Who Should Conor McGregor Face Next After Losing to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257?

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2021

Who Should Conor McGregor Face Next After Losing to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257?

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    MMA superstar Conor McGregor returned to action for the first time in over a year on Saturday night, but the 32-year-old couldn't get the win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.

    McGregor's clever counterpunching and higher volume of connections seemed to be winning the fight in the first round, but Poirier's hard calf kicks started the trouble in the second, and the crafty American's scrappy boxing overwhelmed the Irishman for the knockout victory soon after. 

    Now the world turns its attention to what comes next. 

    Bleacher Report already has five potential fights lined up for McGregor in 2021. Read through our list below, and be sure to leave your own ideas in the comments.

5. Rafael Dos Anjos

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    Conor McGregor was already supposed to face Rafael dos Anjos back in 2016 at UFC 196, and the Irish superstar suggested via Twitter back in November that he would be happy to lock horns with the Brazilian in 2021.

    While it wouldn't quite be what it would have been back then, McGregor vs. dos Anjos does make some sense five years later.

    After all, dos Anjos re-established himself as a lightweight contender in 2020 after the 36-year-old's run at welterweight over the previous four years saw him go 4-4. Dos Anjos failed to score interim gold at 170 against Colby Covington in 2018, but the former lightweight king has proved to be tough against top-notch competition.

    After dropping back down to 155, dos Anjos defeated Paul Felder last year, and the former UFC lightweight champion looked strong enough in that outing to suggest he's still a serious threat at lightweight.

    McGregor vs. dos Anjos is a bout that was already supposed to happen, and securing the megafight five years later would give fans something they previously missed out on.

4. Michael Chandler

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    Michael Chandler, 34, is a three-time Bellator MMA champion who hopes to capture gold again now that he's finally in the UFC.

    Chandler defeated Dan Hooker in the co-main event of UFC 257 on Saturday night, so now he'll figure into the UFC's plans for securing megafights between its top divisional stars and the company's biggest promotional asset, McGregor.

    The American can bang with his fists, but what truly separates Chandler from the rest of the pack are his All-American wrestling skills.

    Chandler is a complete MMA fighter who has competed under various promotional banners all over the world. He's always believed he could beat the likes of McGregor and other top UFC stars, and now he'll be given the chance to prove it.

    McGregor vs. Chandler is a fight that was previously thought impossible due to Chandler's affiliation with Bellator, but now it's one of the most intriguing matchups to be made in the UFC.

3. Justin Gaethje

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    Justin Gaethje was on such a hot streak last year that he found himself in the unique position of having an epic choice to make in regards to facing either UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov or superstar Conor McGregor next.

    The 32-year-old bet on himself. Instead of taking the potentially bigger fight against the Irish superstar, Gaethje decided to try to wrestle away the 155-pound title from Nurmagomedov.

    But that didn't work out. Nurmagomedov submitted him in the second round at UFC 254, so Gaethje ended up missing out on sharing the cage with McGregor.

    Still, Gaethje remains a top contender at 155. The former UFC interim lightweight champ is one of the best strikers in the sport today, and many expect the potential McGregor vs. Gaethje matchup to be wondrous to behold as an action fight.

    "The Highlight" might be coming off a loss in his last bout, but he's still one of the top competitors in the division.

    McGregor vs. Gaethje could be the logical next step for both fighters as they seek redemption. 

2. Dan Hooker

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    Don't let his knockout loss at UFC 257 fool you. Dan Hooker is one of the most exciting strikers in the sport.

    Had "The Hangman" been able to topple Dustin Poirier last year in his five-round loss to the American, Hooker might have been the one to face McGregor at UFC 257 on Saturday night.

    Instead, the dangerous Kiwi kickboxer lost that night and eventually drew the short straw of welcoming Michael Chandler to the UFC ranks after the three-time Bellator champ signed with the company at the end of 2020.

    Hooker might have lost to Chandler on Saturday, but now he might be the perfect opponent for McGregor to face next. 

1. Nate Diaz

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    Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz fought twice in 2016, and each fighter scored a victory over the other. Both of those epic encounters remain listed among the best-selling UFC pay-per-view fights in history, and a third match is long overdue.

    In fact, that McGregor and Diaz haven't fought each other for the third time already to complete the trilogy is a little bit of a travesty. Part of that was probably that Diaz was competing in the welterweight division, and McGregor sees himself as a lightweight for the immediate future.

    But Diaz is reportedly now moving back down to 155 pounds, so there's seemingly almost no reason the third fight can't happen now.

    McGregor and Diaz remain extremely popular superstars, and both of their previous fights against each other were incredibly fun to watch.

    There's almost no better potential bout in combat sports right now than McGregor vs. Diaz 3. Moreover, now that both fighters are coming off losses, there's no reason to hold off on making the trilogy fight happen.