The pay-per-view set to open the UFC calendar for 2021 goes down on Saturday night with UFC 257 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The sport’s biggest star heads back to the Octagon in the main event as Conor McGregor faces off with Dustin Poirier in a lightweight battle.
McGregor and Poirier met in a 2014 featherweight bout, with McGregor scoring a knockout victory in less than two minutes. Poirier is a different fighter than he was then, and McGregor has only fought at lightweight twice in the UFC. The UFC 257 clash also carries some extra weight as the lightweight division undergoes a major transformation in the wake of lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s apparent retirement.
This card got even more interesting on Friday during the weigh ins. Ottman Azaitar, who was scheduled to face Matt Frevola, never made it to the scale and was pulled from the event for what was described as a violation of the safety protocols. Dana White later revealed that Azaitar and his team cut off their resort wristbands and gave them to people outside the bubble, who then snuck into Azaitar’s room to drop off a bag. Azaitar was promptly released by UFC.
As a result, Frevola will now take on Makhmud Muradov, who was originally scheduled to face Nasrat Haqparast, but Haqparasat was not medically cleared to weigh in by officials.
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Beyond the hoopla surrounding Azaitar, there’s even more important action to be found on the undercard. Former Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler is set to make his promotional debut when he takes on Dan Hooker in the co-main event. Chandler held the Bellator belt on three different occasions and is widely considered one of the best success stories in promotional history. Now, he begins his attempt to claim UFC gold when he takes on the powerful kickboxer from New Zealand, who just lost a decision to Poirier last June in a Fight of the Year contender.
Let’s take a closer look at the complete fight card with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook before getting to our expert picks and predictions below.
UFC 257 fight card, odds
- Conor McGregor -340 vs. Dustin Poirier +275, lightweights
- Dan Hooker -140 vs. Michael Chandler +120, lightweights
- Joanne Calderwood -120 vs. Jessica Eye +100, women’s flyweights
- Amanda Ribas -330 vs. Marina Rodriguez +260, women’s strawweights
- Makhmud Muradov -140 vs. Andrew Sanchez +120, middleweights
- Arman Tsarukyan vs. Matt Frevola, lightweights
- Brad Tavares -125 vs. Antonio Carlos Junior +105, middleweights
- Sara McMann -130 vs. Julianna Pena +110, women’s bantamweights
- Khalil Rountree -330 vs. Marcin Prachnio +260, light heavyweights
- Movsar Evloev -575 vs. Nik Lentz +425, featherweights
- Zhalgas Zhumagulov -110 vs. Amir Albazi -110, flyweights
With such a massive main event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Matthew Coca (producer), Jack Crosby (editor) and Michael Mormile (producer).
UFC 257 picks, predictions
|McGregor vs. Poirier||McGregor||Poirier||McGregor||McGregor||McGregor|
|Hooker vs. Chandler||Hooker||Chandler||Hooker||Chandler||Hooker|
|Calderwood vs. Eye||Calderwood||Calderwood||Calderwood||Eye||Eye|
|Ribas vs. Rodriguez||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas||Ribas|
|Muradov vs. Sanchez||Muradov||Muradov||Muradov||Muradov||Muradov|
Campbell on why McGregor will win: The more things change, the more they still somewhat stay the same. Is Poirier the same fighter who was finished inside of one round by Poirier in 2014? No chance. He’s tougher, bigger, more experienced and not a threat to crumble mentally like he did in the face of McGregor’s mental warfare. But even though Poirier has a much better chance to win in the rematch, McGregor’s greatest strength is still a major threat to Poirier’s chin early in this fight. Few in history have had the combination of speed, power and precision in their striking game as McGregor. Look for him to work harder, absorb more damage but still come out with the same result.
Brookhouse on why Poirier will win: Poirier is not only a better fighter than he was in the first fight with McGregor, he’s also a smarter fighter. Fighting McGregor means surviving early flurries, and doing that requires a combination of toughness and smarts that Poirier possesses. McGregor has lost when he’s been pushed deeper into fights and had opponents meet his pace, wearing him down and creating openings. Poirier has the ability to do that. McGregor absolutely could show up and blast through Poirier, he really is that good, but Poirier also has the right combination of skills to pull off the upset.
Campbell on why Hooker will win: This fight has the potential to be an absolute war and given the stakes, there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t get there. The problem for Chandler is that he’s more vulnerable to heavy damage and is facing a bigger and more precise foe who is willing to swim in as deep of water as Chandler can drag him too. Provided Hooker can find a way to keep his back off the canvas for long stretches, this is his fight to win and Chandler will likely force Hooker to score a finish to do so.
Brookhouse on why Chandler will win: Hooker is a big, skilled striker and that has been Chandler’s undoing in the past. Much of this fight comes down to whether or not Chandler can mix up his striking and wrestling effectively enough to keep Hooker uncomfortable and ineffective. Hooker has very good takedown defense, but even the threat of getting taken down can make him hesitate to let his strikes go freely. If Chandler can control the pace and score some takedowns to keep Hooker from getting into a rhythm, he’s going to have a successful UFC debut.
Who will win McGregor vs. Poirier 2, and how will each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on every fight at UFC 257, all from the incomparable expert who’s up more than $22,000 on MMA in the past 23 months, and find out.