The first card of 2021 starts off with a bang. We have Conor McGregor returning to the octagon to face Dustin Poirier in a rematch five years in the making. Let’s get into the predictions.
Marina Rodriguez vs Amanda Ribas – Strawweight Division
Marina Rodriguez comes into this bout 2-1-2 in the UFC. She’s an excellent muay thai striker who outside the UFC had a brilliant finishing record, yet since stepping into the UFC she has struggled to finish opponents. As I mentioned, her muay thai is brilliant, however, her biggest issue is that she isn’t that good elsewhere. Her takedown defence is weak and that has been her biggest downfall in her loss and draws as in rounds that she is taken down in, she loses them 10-8. Ribas is undefeated in the UFC at 4-0. Currently on a 5 fight win streak, her talent lies in her BJJ. All of Amanda’s opponents so far have struggled to prevent her from taking them down and I expect the same in this fight. Rodriguez would have to show vast amounts of improvement from her last fight in July and I simply don’t expect that to happen. I’m taking Ribas by submission in round 2.
Matt Frevola vs Ottman Azaitar – Lightweight Division
Ottman is making his 3rd appearance in the UFC and is currently undefeated in his MMA career so far. This man has scary power. He fights at a high intensity and has a good boxing game. Matt Frevola is 8-1-1 in his career so far and is a primarily a wrestler. Matt can stand and bang if needs be but as of late he has gone back to his roots. Matt definitely has the ability to wrestle with Ottman but I feel as if the Moroccan will add another KO to his list and continue rising up the ranks in the lightweight division. I’m going with Ottman Azaitar in round 1.
Jessica Eye vs Joanne Calderwood – Women’s Flyweight
Eye comes into this fight 15-8 in her career so far. In my opinion she’s just alright everywhere. I wouldn’t really say her she excels in her stand up or her ground game. She has heart to be fair and that helped her get through that massive losing streak she has a few years back. Calderwood comes into this fight 14-5. Like Eye she’s pretty well rounded but better. Her jiu-jitsu is strong, her kickboxing is strong and her wrestling is pretty decent. I believe Eye will try and grapple with Calderwood from early on and tire her out from wrestling. I believe Calderwood has the ability to keep it standing if she wants to. I’m not sure to be honest, this one is a 50/50 for me. I’ll go with Joanne Calderwood by decision.
Dan Hooker vs Michael Chandler – Lightweight Division
Co-main time and we have the first fight of the ‘Impress Khabib Show.’ This genuinely might be the toughest pick of all. Dan Hooker is a brilliant striker, obviously as a member of City Kickboxing you’d expect so. We don’t see much more of his game, such as the jiu-jitsu as he prefers to stand and bang so it’ll be interesting to see that against a wrestler like Chandler. When I look at Hooker’s previous fights against Dustin Poirier and Paul Felder, I see a man that is able to take damage and keep fighting even when being hit with some nasty punches and elbows. Chandler makes his UFC debut on the 23rd but this man is a former Bellator champion for a reason. He has the traditional American wrestling style but in his career has definitely picked up the striking side of MMA. Hooker can not sleep on his striking because Chandler has that one punch KO power and I won’t be surprised if he trades with the New Zealander for a round or two. I wish this was a five round fight, but I guess I’ll settle for three. If you bet, don’t bet on this fight. This could go either way. I can imagine Chandler shooting for a takedown and Hooker catching him with one of those vicious knees. Or Chandler, exploding out to KO Hooker. I’m going with Chandler by KO in round one. This one is another 50/50.
Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier 2 – Lightweight Division
Main event time and I must say it’s nice to have Conor back in the UFC after a year. This is the second fight of the ‘Impress Khabib Show’ and I expect something special from this fight. Conor is 22-4 coming into this and is probably the best boxer in UFC history. His ability to control range and composure is only matched by a few and his power and accuracy is by far the best in the Lightweight division. Conor seems focused on MMA more now than ever and when he’s in this frame of mind he’s nearly unstoppable. Obviously, in the first fight between these two Conor dispatched of Dustin but I don’t want to reference that because both men are much better than they were five years ago. Dustin is also a boxer and like Conor has brilliant accuracy and power. Dustin is a man who has constantly improved over the years and I think he has the ability to beat Conor with wrestling. This is the side to Poirier’s game we don’t see and if he’s going to avoid the power of McGregor I could see a takedown coming from the Diamond. Dustin has serious heart and he will not quit. In the past when a fight has gone to three rounds with McGregor he has faded. If he can keep the former double champ at bay for 10-15 minutes he has a big chance of taking the win. Even with this, I’m going with McGregor. I think he’s going to get the early finish in round 2. The power in that left hand will be too much for Dustin in my opinion.
There are my predictions for UFC 257. Be sure to share!