Last night (Sat., Jan. 23, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) remained on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for UFC 257. There were some interesting fights throughout the card, but it’s impossible to bury this lede: UFC 257 was the return of Conor McGregor. Opposite top-ranked Lightweight contender and previous knockout victim, Dustin Poirier, McGregor looked to stake his claim for a Lightweight title shot.
Let’s take a closer look at the best performances and techniques:
Poirier Plays It Smart
Dustin Poirier can trade heavy punches with anyone. He proved it in his run to the interim Lightweight title, biting down on his mouthpiece and trading blows with proven bruisers in Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, only to emerge as the victor when the dust finally settled. That does not mean it would have been a good idea to trade punches with Conor McGregor.
Early on, things did not look great. Poirier was backing off, looking a touch uncomfortable, reacting to each of McGregor’s feints. The Irishman, meanwhile, can still unsling deadly punches with a fluidity seldom seen in MMA.
It all changed when Poirier did something brilliant: he shot a takedown. It wasn’t a beautiful one, but it put McGregor on his butt. He wasn’t then able to control “Notorious,” but it landed them in the clinch, where Poirier stalled through two of McGregor’s most dangerous minutes.
When the two separated, both were a little slow, but Poirier was measurably more comfortable. His calf kicks began to land. A check hook scored. Even as McGregor landed the better shots, Poirier’s confidence grew.
The momentum shifted fully soon into the second. The calf kicks added up quickly — note that McGregor, as a Southpaw, rarely has to deal with the strike and they were nowhere near as popular during his rise — and McGregor did not like it. Poirier landed a check hook after a calf kick, and McGregor backed off. Which strike hurt him? It’s hard to say, but it didn’t matter.
Poirier pursued, chasing his foe along the fence. Now confident that the man in front of him was only human, Poirier unleashed a flurry of big shots like he was faced with any other foe.
McGregor fell like the rest.
Lightweight’s Latest Star
Lightweight is not a division that really needed new contenders, yet Michael Chandler has arrived.
Dan Hooker had the range and counter strikes to really punish his foe’s lunges, and the odds makers favored him for that very reason. Chandler seemed aware of his foe’s strategy, yet early on, Hooker’s calf kicks were landing more often than Chandler’s body punches, though neither man seemed particularly phased.
Just before the knockout, one of Hooker’s low kicks seemed to bother Chandler’s lead leg.
That’s the beauty of knockout power and insane athleticism. Once Chandler’s lunging left hook connected to the jawline, nothing else mattered but that strike. Hooker has never really been put down by one shot before, not until he met the former Bellator Lightweight king.
Muradov Makes A Statement
Makhmud Muradov picked up his third straight victory inside the Octagon, announcing himself as a dark horse contender at 185 lbs.
Opposite Andrew Sanchez, Muradov was smart. He moved well and picked at the wrestler’s Karate-influenced stance, digging hard calf kicks at an impressive rate. His jab and range punches landed well too, and in general, Muradov was patient in breaking his foe down. By the middle of the second, however, Muradov was in control and no longer satisfied with simply winning the exchanges.
He wanted a knockout.
Muradov began to sling his overhand right in a wide and aggressive arc. It missed quite a few times, but when it did finally clip behind his foe’s ear in the third, Sanchez started dancing in a desperate attempt to regain his equilibrium. Muradov swarmed and scored the technical knockout finish, making the most of his high-profile opportunity.
Strawweight Stopping Power
Marina Rodriguez has been working hard for this moment.
Five fights into her UFC career, the Muay Thai striker had yet to score a stoppage. That wasn’t for lack of trying — Rodriguez always pursued the finish, prioritizing damage over all else, which actually cost her on the judges’ scorecards on a couple occasions. In the biggest showcase opportunity of her career against arguably her toughest opponent, Rodriguez made it happen.
Amanda Ribas took the first round with some smart grappling. She really stalked her opponent in order to find that takedown, however, and Rodriguez countered in the second with a stiff right hand plant counter. Ribas walked right into the strike, and Rodriguez ended up showing off her finishing instinct twice due to an odd circumstance involving a near stoppage from referee Herb Dean.
It’s a huge win for Rodriguez, one that should help push her into the title mix.
- Julianna Pena defeats Sara McMann via third-round rear naked choke: McMann was the better technical fighter in seemingly every area, and she took the first round without much issue. Pena is nothing if not persistent, however, and her combination of submission attacks from her back and small strikes at every opportunity slowly shifted the momentum to her side throughout the second round. In the third, Pena fully turned the tables with a big takedown, overwhelming her opponent on the mat to force the submission finish and return to the win column.
For complete UFC 257: “McGregor vs. Poirier” results and play-by-play, click HERE!