The UFC returns to Fight Island with a solid card highlighted by an intriguing rematch between the money-printer himself – Conor McGregor and the much under-rated Dustin Poirier. The men last fought way back in September 2014 and their lives have taken very different routes since then. McGregor 2021 is a world-wide superstar while Poirier has carved out a respectable fighting career through hard work and gritty determination while remaining largely under the public radar. Their first encounter ended very quickly via devastating McGregor KO, but don’t be surprised to see a much closer contest this weekend.
The best form-line between these fighters comes through the undefeated king of the Lightweight division – Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both fighters were submitted by the now retired champ after having some early success in their respective bouts. McGregor landed some clean shots on the hardy Russian before he was forced to tap to a neck crank in the fourth round, and Poirier sunk a deep submission attempt that almost choked Khabib out before the tables were turned in the third.
The rematch is likely to be an entertaining stand-up affair with both fighters preferring to trade blows on the feet rather than engage the chaos of the mat. While the superior punching power of McGregor has him installed as the warm favourite, Poirier certainly has a plausible path to victory. The Irishman is known to gas when dragged into the deep waters of a five round fight. If Poirier can play the matador for the first round or two, look for him to come on strong with a barnstorming barrage. Poirier might not have the devastating striking power of McGregor, but he attacks with well-timed bunches. This approach was best highlighted in his impressive victory over the world-class Max Holloway. It’s quite conceivable that Poirier could finish McGregor in a similar manner. Poirier could also finish the fight in Nate Diaz fashion, when an exhausted McGregor hoisted the white flag and the Jiu-Jitsu black belt applied the rear naked choke that concluded the event. It’s also worth noting that McGregor has been very inactive in recent years with fake retirements and his growing family duties, and Poirier might represent value at the current betting market rates.
The MacGregor path to victory is predictable and easily envisioned. The money printer lands one of his signature left hands, Poirier is stunned and goes down. McGregor stands over his prone opponent and finishes the job. McGregor’s last outing was a 49 second masterclass in power striking that rendered Cowboy Cerrone a bloody mess. McGregor has bulked up noticeably since that fight, so we can expect some prodigious power to be displayed. If Poirier attempts to stand and trade instead of employing the matador strategy, we may well be in for another early night.
The UFC 257 co-main event pits New Zealand excitement machine Dan Hooker against UFC newcomer Michael Chandler, who has recently signed from Bellator and looks to be the real deal. Hooker fought an absolute war with Dustin Poirier at his last outing, losing a very close decision. While his attack is world-class, Hooker would be wise to sharpen his defensive capabilities if he hopes to rise to the very top of the game. He loves to recklessly stand and trade blows, and has taken far too much damage in his last few outings. The fight game is called self-defence for a reason, and Hooker would be wise to become more elusive in the cage. Chandler brings an impressive resume, albeit in the lesser grade of Bellator and it will be interesting to see how he measures up.
UFC 257 will provide much clarity to the Lightweight division now that Nurmagomedov has seemingly walked away from combat sport. The winner of the main event will be certain to fight for the vacant belt, and the winner of the co-main can put his name forward as a potential opponent. Aside from McGregor, who is also a successful businessman these days, UFC 257 has the potential to lead to life-changing outcomes for the warriors able to deliver on the sport’s biggest stage.
Jackson Byrne – Editor at A Man’s Guide