UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier Preview

We are just a few days away from the return of Conor McGregor. The Dublin man will rematch an old foe when he faces off against Dustin Poirier in the lightweight division.

UFC brings it’s first pay-per-view of the year, over to ‘Fight Island’, in Abu Dhabi. In the co-main event, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler will make his UFC debut against Dan Hooker.

The next chapter of Conor McGregor’s career will be written this Saturday night. Fans are wishing for a glimpse of the old McGregor, maybe we should be excited to see what the new Conor McGregor (22-4) brings to the table. When McGregor steps into the octagon, we will have not seen “The Notorious” now for 367 days.

The Crumlin man has been constantly training for the months leading up to the Cowboy fight, and throughout 2020, so we could be looking at a much more evolved Conor McGregor in this rematch. I feel that McGregor may be in the the absolute best shape of his career. All those factors have me eager to see to final product.

Conor used spinning attacks very intelligently in his first encounter with Poirier, McGregor’s footwork and distance control has steadily improved as his career has progressed, so spinning attacks may not be the game plan this time around. He did land a blistering head kick on Donald Cerrone enroute to his 40 second, first round knockout last year, so who knows. The element of surprise will be a major factor in this fight, and Conor has been quoted in saying he has many kicks in his locker, that he is yearning to showcase.

Poirier obviously will not be as wound up as he was in the first fight between the two in 2014. McGregors mind game clearly had an impact on the Louisiana native. Poirier can not get drawn into a brawl for this fight. That would be bad news for the former interim champion, and in my opinion, a slow start and a calculated gameplan would be the easiest way to cause the upset in this fight.

Dustin Poirier (26-6) is a world class mixed martial arts fighter, but McGregor in this kind of shape, with this kind of mentality that he has showcased over the past couple of weeks is a very dangerous fighter.

The absolute best thing to come out of this fight is the fantastic charity work that both McGregor and Poirier will be doing together to help out ‘The Good Fight Foundation”. McGregor has offered to pledge $500,000 to help build a gym in Poirier’s hometown. The foundation was set up by Poirier and his wife Jolie to help underserved communities – from food insecurity to health care and environmental disaster relief.

A fascinating lightweight bout is the co-main event when former Bellator champions, Michael Chandler (21-5) makes his UFC debut against City Kickboxing stand out, Dan Hooker. The stage is set here for Chandler to stake his claim in the lightweight title picture, and this fight should be a very good clash of styles.

While Chandler does possess some knockout power, he will have to be very careful in facing off with Hooker, who has high, high level striking. I would expect Chandler to be looking to bring this fight to the matt and knowing he has that in his back pocket, will give him confidence in the striking department.

Hooker (20-9) uses his length and his reach very well, he has devastating, fight ending knees and that is something that will have Chandler on red alert. I feel the clinch will be important in this fight, and whoever wins that battle will leave the octagon as the victor. Overall this is a tremendous matchup, and a very worthy co-main event.

Jessica Eye (15-8) is without a win in her two flyweights fights, her opponent is Joanne Calderwood. Calderwood (14-5) was on the cusp of a title shot but fell short against Jennifer Maia in her last fight, she will be eager to make another run at the title.

Undefeated Ottman Azaitar (13-0) faces off against Matt Frevola (8-1-1) in a lightweight clash. Rounding off the main card is an all Brazilian bout between Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) and rising prospect Amanda Ribas (10-1).

Headlining the prelims section of the card is a 155-pound fight between Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) and Nasrat Haqparast (12-3), who fights out of Hamburg, Germany. Brad Tavares (17-6) will take on Antônio Carlos Júnior (10-4) in the middleweight division, which is a very well matched fight. Sara McMann (12-5) will square off against Julianna Peña (9-4) in the bantamweight division.

Also on the prelims section is a light heavyweight encounter between Muay Thai specialist Khalil Rountree (9-4) and Marcin Prachnio (13-5), who fights out of Poland. Andrew Sanchez (12-5), who had four fights fall through in 2020, will step in to take on Makhmud Muradov (24-6) in the middleweight division. Nick Lentz (30-11-2) will face off against undefeated prospect Movsar Evloev (13-0), and Amir Albazi (13-1) and Zhalgas Zhumagulov (13-4) will fight it out in the opening bout of the evening.

UFC 257 takes place Saturday, January 23 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The preliminary action begins on BT Sport at 1am GMT, with the main card expected to start at 3am, that is available to watch on BT Sports PPV.

Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.