UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier 2 Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2021

UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier 2 Fight Card, TV Info, Predictions and More

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    A lot has changed in the six years since Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier first met in the UFC Octagon. The two will headline UFC 257 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. 

    The 2014 bout featured two featherweight contenders on the rise. It was McGregor's first appearance on a UFC pay-per-view, and the two fought before the co-main event. Fast-forward six years, and he is now the UFC's undisputed biggest draw. 

    Poirier has undergone a rise of his own. The loss to McGregor sparked a move up to lightweight from featherweight where he is now 10-2 with one no-contest in his last 13 fights. 

    It's a fight that is sure to draw big pay-per-view numbers and bring plenty of attention to UFC. 

    Another key lightweight fight is set as the co-main event. Michael Chandler will make his promotional debut against Dan Hooker in a fight that could have title implications. 

    Here's a look at the complete schedule and the biggest storylines heading into the event. 

Fight Card and Schedule

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    Jon Gambrell/Associated Press

    Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)

    • Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier

    • Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler

    • Joanne Calderwood vs. Jessica Eye

    • Amanda Ribas vs. Marina Rodriguez

    • Makhmud Muradov vs. Andrew Sanchez

    Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET)

    • Arman Tsarukyan vs. Matt Frevola

    • Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior

    • Sara McMann vs. Julianna Pena

    • Khalil Rountree vs. Marcin Prachnio

    Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass at 6:15 p.m. ET)

    • Movsar Evloev vs. Nik Lentz 

    • Zhalgas Zhumagulov vs. Amir Albazi 

Can Dustin Poirier Survive the Early Rounds?

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    Michael Zarrilli/Associated Press

    Conor McGregor is no stranger to finishing fights early. He holds several knockouts in under a minute, and the majority of his fights don't make it past the second stanza. 

    In fact, only three of McGregor's fights have made it to the third round and beyond: A fourth-round submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, a majority decision win over Nate Diaz in a five-round fight and a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway in three rounds. 

    The decision win against Holloway may be the most interesting of the three. McGregor established the early lead with his striking but actually turned to grappling in the third and final round to secure his victory, landing three takedowns and maintaining control for four minutes and 19 seconds of the five-minute round. 

    McGregor has landed just one takedown since that fight in 2013. 

    So, the burning question in this one is: What if Poirier makes it through the first two rounds?

    The Diamond's fights typically go beyond the second round, and he's only been finished early in one other fight, against Michael Johnson in 2016. 

    Poirier's toughness has been proved in wars with Dan Hooker (155 significant strikes absorbed) and Holloway (181 significant strikes absorbed). Those fights also showed his ability to fight well into the championship rounds. 

    If he survives the Irishman's opening onslaught, this bout becomes really interesting. 

    Prediction: Poirier via decision

Will Michael Chandler Transition Seamlessly to the UFC?

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The track record of stars from Bellator moving to the UFC is a spotty one. Hector Lombard, Alexander Volkov, Ben Askren and Eddie Alvarez have all made the move with varying results. 

    Lombard and Alvarez lost their UFC debuts. Justin Gaethje didn't come from Bellator but went 1-2 to start after leaving World Series of Fighting. Askren also went 1-2 before heading to retirement. 

    Volkov started off strong in the heavyweight division, though. He won his first four fights before going 2-2 in his last four. 

    Michael Chandler will become the latest big name from Bellator to make the jump. He is a three-time champion in Bellator and holds wins over Alvarez, Benson Henderson and Patricky Friere. 

    In Hooker, Chandler gets a game opponent, but not one who holds a ton of advantages over him. The 34-year-old is a power wrestler with knockout striking skills to boot. Hooker is a volume striker with Swiss cheese defense. 

    As long as Chandler fights up to his ability, this should be a strong debut for him. Hooker is coming off a loss to Poirier and a split-decision win over Paul Felder before that. He's going to stand and bang, but Chandler should be able to take care of business. 

    Prediction: Chandler via decision

Can Marina Rodriguez Negate Amanda Ribas' Wrestling?

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Outside of the main and co-main events, the strawweight fight between Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Ribas might be the most important fight of the evening. 

    The two ranked contenders have both made cases as exciting prospects who could break into the upper echelon. Rodriguez is a volume striker who sets a high pace that most have struggled to keep up with. Ribas is a smothering wrestler. 

    Rodriguez has faltered of late. Her striking skills haven't been enough, as she was taken down by Carla Esparza five times in a decision loss and three times by Cynthia Calvillo in a draw. 

    In short, this is a stylistic nightmare for Rodriguez. She should have an advantage on the feet, but unless she has made drastic changes to her takedown defense and grappling, this spells a long night for her. 

    Ribas is on a hot streak right now and should be fighting with plenty of confidence. She has scored at least one takedown in each of her last four fights and has a five-fight win streak going. 

    If Rodriguez pulls off the upset, she all of a sudden becomes a force to be reckoned with in the division. But the expectation is that Ribas continues her streak and should be fighting a top five opponent in the near future. 

    Prediction: Ribas via decision