Six years after Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier first met in the Octagon, the two will square off for a second time at UFC 257 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Headlining the first UFC pay-per-view event of 2021, McGregor will make his return after a full year away from the company, setting the tone for what could be a busy year for the promotion’s lightweight division.
Adding to the intrigue is a declaration from seemingly-retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who, according to UFC president Dana White, would be interested in returning to the cage if UFC 257’s lightweight contenders can show him something “spectacular.”
With a star-studded main event, and an underrated co-main between Dan Hooker and Michael Chandler, this card promises to bring some fireworks to get the UFC’s 2021 schedule started on the right foot.
So, whether you’re a seasoned MMA veteran, a first-time fight fan, or if you fall somewhere in between, we’ve got the perfect guide for you to prepare you for UFC 257.
Lightweight main event: Dustin Poirier (2) vs. Conor McGregor (4)
UFC fans are in for quite the treat with this one. A rematch six years after one of Conor McGregor’s signature wins, coming as the Irishman returns from more than a year away from the Octagon.
While the attention will be focused on McGregor, fans will get to see the new and improved Poirier, who has turned into a household name in the lightweight division since his last fight with McGregor in 2014.
He has taken down a who’s who in the division throughout his career, including Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis and Dan Hooker, and has battles with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Max Holloway and more on his resume.
It’s the perfect non-title main event that the UFC needs at the moment, giving McGregor a skilled striker for a top-tier opponent, and giving Poirier a massive fight that he has earned after a long and successful career.
It’s a bout with a lot of history from a fighting perspective, let alone after the trials and tribulations in 2020. As long as it goes off without a hitch and McGregor takes it all seriously, it could go down as one of the best fights in UFC history.
Lightweight bout: Dan Hooker (6) vs. Michael Chandler
There’s a reason that Dana White didn’t just say UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was interested in the winner of the main event between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.
The UFC’s lightweight division is loaded as 2021 gets underway, and two of the classes’ best will do battle in UFC 257’s co-main before McGregor and Poirier take center stage.
Sixth-ranked Dan Hooker will look to cement himself in the division’s top five, while MMA veteran Michael Chandler will make his debut in the Octagon after serving as an “alternate” of sorts for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title defense against Justin Gaethje a few months prior.
Hooker and Poirier put arguably the fight of the year in June of 2020, one that will likely go down as one of the COVID-19 era’s best despite the lack of fans in attendance. While Hooker didn’t pick up the win, he looked like a star throughout the five-round war, and could insert himself back into the title picture with a win at UFC 257.
Meanwhile, UFC fans will get their first glimpse at Chandler, who actually has a more recent fight on his record than Hooker does, despite the lack of action in the Octagon. Coming off a win over Benson Henderson at Bellator 243 that moved him to 21-5 in his career, Chandler will look to continue a two-fight win streak and improve upon a 9-2 stretch in his last 11 fights.
If Hooker or Chandler does something “spectacular” like Nurmagomedov asked, this one could serve as a true taking-off point for either fighter as they look to make some noise in 2021.
Women’s flyweight bout: Jessica Eye (6) vs. Joanne Calderwood (7)
In the third fight on the UFC 257 main card, fans will bear witness to a bout with lots of bad blood surrounding it, as the sixth-ranked Jessica Eye and seventh-ranked Joanne Calderwood go to war in the women’s flyweight division.
The two fighters have plenty of history heading into the fight, as Calderwood threw some verbal jabs at Eye back in June of 2020 after the latter missed weight for the second straight time.
Calderwood accused Eye of actually clocking in four pounds overweight for the fight, and cheating the scales to make it seem like a closer weight cut than it actually was.
Combine the personal drama with each fighter’s status as a former flyweight championship challenger, and this one will surely provide some entertainment before the lightweight chaos at the top of the card.
Lightweight bout: Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar
Editor’s note: The bout between Matt Frevola and Ottman Azaitar has been canceled after a violation of health and safety protocols led to Azaitar’s release from the UFC. Azaitar has been replaced by Arman Tsarukyan
Yes, all of the attention will be centered around the four lightweights at the top of UFC 257’s main card. But, don’t count out two of the division’s up-and-coming prospects as they step into the Octagon for the main card’s second bout.
The 8-1-1 Frevola, nicknamed “The Steamrolla,” will step into the cage to take on a 13-0 Moroccan by the name of Ottman Azaitar, more simply known as the “Bulldozer.”
With just a one-inch height difference and no reach advantage, these two fighters may look incredibly similar at first glance when they show up on your screen on January 23. But, the two could not be more different when the clock starts in the Octagon.
While Frevola has finished most of his fights by submission or taken them to a decision, Azaitar has kept things short and sweet with a 77-percent finish rate. And, while Frevola’s fights average around eight minutes, Azaitar’s clock in right around three minutes and 30 seconds.
The clash of styles and the overall talent between the two fighters will allow this to be a perfect matchup for any level of fan to enjoy, and arguably make this the most underrated fight on the entire card.
Women’s strawweight bout: Marina Rodriguez (8) vs. Amanda Ribas (9)
Kicking off UFC 257 in style, two top-10 contenders in the women’s strawweight division will do battle in an effort to propel themselves towards the top five on one of the UFC’s biggest cards of the year.
The 12-1-2 Marina Rodriguez will look to avenge a loss in her last fight against Carla Esparza at UFC Fight Night 174 last July, the first defeat of her MMA career.
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Meanwhile, the 10-1 Amanda Ribas may be familiar to fight fans after an impressive, first-round submission victory against Paige VanZant a few weeks prior to Rodriguez’ loss, and a corresponding, wholesome post-fight interview that turned her into a fan favorite. She will look to capitalize on the momentum created by her last bout, and will hope to catapult herself into the title shot conversation with another big win.
These two Brazilians will be walking in with something to prove on January 23, but they will need to bring a bit more intensity than their respective average fight times (15:00 for Rodriguez and 12:23 for Ribas) indicate if they want to get UFC 257 going on the right foot.
UFC 257 will stream live from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi on January 23, 2021 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Early preliminary fights will begin at 6:15 p.m. ET on ESPN+, while the main prelims will start at 8 p.m. ET. on ESPN and ESPN+.