The UFC is back in action, as Fight Island plays host to the third and final leg of the triple-header this week. Headlining the card is the former Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier and the former double Champion Conor McGregor. While all eyes are on the Irishman, it’s Poirier who seeks to exact revenge over six years later. A fight in which saw McGregor crumble Poirier in the opening frame. However, since then, both men have evolved and accomplished so much. While this rematch can go whichever way, I believe we all feel that if it ends early, McGregor most likely won. If it goes the distance, Poirier most likely withstood the early onslaught and won the decision. However, a fights a fight and with this one, you never know. So don’t blink!Embed from Getty Images
UFC 257 Main card (ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET)
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor – This fight is going to be wild. The first encounter between the two, saw McGregor knock Poirier out. While the loss weighed heavy on Poirier, it also was perhaps the best thing to happen to him. It forced Poirier to move back up to Lightweight, a division in which he could come into the fight healthier and less drained from the weight cut. The move proved to be smart, as Poirier has a 10-2 record with one no contest in the thirteen fights since moving up. In the process, Poirier became the Interim Lightweight champion and has beaten the likes of Eddie Alverez, Justin Gaethje, Dan Hooker and Max Holloway. You can say what you want, but Poirier has had a legendary career thus far and can add to it with a McGregor victory.
As for the Notorious one, this will be the first time he’s fought in a little over a year and only his third UFC fight in more than four years. The lack of activity is concerning, however McGregor keeps talking about being more active. I guess we’ll see, but don’t hold your breath. Regardless, McGregor is one of the best fighters on the roster. His dynamic striking and sheer power alone are a tall task for anyone to deal with. While his cardio is concerning at times and sure can be a downfall, the notion that he has no ground game is a fallacy. McGregor did well against Khabib Nurmagomedov, and I’m certain that if anyone else on the roster tested him – we’d see him shine with his sneaky good ground abilities.
As for a prediction, I’m predicting a first-round knockout victory for McGregor. This is not a knock on Poirier, who has shown exceptional durability. If anyone called him ‘chinny’ heading into this bout, they’d be dead wrong. Whether fighting five round wars against exceptional strikers or just wars in general against fearsome knockout artist, Poirier has stood tall and eaten it all. Only Michael Johnson back in 2016 can lay claim to knocking Poirier out since the McGregor fight. Anyways, I feel that the dynamic striking of McGregor is going to come through. Whether it being a head kick of some sort that stuns Dustin or that piston of a left hand – the Irishman is going to walk away the winner via knockout.Embed from Getty Images
Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler – I’m excited for Chandler’s UFC debut, but at the same time, I wish it came sooner. At 34 years old, there isn’t a whole lot of fights left on the docket. However, he’s here and has to deal with Hooker – one of the best Lightweights on the planet. I truly believe that Hooker is a nightmare matchup for any fighter. Throw in the fact that this is a three round fight and cardio isn’t going to be a concern. My head is telling me that Hooker, who is the more dynamic striker, realistically should knock Chandler out. The Kiwi throws one of the nastiest step-in knees, which could very well put a halt to Chandler’s wrestling. Yet, it’s that wrestling that keeps pulling me to believe in Chandler. It’s something that Hooker has rarely faced thus far in his career. I mean, Al Iaquinta, Jim Miller and Gilbert Burns are the only real wrestlers he’s faced. None of them are collegiate Division one standouts like Chandler.
In a fight that has a lot of variables, I’m going to ultimately side with Chandler via decision. He’s got the wrestling advantage, which alone could win him the fight. It also could have Hooker thinking takedown, which will lower his hands and give Chandler the ability to land some of the bombs he throws. Again though, should Hooker show stout takedown defense, this could get real dicey for Chandler. Hooker is the more dynamic striker and the sheer reach advantage makes him even more dangerous.
Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood – This realistically should be a close fight, but I have Calderwood winning. She’s the more well rounded fighter and has the clearer routes to winning this fight. For one, on the feet, Calderwood almost doubles Eye in significant strikes per minute. That alone could aide her to victory. Throw in the wrestling abilities of Calderwood and lack thereof takedown defense of Eye, and there’s another route. The one thing that has plagued Calderwood, is grapplers whom are submission threats from anywhere. Eye is not that, she’s a pure boxer at trade. So with that, give me Calderwood to win via decision.
Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov – This is a tough fight to predict. Muradov enters this bout on a 13-fight win streak and holds a few distinctive advantages – being that of striking, durability and cardio. Meanwhile, Sanchez holds advantages in wrestling and UFC experience. The problem with Sanchez though, is that he has a notoriously iffy gas tank. One in which has cost him two fights. Of late, it’s been much better – yet it still has to be concern. While I do feel that Sanchez’s wrestling advantage will get him the nod here, I also believe that a third-round knockout by Muradov is very much in play should Sanchez tire. Anyways, like I said, I have Sanchez winning via decision.Embed from Getty Images
Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas – While this is a fun clash between two rising contenders in the Women’s Strawweight division, it’s also one in which there is glaring strength and weakness that will dictate this fight. Rodriguez is an exceptional striker, but has shown iffy takedown defense in her last two fights. Ribas, who is well rounded and physically strong, has shown an exceptional ability to get the fight to the mat. While Ribas has legit striking, the route to victory is less cloudy should she choose to take Rodriguez down. And while Rodriguez keeps trying to goat her into a striking contest in every interview, Ribas is smart and will fight to win. I expect a healthy dose of takedowns and lot’s of ground-and-pound – leading to a decision victory for Ribas.
UFC 257 Prelim’s (ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET)
Catchweight 160 lbs.: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Matt Frevola – I understand the talent of Tsarukyan, but the odds seem absurd for a fight that was literally scheduled after the weigh-ins. With a limited game plan, I feel that this fight is more open to surprises. While Tsarukyan is the more well rounded and talented fighter, I’m actually siding with Frevola to edge out what I see being a dog fight. On the feet, Tsarukyan is the more dynamic and considerably better striker of the two. However, when it comes to wrestling and grappling, it’s anyone’s ballgame. And quite frankly, I expect Frevola to push a heavy wrestling attack in this fight – especially considering that Tsarukyan missed weight. The potential for cardio concerns is extenuated and depending on the pace, it could come sooner than later. So with that, I’m going with the huge underdog Frevola to win via decision.
185 lbs.: Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior – If ACJ is going to win this fight, he’s got to take down Tavares and early. Should Tavares resist ACJ’s grappling, it’s going to be a long night for the Brazilian. While he has serviceable striking, his gas tank is just awful. Depending on how much ACJ struggles to get the fight down to the mat, dictates what round he will be gassed by. In my opinion, it’s going to be early. Tavares has solid takedown defense, as the man’s lower base is that of an ox. In Tavares’s last nine fights, he’s defended 33 of the 38 takedowns attempted on him. That’s an 86.8% takedown defense. So with that, give me Tavares to finish a tired ACJ via TKO in the third-round.
135 lbs.: Julianna Pena vs. Sara McMann – I like Pena in this fight. I feel that while McMann has the biggest advantage in this fight, being that of her wrestling, her poor fight IQ is just too tough to ignore. The lapses while in dominant positions, that have lead to submission losses are just brutal. Throw in the fact that McMann is 40 years old and has fought one time in nearly three years – and I envision this being too tall of a task. I can see McMann winning the opening round, but as the fight goes on and the cardio wanes – a mistake will open itself to a finish via Pena. I’m calling submission.Embed from Getty Images
205 lbs.: Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio – This fight isn’t going last long, as you have two knockout artist who live by the sword and die by it. Prachnio is 0-3 in the UFC, having been knocked out in the first round in all three fights. Rountree Jr. has been a mixed bag, but he has four UFC wins and three have come via knockout. In all honesty, this is Rountree Jr’s fight to lose. He’s a way better striker and Prachnio’s chin is just absurdly bad. Expect a first round knockout victory for Rountree Jr.
UFC 257 Early Prelim’s (ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET)
145 lbs.: Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev – This is a tough fight for Lentz, who’s outgunned here. Evloev is just so well rounded that he’s going to dictate where he wants this fight and pretty much dominate Lentz from bell to bell. Perhaps a late finish is possible, but Lentz is durable enough to last all three. So with that, give me Evloev to win via decision.
125 lbs.: Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov – This is an intriguing Flyweight bout and an excellent fight to start the card. I believe that if Albazi can have success with his grappling, he can grind out a victory. However, if Zhumagulov can shrug off the grappling attempts, he should be able to outpoint Albazi on the feet. While Albazi is the one who had the successful debut, it’s Zhumagulov I’m siding with. I’m pretty high on the Kazakh, as he’s fought and beaten tough opponents outside the UFC. It’s only a matter of time before he makes a run in the UFC. As for this fight, I see a decision victory.