UFC 257 takes place tomorrow night on Fight Island and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
This seemed like a great match-up the first time it was put together back in 2014, so after that one ended rather quickly it’s good to see that it’s finally happening again.
Despite his swift TKO loss on that occasion, Poirier was a very good fighter back then, and he’s even better now, and appears to be at his best at lightweight rather than featherweight where their original encounter took place.
Poirier is a skilled technical boxer with quick hands, well put together combinations and great cardio, while he is comfortable mixing things up on the mat too.
As good as Poirier is though, I do still believe that McGregor has something extra in his striking arsenal. Of course part of that is his natural knockout power, but there’s also something special about his timing and ability to pick out the right strike at the right moment in the heat of battle, and he’s sharp on the counter.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens if McGregor can’t find a finish in the early rounds though as cardio has been an issue for him in the past, and if Poirier mixes in grappling with his striking then that could further deplete the Irish superstar’s gas tank.
So Poirier has a real chance here, but he can be hurt and McGregor’s already proved that before, and with his striking ability I think he’ll do so again on Saturday night, though it’ll likely take him longer than the first time, giving fans more of a chance to savor this high-level striking battle.
Pick: Conor McGregor wins by TKO in Rd2.
Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler
It’s been a long time coming, but at 34-years-old, one of Bellator’s best homegrown talents, Chandler, finally makes his way to the UFC.
A decorated champion during his many years over at Bellator, Chandler was also known for his exciting fights and he’s proven he can do well against UFC caliber opposition, defeating the likes of Eddie Alvarez and Ben Henderson there.
Chandler is a hard-hitting striker who also has very good wrestling, punishing ground-and-pound and can finish by submission too, but he has been in a lot of wars at this stage in his career and there’s been multiple occasions where he’s been rocked, while he’s also suffered a handful of TKO losses.
With that in mind, the No.6 ranked Hooker will feel he can give Chandler problems on the feet as he’s a dangerous striker and also has a major 4″ height and 6″ reach advantage here in addition to having a more versatile array of weapons at his disposal, making full use of all eight limbs while on the attack.
Hooker has also proven to be more durable than Chandler and is four years younger, but he too has been in some brutal battles, not least his instant classic fight with Poirier last year, and that’s going to catch up with him at some stage.
For the most part Hooker can handle himself on the mat, but it does feel like Chandler will have the wrestling edge, so he’ll be hoping to keep him at bay from range and threaten with potentially fight-ending knees if he swoops in for takedowns.
I’ve gone back-and-forth with this pick. The more Chandler uses his wrestling the more chance he has of winning, but he’s looking to make a statement in his first UFC fight after waiting so long for this opportunity and so I think he might over-engage with Hooker on the feet and will find him a tough nut to crack, leading to a second round Hooker TKO victory.
Pick: Dan Hooker wins by TKO in Rd2.
Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood
Eye has already had a title opportunity at flyweight, while Calderwood came very close to securing one herself not so long ago, so this fight gives both a potential platform to push back up towards title contention again.
Eye has definitely made more of an impact in this division than at bantamweight, making the most of her technical boxing, good speed and solid defensive skills.
Calderwood has a broader offensive arsenal though thanks to her muay thai background, so she’ll smoothly transition between kicks and punches from range, effective knees and elbows at closer range and the occasional spinning attack thrown in for good measure.
Eye may have a slight advantage in the wrestling, but I think this is a fight that’ll likely be closely fought on the feet and I wouldn’t expect to see a stoppage, with Calderwood instead making more use of her offensive arsenal to edge out a decision victory.
Pick: Joanne Calderwood wins by decision.
Ottman Azaitar vs. Matt Frevola
Azaitar is an intimidating opponent when you consider the fact that in his 13 fight career to date, he’s finished all but one of them inside the distance, and the vast majority of those by either TKO or KO.
A former Contender Series recruit, Frevola is coming off back-to-back wins and he can strike, but would be well advised to try to utilize his wrestling instead as he’s not wielding the same kind of firepower as ‘Bulldozer’.
If Frevola can get some early takedowns and wear Azaitar down then he has a path to victory, but I think Azaitar’s powerful blows may well cause him problems early in the fight, leading to a TKO stoppage inside the first five minutes.
Pick: Ottman Azaitar wins by TKO in Rd1.
Amanda Ribas vs. Marina Rodriguez
Ribas is definitely on the fastest rising stars on the female UFC roster heading into 2020 after shining in the Octagon with four wins in a row to date.
Rodriguez doesn’t have the same fanfare and is actually coming off a draw and a loss, but given that was a majority draw against Cynthia Calvillo and split decision loss to Carla Esparza, that doesn’t seem so bad.
Rodriguez has very good striking, keeps a high output and mixes up her attacks nicely and keeps a good pace.
However, Rodriguez’s takedown defense is a weak point and that will be important for Ribas, who can handle herself to some extent on the feet here, but is undoubtedly at her best on the mat, and with her grappling ability, once she’s got the fight there I think it’s only a matter of time before she’s able to deliver a submission finish.
Pick: Amanda Ribas wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Nasrat Haqparast vs. Arman Tsarukyan
Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Julianna Pena vs. Sara McMann
Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov
Khalil Rountree vs. Marcin Prachnio
Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev
Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov