McGregor–Poirier Rematch Is UFC 257's Marquee, Must-See Event

There's a lot at stake for several fighters on Saturday, including a potential spot in a title fight for the lightweight championship.
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Make no mistake: this Saturday’s UFC 257 card is all about the return of Conor McGregor.

McGregor meets Dustin Poirier in a fight that will decide the top contender for a lightweight championship belt that seems destined to be vacated. With reigning champ Khabib Nurmagomedov unlikely to return to the cage for a bout against either McGregor or Poirier, the winner of the 257 main event should receive a spot in an upcoming fight to crown a new champion. That adds even further anticipation to this card, as the opponent in that fight is likely to be the winner of 257’s co-main event, pitting Michael Chandler against Dan Hooker.

The lightweight division will be center stage at 257, with McGregor-Poirier headlining the card and the highly anticipated Chandler-Hooker bout just before it. This will mark Chandler’s debut in the UFC, and he has one shot to prove that his success from Bellator is as legitimate as anything from the Octagon. This is bound to be difficult for Chandler, as Hooker is a top talent in the division and hungry for a title shot. And while a convincing finish immediately places Chandler in title contention, perhaps even jumping fellow contender Charles Oliveira in the rankings, the narrative will be entirely different if he is knocked out in his UFC debut.

Here is a further look at some of the most pressing questions surrounding UFC 257, which kicks off on Saturday, Jan. 23 with the early prelims at 6:15 p.m. ET, followed by the main card at 10 p.m. ET, on ESPN+ pay-per-view.

Is it really a surprise if McGregor loses?

Poirier is one of the most elite fighters in all of MMA, and there are plenty of reasons to believe he can win his bout against McGregor.

If McGregor (22-4) is to win, he needs to catch Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) with punches. That is McGregor’s bread and butter, and exactly the manner he used to defeat Poirier when they met at UFC 178 in September 2014. That fight didn’t even reach two minutes into the opening round before the TKO, and McGregor knows that his quick knockouts are immediately placed atop the highlight reel. A dominant finish may be his only shot, even if it is remote, at getting a rematch against Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Poirier’s best shot is to extend the fight. Though the temptation will be to trade with him, he should look to wrestle McGregor in the opening round. McGregor has an awfully tough chin, and void of landing the absolute perfect shot, Poirier is not going knock him out in the first five minutes. The game plan needs to be to grapple with McGregor, fatigue him, and then go for the finish.

There should be great concern if Poirier starts swinging for the fences early on, as he is likely to get caught. Instead, can Poirier put his weight on McGregor and push him around for a round or two, then start to look for a KO or submission? The longer the fight extends, and the more grappling McGregor has to contend with, marks the point when odds start to shift in Poirier’s favor.

There is no doubt that McGregor can win this fight, but it should also come as no shock that Poirier has more ways to do it.

Why won’t Nurmagomedov fight McGregor?

Nurmagomedov is one fight away from reaching his goal of retiring undefeated with an unblemished record of 30 wins and zero defeats.

This plan changed when Nurmagomedov unexpectedly announced his retirement this past October after a second-round defeat of Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. The announcement clearly surprised top officials within the UFC, who have yet to vacate Nurmagomedov’s lightweight championship despite no real assurances he will fight again.

There is still hope for a Nurmagomedov return bout, but the opponent for that fight is fellow MMA legend Georges St-Pierre. That bout, which could be fought at 170 or 185, would most likely not have any title implications—but it would draw a massive amount of money.

Money certainly talks, but Nurmagomedov has been open about the fact that he has more than enough money. Perhaps there is a number that would sway him to accept a rematch against McGregor, but chances are slim. Purely on principle, which runs deep with Nurmagomedov, why would he choose to reward McGregor with another fight after he has already defeated him? And that is even before including the amount of disrespect McGregor has hurled in his direction over the years.

There likely is a price to ensure a Nurmagomedov return to the Octagon, but the odds are far greater that his opponent is GSP.

Should Chandler do some research on the UFC careers of Ben Askren and Jason “Mayhem” Miller?

In addition to his bout against Hooker in the co-main event at 257, Chandler is also fighting to legitimize the success he has achieved outside of UFC.

Chandler (21-5) is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion, and his arrival in UFC opens the possibility of so many new matchups, including the potential for a bout against Conor McGregor. But that all changes if Chandler is finished by Hooker (20-9).

If Chandler loses, parallels will be made to Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who arrived to the UFC in 2005 and was promptly defeated by Georges St-Pierre, as well as to Ben Askren, another fighter that enjoyed immense success outside the UFC—then encountered far less successful results in the Octagon. Hooker is a tall challenge for Chandler, and this bout is his opportunity to prove he deserves a shot at the title.

This is an extremely tough one to call. Hooker has the size advantage, but Chandler has beaten bigger world class opponents before, including former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. And while a win will lead to an even bigger stage for Chandler to make more noise, it is certainly far from a guarantee.

What else is worth watching at 257?

UFC 257 also includes a women’s flyweight bout pitting Jessica Eye against Joanne Calderwood, the card’s third lightweight fight, featuring Matt Frevola against Ottman Azaitar, and what looks to be an extremely compelling meeting in the opener, as Amanda Ribas squares off against Marina Rodriguez in a women’s strawweight bout.

In terms of relevancy, the Eye-Calderwood bout doesn’t move the needle right now, but this could be a really fun fight. Calderwood (14-5) has yet to meet expectations in the UFC, so this is a chance to turn that around against a sturdy vet in Eye (15-8, 1 NC). With both coming off a loss, a competitive performance is expected here. Frevola (8-1-1) and Azaitar (13-0) is a bout that will offer some intel into how the undefeated Azaitar fares against a legitimate test. And though Frevola will do everything possible to make it a rough night for Azaitar, he needs to be aware of that KO shot at all times.

The women’s strawweight fight is a great way to open the card. If Ribas (10-1) defeats Rodriguez (12-1-2) convincingly, expect a rocket to be strapped to her back as she makes the orbit into stardom. This has the chance to be a dynamic fight, and Ribas has a lot to gain, especially with the added exposure from fighting on a card headlined by Conor McGregor.

There are also bouts on the prelims that stand out. Brad Tavares (17-6) against Antonio Carlos Junior (10-4, 1 NC), which is a middleweight fight, should be an all-out battle, and the women’s bantamweight fight between Julianna Pena (9-4) and Sara McMann (12-5) has the potential to be a physical, entertaining bout.

Overall, UFC 257 is extremely reliant on its stars fighting in the main and co-main events, but the card brings a lot of depth. And, of course, a must-see main event as McGregor steps back into the Octagon.

To stream Poirier vs McGregor 2 and the entire UFC 257 card on Saturday, Jan. 23 on ESPN+, click here. You can save over 30% when you buy UFC 257 and an ESPN+ annual plan for $89.98 here, or get ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu for $12.99/month and get UFC 257 for $69.99.