UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier 2 Preview

A preview of Saturday’s UFC 257 card, set to take place on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 • 7:30 AM ET

Conor McGregor is seeking a rematch with a different familiar foe.

The UFC will host its first pay-per-view event of 2021 in Abu Dhabi this Saturday, as UFC 257 will feature a main event rematch in the lightweight division between former interim champion Dustin Poirier and former double-champion Conor McGregor.

Coming off a gritty, unanimous decision win over Dan Hooker in June, Poirier is 5-1 in his last six fights. His only loss in that span came to champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title at UFC 242 in September 2019. Poirier is arguably one of the UFC’s most successful fighters over the last three years, and a win over McGregor would certainly add an entirely new shine to his name.

In just under two minutes, McGregor easily defeated Poirier in their first fight at UFC 178 in September 2014. Neither fighter, however, is the same as they were six years ago. An argument can be made that Poirier has progressed even more than McGregor since their last bout, simply because he has been the more active and successful fighter when looking at wins and losses.

Including Hooker, Poirier has key wins in his career over Max Holloway (twice), Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis, Jim Miller, Bobby Green, Yancy Medeiros and Diego Brandao. Although McGregor defeated Poirier in their first fight, the 32-year-old Poirier won’t be seeking retribution on Saturday.

“It’s not about revenge and payback,” Poirier told MMA Junkie on Monday. “It’s about prosperity, about putting my family in position to be successful. It’s about raising awareness to (The Good Fight) Foundation and helping bring awareness to people in need. It’s a lot of things. It’s about being the world champion. It’s about getting closer to that title. But it’s not about revenge. It’s about work and grind. That’s what it’s about: success.”

Obviously, Poirier is aware that McGregor is a fast starter.

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“When we’re dry early, he has all the pop and the spring still in his step,” Poirier said. “(He’s) very dangerous. Good thing it’s a 25-minute fight, and I feel like I’ve matured and developed my skills enough to be in the right moments and take the right chances and not put myself in harm’s way right off the bat.”

Coming off a first-round TKO of Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 a year ago, McGregor is the most popular fighter in MMA history. The bout with Cerrone was his first fight in nearly two years and only his second since winning the lightweight title at UFC 205 in 2016. McGregor, however, did go 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in 2017.

McGregor went four rounds in a loss to Nurmagomedov for the title in 2018; and due to less activity, he has taken significantly less damage than Poirier in the cage. The lightweight title, though, has been in limbo since Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in October.

Many pundits believe the winner of McGregor vs. Poirier 2 will fight for a title. Win or lose on Saturday, though, McGregor thinks he may see Nurmagomedov in the Octagon again.

“I don’t really care,” McGregor told reporters at the UFC 257 pre-fight press conference on Thursday. “He did not say (he needed something spectacular) – Dana said that. Let’s just get through the fight. All these men are up here. There’s plenty of challenges, and it’s a tough business. Things have gone on in his personal life. I don’t wish him any harm. It was in 2018 (we fought). A lot of time has passed. The world knows this fight is not over. This war is not over. This sport needs it to happen. The people need it to happen. I’m not going to chase it if he doesn’t want it. That’s it. I’ll keep my calm and move on. I’m back here at the 155-pound division. I’ll show the world what’s what over time.”

McGregor also believes the UFC could eventually strip Nurmagomedov of the title.

"I would make the case, if that man is continuing to dodge this and dodge the commitment of competing again, the title should be stripped and [Poirier and I] should be engaging in a title fight," McGregor said. "But I'm sure it will happen after this bout. I'm interested to hear the excuses or what will be said after the fight. But I predict a title strip."

Including Poirier and Cerrone, McGregor has key wins over Eddie Alvarez, Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Brandao and Holloway. The 32-year-old Irishman was the first to achieve double-champ status in UFC history, holding the featherweight and lightweight belts simultaneously, but he never defended either title.

McGregor is also the only fighter to ever produce KO or TKO finishes in three different weight classes. He’s the definition of box office, as he has generated more than nine million pay-per-view sales in the UFC, and his boxing match with Mayweather received more than four million pay per view buys.

Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will also be in the lightweight division, as No. 6 Dan Hooker will face former Bellator champion and UFC newcomer Michael Chandler.

Hooker will try to rebound from the unanimous decision loss to Poirier in June. The loss ended Hooker’s three-fight winning streak, during which he defeated Paul Felder, Al Iaquinta and James Vick. Attempting to get back into title contention, the 30-year-old Hooker also has key wins over Gilbert Burns and Jim Miller. He has spoken highly of Chandler ahead of their fight.

“I’d never watched a Michael Chandler fight,” Hooker said during a pre-fight scrum. “I definitely knew who he was and what he’d achieved inside of Bellator. I knew he was a champ, I’d seen highlight reels — the Eddie Alvarez war, but not really studied him or watched any fights. Once I did, as I say, I learned where that respect came from and that hype and that excitement around him. It’s definitely warranted, I believe like his third fight of his career was in Bellator, and he’s been fighting there ever since. So that’s a high level, he’s been fighting world-class lightweights for a lot longer than a lot of other people in this sport.”

Hooker believes he could be in line for a big fight if he wins impressively on Saturday.

“That’s like in the back of my head, what is going to come from this,” Hooker told MMA Junkie. “But I definitely know that something big is going to come from this, because it’s high risk and this is the sport of people that take the risks get the rewards. They went down the list trying to find an opponent for Chandler. No one wanted to take the risk, and this is the way this sport works: You take the risk. I flew over here. I’m fighting the unknown fighter. I’m taking the risk, so that warrants getting the reward for that, right? Whatever that may be.”

Chandler is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion and last fought against former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in August, winning by first-round knockout. Chandler also has a submission victory over former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.

The 34-year-old seems focused heading into the fight with Hooker.

“This is the toughest competition that I will ever have to face in my entire life,” Chandler said. “But when you look at my resume, when you look at my track record, guys like Eddie Alvarez, guys like Benson Henderson — these are champions that were here in the UFC. Granted, it was a couple of years later. But I’ve been competing at a high level since I was 14 years old. I’ve been dreaming of this day just in case it ever did come, and now I’m fully prepared to take the opportunity head on. All these guys are the best in the world, and the UFC lightweight division is the most hyped, the most electrified, most energetic division in the UFC today. It was a perfect time to insert my name into the mix.”

 

The rest of the main card on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST

Women’s flyweight bout - No. 6 Jessica Eye vs. No. 7 Joanne Calderwood

Lightweight bout - Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar

Women’s strawweight bout - No. 8 Marina Rodriguez vs. No. 10 Amanda Ribas

 

Prelims on ESPN at 8 p.m. EST

Lightweight bout - Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast

Middleweight bout - No. 14 Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior

Women’s bantamweight bout - No. 7 Julianna Pena vs. No. 9 Sara McMann

Light heavyweight bout - Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio

 

Early Prelims on UFC Fight Pass at 6:15 p.m. EST

Middleweight bout - Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov

Catchweight bout (150 pounds) - Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev

Flyweight bout - No. 15 Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov

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