Though we're still navigating through a global pandemic and without access to the usual levels of roaring crowds, there's nothing quite like a Conor McGregor fight week. The Irish combat superstar will make his return on Saturday when he rematches Dustin Poirier in the lightweight main event of UFC 257 from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
The battle is important for the future of the lightweight division as the championship remains in flux. UFC president Dana White insists that he will get Khabib Nurmagomedov to fight one more time, but the champion has remained firm on his stance to retire after his win in October and the death of his father.
Plus, 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 look at every fight on the main card, which streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view. All odds are provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Amanda Ribas -310 vs. Marina Rodriguez +250, women's strawweights: Ribas (10-1) will enter the Octagon as the heavy favorite against Rodriguez (12-1-2), and it's not hard to understand why. Ribas is on the best run of her professional career, riding a five-fight win streak that includes wins over Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos and Paige VanZant in her three most recent fights. Ribas is also a finisher, having only seen the judges' scorecards in three of her 11 career fights. Rodriguez has never been stopped, but after winning her first 10 fights, she has struggled to find consistency against stiffer competition. In her five most recent fights, Rodriguez has wins over Tecia Torres and Jessica Aguilar, but also has a pair of draws as well as a loss in her most recent fight, a split decision defeat to Carla Esparza. Ribas will likely be looking to take the fight to the ground where she has proven to be the more dangerous of the two fighters, with four submission victories to Rodriguez's one.
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Ottman Azaitar -155 vs. Matt Frevola +130, lightweights: Azaitar (13-0) has been impressive to this point in his professional career, but really made a statement in his first two trips to the Octagon. He picked up wins over Teemu Packalen and Khama Worthy, both by knockout and both in the first round. That ran Azaitar's career knockout total to 10. Only one fighter has been able to take Azaitar to the scorecards. Frevola (8-1-1) has more UFC experience with four trips to the Octagon -- along with an appearance on Dana White's Contender Series -- on his resume. Frevola was finished in one minute by Polo Reyes in his UFC debut, but has rebounded by battling Lando Vannata to a draw and then picking up a pair of decision victories. Frevola is not as dangerous of a finisher as Azaitar, having only finished half of his eight wins.
Joanne Calderwood -120 vs. Jessica Eye +100, women's flyweight: Calderwood (14-5) is coming off the disastrous decision to not wait for an already booked fight with flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko after the champ withdrew from their original date. Calderwood instead chose to take a stay busy fight against Jennifer Maia and was blown out, losing by armbar in the first round. She will now have to battle former title contender Eye (15-8) to try to work her way back to a position to fight for the belt. After starting her UFC career 1-5, Eye moved to the flyweight division and gave her career new life. She won three straight to earn a shot at Shevchenko. Eye suffered a brutal knockout in that fight and has gone 1-1 since. This fight will likely go the distance as Calderwood and Eye have a combined 10 stoppage wins in 29 victories.
Dan Hooker -120 vs. Michael Chandler +100, lightweights: Hooker (20-9) has emerged as a top contender in the lightweight division by steadily improving in each outing. The Kiwi has rebounded from losses and shown toughness in fights such as his most recent outing, a Fight of the Year contender with Dustin Poirier that he lost but landed and survived massive strikes throughout. With 17 of 20 wins coming by stoppage, Hooker is a threat to finish any fight at any moment, a valuable skillset in a deep, dangerous division. Chandler (21-5) will be making his UFC debut, but has competed in big fights before, having held the Bellator lightweight championship three times and holding wins over former UFC lightweight champions Eddie Alvarez and Benson Henderson. Like Hooker, Chandler is a finisher, with 16 stoppage wins in 21 career victories, making this a potential Fight of the Night on paper while also moving one man closer to a potential title shot.
Conor McGregor -330 vs. Dustin Poirier +260, lightweights: McGregor (22-4) didn't get to be a superstar on personality and trash talk alone. He has true elite skills as a striker, and very few men have been able to push him into deep waters to test his cardio or take him to the mat to expose his questionable grappling skills. One of the biggest questions coming into the fight is how McGregor will handle moving back to lightweight. He has not fought at the weight since being dominated by Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018 and has not won at lightweight since November 2016 -- which was also his only lightweight victory in the UFC. McGregor did show he is still an explosive finisher in his return to the Octagon last year, when he finished Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds in a welterweight clash.
Poirier (26-6) has come a long way since the first fight with McGregor. Returning to lightweight has been just one part of Poirier putting the pieces together to become the fighter he always had the potential to be. Poirier is 6-1 since 2017, the lone loss coming to Nurmagomedov. In that same span, McGregor is 1-1. Poirier's activity and comfort at lightweight may be a boost to his chances in the rematch with McGregor. But the improvement in Poirier's mental game is also important as he has stressed his maturation as a human being in recent years, stating he learned how to get out of his own head to step up his game overall.
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.