The stage is set for one of the biggest fights of the year in Abu Dhabi. UFC 257 is set to commence on Saturday night with a critical non-title lightweight main event atop the card. Former two-division champion Conor McGregor is back when he takes on Dustin Poirier in a rematch six years in the making.
McGregor and Poirier met in a 2014 featherweight bout, with McGregor scoring a knockout victory in less than two minutes. But much has changed since then. McGregor went on to conquer both the 145-pound and 155-pound titles before a foray into boxing with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Poirier, meanwhile, immediately moved up to lightweight where he ran his record to 10-2 and challenged for the title, but came up just short.
Despite champion Khabib Nurmagomedov declaring his retirement following a submission win over Justin Gaethje last October, UFC president Dana White has been insistent that he can get "The Eagle" to win once more. Because of that, the 155-pound title will not be on the line this week, making it all the more important for Poirier and McGregor, as well as the co-main event of former Bellator champ Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker as the fighters jockey for position atop the division.
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This event was also expected to see Ottman Azaitar take on Matt Frevola on the main card. However, Azaitar was removed from the event and later cut by UFC for violating the promotion's safety protocols on Fight Island. Azaitar and his team allegedly cut off their wristbands and handed them to strangers outside the bubble, who then taped them back together and entered the hotel by climbing over the balconies, according to Dana White. Frevola will instead take on Arman Tsarukyan on the prelims.
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 -650 vs. Matt Frevola +475, 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||Chandler||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.
Wise on why Ribas will win: While the historical data of women's bantamweight would suggest betting the fight to go the distance (happening at a 69.1% clip over 181 fights), Ribas is a bit different. She is coming off a demolition of Paige VanZant last July and boasts an impressive resume that's nearly equal across each type of victory. But Ribas is at her best in the grappling and ground games, where Rodriguez has just one win back in 2016. Her lone loss came in her most recent fight -- a split decision to Carla Esparza -- but she has yet to really pop off the screen in a big way and impress. Expect Ribas to take control early before getting the tap.
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.