UFC 257
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

UFC 257: A Two-Headed Monster

The juggernaut that is UFC 257 will culminate tonight from the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. In what will be an absolute banger to begin the year, MMA fans across the globe understand what is at stake for the first PPV of the year. While there could be more transparency to what will result from Saturday’s event, the card will likely break records. With Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler serving the lightweight appetizer in the co-main event, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are set to be the full entree.

It’s no secret that a McGregor UFC card tends to seem larger than life every time they occur. Regardless, UFC 257 has more overall implications to one division than any card in recent memory. This past Saturday, Khabib Nurmagomedov, the current lightweight champion, stated that he would return if someone impressed him enough to sign a contract for one more fight. A statement like that can only force more upon the minds of the men competing at the top of the 155-pound division. Not only do Hooker, Chandler, McGregor, and Poirier want to win their fight, they’re not sure what lies ahead after UFC 257.

Despite the craziness that surrounds the first UFC PPV of 2021, fans and media alike are buzzing about what’s to come over the next 12 months. Giving an extraordinary effort to please the MMA community in 2020, Dana White and the UFC brass are more than prepared to knock it out of the park once again. It’s safe to say UFC 257 will win the tip in what will be a long year packed with action inside the octagon. (On PPV, not on a free stream…)

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) vs. Conor “The Notorious” McGregor (22-4) II
155 LBS
Lightweight Division

Six years ago, Poirier and McGregor faced off for the first time. At the time, the UFC was focused on who will be the next big thing going forward. While the push for McGregor had already begun, everyone knew that Poirier was McGregor’s first real test in the UFC. (Holloway wasn’t Holloway) With bad blood fueling the build-up of the fight, the McGregor formula that has broken records was born.

After 90 seconds of standup, McGregor landed a shot on the button that turned the lights out for Poirier. It was obvious that McGregor had gotten into the head of Poirier before the fight, thus creating the idea that McGregor had won before the fight started. While that may be true, McGregor will be dealing with a completely different man tonight in the rematch. Since the first contest was held, Poirier has won ten fights, including a victory over Max Holloway that crowned him the Interim Lightweight Champion. Even with everything that McGregor has accomplished over the last six years, Poirier has undoubtedly become one of the badest men on the planet during that time.

The rematch could not feel more different than the first fight between these men. With both fighters growing more mature as families and belts came, the respect between Poirier and Mcgregor has become clear. The transparency of growth between the two men while competing against one another is not. While McGregor has extended his abilities on the feet to another level, Poirier has become a different animal fighting at 155 pounds.

As Poirier has improved every facet of his game, he still lacks the ability to avoid a firefight. Assuming the amount of work on the ground will be limited, Poirier will need to pick his shots with patience. If he does not, the chance of experiencing Deja Vu against “Mystic Mac” in the rematch escalates dramatically. With McGregor counting on pushing the pace early, Poirier will be able to test his toughness once again. As McGregor is known to struggle with adversity, Poirier is known to show resilience in the later rounds. Alas, the result of this bout is a toss-up, which means the (-325) betting line is blasphemy.

Time will only tell how the chips fall between these two old foes.

McGregor def. Poirier via TKO (3rd Round)

Michael “Iron” Chandler (21-5) vs. Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (20-9)
155 LBS
Lightweight Division

As Michael Chandler makes his way to the UFC octagon for the first time, he will be aware of the hype behind his debut. There is little competition when it comes to who has had the highest expectations before their debut in the UFC. Being a multi-time champion in Bellator, Chandler has had the bar set high as he attempts to make a run through the UFC Lightweight Division. Never having the opportunity to showcase his talent against the elite of the elite at 155 pounds, “Iron” is in a position to control his own destiny. What stands in his way? The only man who accepted the risk of competing against one of the best lightweights not under the UFC banner.

Coming off of a Fight of the Year candidate loss against Dustin Poirier, Dan Hooker could not possibly find himself in a better position. While Hooker might be at the bottom of the four headliners heading into tonight, he has the opportunity to make a statement to not only the matchmakers but one Khabib Nurmagomedov. While many don’t think this matchup between Chandler and Hooker will culminate in an immediate title shot, it will certainly result in a shot down the line. With Hooker being a stylistic mismatch for the former Bellator champion, he’s optimistic of what will lie in the aftermath of tonight’s festivities.

With both men being pure strikers, it’s not tough to think about how this fight could play out. While Chandler has All-American wrestling honors to his name, Hooker is great at fending off takedowns. Successfully rejecting 80% of takedowns, Hooker will be inclined to take the center of the cage and test the durability of Chandler. Struggling against taller opponents, Chandler will look to utilize his gritty style and not let Hooker complete his crisp, continuous combos. That may include using his superior grappling ability.

The anticipation of Chandler joining the UFC has been bubbling for a few years now. With UFC 257 finally upon us, the world will get to see if he can cut it against one of the best. Chandler requesting a scenario like this adds the cherry on top of what should be a firecracker of a co-main event.

The style of these two men and how they pace themselves point to this being a war, perhaps culminating in a decision that is tough to call.

Hooker def. Chandler via Split Decision