slick ground game and has the talent to defeat any opponent thrown at her on a given night. However, she’s only fought once since 2019 and is not getting younger at 34-years old, but I do think she will put on a clinic Saturday night.
Prediction: Joanne Calderwood via submission
Picks for rest of card:
Amanda Ribas via submission
Makhmud Muradov via KO
Arman Tsarukyan via decision
Antonio Carlos Júnior via submission
Julianna Peña via decision
Khalil Rountree Jr. via TKO
Movsar Evloev via decision
Amir Albazi via submission
You can catch UFC 257 on ESPN+ pay-per-view beginning at 10:00 p.m. EST. For new ESPN+ subscribers, the price will be $64.99. For existing subscribers, the price will remain at $59.99. The televised prelims begin at 8:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. The early prelims will be streamed on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. EST