Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to stage its third event in the span of just eight days as UFC 257 will go down later tonight (Sat., Jan. 23, 2021) inside Etihad Arena on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The pay-per-view (PPV) event will feature the highly-anticipated return of Conor McGregor, who will face Dustin Poirier in a Lightweight rematch. The card will also feature the UFC debut of former Bellator MMA 155-pound champion, Michael Chandler, who will face Dan Hooker.
McGregor will make his highly-anticipated return to the Octagon after a year away from the fight game. “Notorious” intended to compete at least three times in 2020 before COVID-19 put a halt to those plans. Nevertheless, the box office king is back and when he fights the world watches. That’s probably why the promotion decided to bump the pay-per-view cost an extra $5. If you can believe it, McGregor has only competed three times since Nov. 2016, but he intends to make up for lost time this year. Up first on the docket is a rematch against Poirier almost six years removed from their first fight, which McGregor won via first-round knockout. This time around, “Notorious” expects the same result ... only quicker.
It’s going to be a tough task to say the least because like McGregor, Poirier has improved leaps and bounds since then. “The Diamond” has gone 10-2 since the loss, which includes capturing the interim Lightweight strap before getting submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Where Poirier has really improved is the standup department, racking up five knockout wins during his run, including piecing up the likes of Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, and even going toe-to-toe against Max Holloway in a title fight. I’ve always felt that Poirier doesn’t really get the love he quite deserves. After all, no one else — McGregor included — can say they have consecutive wins against Anthony Pettis and the aforementioned Alvarez, Gaethje, and Holloway. When you really look at it, that’s as impressive a resume as one can have. A win over McGregor will be his biggest to date, and it will also get him back to the big dance. Still, Conor is adamant that he is back to his old self, the one that ran right through the Featherweight division before moving up to claim the 155-pound strap, as well. If we see that McGregor in this fight, it will be a bout for the ages due to Poirier’s vast improvement over the last few years.
It’s not the most stacked card for it being the promotion’s first PPV offering of 2021, but that’s to be expected when McGregor is on the card. That’s because the promotion usually counts on the drawing power of “Notorious” alone to bring in the eyeballs and the big bucks. And he usually delivers, though there is no telling if the uptick in illegal streaming will affect UFC’s bottom line this time around.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
Umar Nurmagomedov was initially set to make his debut on this card against Sergey Morozov, but was eventually rescheduled to take place at UFC Fight Island 8, which went down on Weds., Jan. 20. Michelle Waterson was in line to face Amanda Ribas on this card before she pulled out for undisclosed reasons. In turn, Marina Rodriguez agreed to step in and fill the void.
In one of the most bizarre turn of events, Ottman Azaittar — who was supposed to face Matt Frevola on this card — was cut by Dana White after he and his team broke COVID-19 safety protocols after they allegedly cut off their wristbands and gave them to friends in order for them to enter the safety bubble and hotel. Thankfully for Frevola, he managed to get a fight last minute after he was booked to face Arman Tsarukyan in a Catchweight fight. Arman — who missed weight — was supposed to face Nasrat Haqparast on this same card, but Haqparast came down with an illness.
Andre Muniz was forced out of his scheduled bout against Andrew Sanchez with an undisclosed injury. As a result, Makhmud Muradov stepped in to take the fight. Hakeem Dawodu suffered a shoulder injury and was forced out of his scheduled bout against Shane Burgos.
Michael Chandler will finally get to show off his stuff inside the world-famous Octagon when he faces off against top contender, Dan Hooker. After signing with the promotion last year, Chandler’s debut has been stalled for one reason or another. But now that he has his man, he intends to make the most of it. Chandler is as complete a fighter as there is. Not only can he out-wrestle his opponents with technique and strength, he has knockout power for days. Many have counted him out for the sheer fact that he has competed for Bellator the majority of his career, which is laughable to say the least. Chandler is legit, and a win over Hooker should silence many of those critics.
Hooker, meanwhile, has the opportunity to upset the order at 155 pounds by spoiling Chandler’s UFC debut. “The Hangman” has more than proven his worth, especially in his last fight against Poirier, a five-round war that brought out the best of both men. Despite coming up short, Hooker won over several fans due to his gusty performance. This time around, he stepped up to the plate in accepting the Chandler fight when others wouldn’t. It’s a big risk that will reap big rewards should he come out on top.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Headlining the “Prelims” will be a fight between Matt Frevola and Arman Tsarukyan, two men who didn’t expect to fight each other but were forced into a change because of last-minute issues. Frevola is currently riding a two-fight win streak as is Arman, who has won 13 of his last 14 bouts.
In other action, Sara McMann and Julianna Pena will collide in a pivotal women’s Bantamweight bout. Pena is looking to bounce back after getting worked over by Germaine de Randamie last October while McMann looks to build on her win over Lina Lansberg more than one year ago. This is an interesting match up because both ladies have great wrestling skills, though the edge obviously goes to McMann, an Olympic silver medalist.
Khalil Rountree is in search of a win after he was knocked out by Ion Cutelaba in his previous bout in Sept. 2020. In fact, Rountree’s last two fights saw him get slept, which is attributed to the fact that he prefers to stand-and-bang. He will get that style of fight against Marcin Prachnio, who has 10 knockouts on his resume. On the flip side of the coin, four of his five losses have come via strikes, so he also has that “kill or be killed” mentality. Prachnio is in need of a win here after dropping three straight.
Nik Lentz will look to snap his two-fight skid when he faces off against Movsar Evloev, who is undefeated at 13-0, 3-0 UFC. Evloev has a well-rounded attack since he can grind his opponents with his grappling skills or twist them up and force them to yell “uncle” with his underrated jiu-jitsu. Lentz could be in for a rough night here, but if he can pull off the upset it will get him right back on track.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Brad Tavares is in need of a big win after dropping back-to-back fights to Israel Adesanya and Edmen Shahbazyan. Things won’t get any easier for him when faces Antonio Carlos Junior, who by the way, has also dropped two in a row. I don’t exactly want to say it’s a “must win” for both men, but a victory is crucial here to avoid either one of them dropping three in a row. I don’t foresee either of them getting cut with a loss but they surely don’t want three straight losses on their resume.
Interest Level: 8.5 of 10
The world awaits to see which McGregor will show up. He — as well as UFC President, Dana White — have been saying the old Conor is back, but that still remains to be seen. McGregor looked sharp against Donald Cerrone, but that was at Welterweight and against an aging fighter if we are being honest. Poirier is anything but since he is still in his prime. Nevertheless, we are in for a great main event between two highly-motivated individuals.
In other PPV main card action, Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Eye will finally get to settle a beef that no one really knows how it all came about. Eye was once considered to be a rising star and even had favor from Dana White. But she hasn’t been able to do much so far thanks to an up and down career inside the Octagon. There was a time where she lost four in a row, then won three straight and then went 1-2 after that. She did manage to make it to a Flyweight title fight, though she wound up getting brutally knocked out by Valentina Shevchenko.
As for Calderwood, she is looking to get back on track after she had her guaranteed title fight snatched from underneath her by Jennifer Maia, who submitted her last August in the very first round. Indeed, Calderwood was set to face Shevchenko, but instead of waiting she opted to take another fight. While commendable, it was a risk that didn’t pan out for her, so now she will have to start from scratch. A win over Eye is a good start.
Amana Ribas has quickly become one of UFC’s fastest-rising stars by winning all four of her fights inside the Octagon. She was the first to defeat Mackenzie Dern and made quick work of Paige VanZant by submitting her in the very first round, which eventually led to her departure from the promotion. While a fight and possible win over Michelle Waterson would have looked better on her resume, Ribas has her hands full against Marina Rodriguez, who recently suffered the first loss of her career against Carla Esparza.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 257 Full Fight Card:
UFC 257 Main Event On ESPN+ PPV:
155 lbs.: Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor
UFC 257 Main Card On ESPN+ PPV (10 p.m. ET):
155 lbs: Michael Chandler vs. Dan Hooker
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Jessica Eye
185 lbs.: Makhmud Muradov vs. Andrew Sanchez
155 lbs.: Ottman Azaitar vs. Matt Frevola— SCRATCHED (details here)
115 lbs.: Amanda Ribas vs. Marina Rodriguez
UFC 257 ‘Prelims’ Under Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Matt Frevola vs. Arman Tsarukyan
155 lbs.: Nasrat Haqparast vs. Arman Tsarukyan— SCRATCHED (details here)
185 lbs.: Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Brad Tavares
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Julianna Pena
205 lbs.: Marcin Prachnio vs. Khalil Rountree
UFC 257 Early Prelims Card On ESPN+ (7 p.m. ET):
150 lbs.: Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev
125 lbs.: Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 257 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 257: “McGregor vs. Poirier 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.