The king is dead. Long live the king.
Dustin Poirier defeated Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 257 on Saturday night, stunning the fight world in the second round with a TKO victory.
This was a rematch from 2014, which took place at UFC 178. McGregor (22-5) won that fight with relative ease, but the second meeting allowed Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) a chance to show off an entirely new game plan.
Poirier executed in the Octagon, slowing McGregor’s pace just enough with a first-round takedown. He also ate some physical shots from McGregor, which he withstood, and refused to engage in an all-out brawl, a McGregor hallmark. McGregor looked a step slower in the second round, which was the result of both fatigue and a number of vicious calf kicks. Those kicks allowed Poirier to close ground and land his shots, which is how he earned himself a finish.
Already the second-ranked lightweight entering 257, this win places Poirier in position for a title shot. If Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov remains retired, then Poirier is expected to fight either Charles Oliveira or Michael Chandler in a fight to crown a new undisputed champ.
Chandler (22-5) looked phenomenal in his first-round TKO victory against Dan Hooker. This bout marked Chandler’s UFC debut, and although he is a three-time former Bellator Lightweight Champion, his resume was still full of questions upon entering the Octagon. Chandler immediately put Hooker (20-10) on his heels, and the end was instantaneous after dropping a right hand on Hooker’s chin. Following the win, Chandler called out Nurmagomedov, Poirier, and McGregor, and it is likely he will see one of those opponents in his next bout.
The main card also opened with an upset. Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) finished Amanda Ribas (10-2) via a TKO, and that victory moves her closer to a top-five ranking in the women’s strawweight division. Makhmud Muradov (25-6) delivered an impressive finish in his bout against Andrew Sanchez (13-6), unleashing a vicious flurry of fists for a TKO win and extending his win streak to 14. And Joanne Calderwood (15-5) defeated Jessica Eye (15-9, 1 NC), winning by unanimous decision, furthering her quest to get that title shot against the great Valentina Schevchenko.
Ultimately, UFC 257 was built around its main event—and it delivered. McGregor looked poised to win early on, but Poirier stuck to his game plan, withstood the early punishment, and took full advantage after injuring McGregor’s calf.
The reward for the win is a title shot, either against Nurmagomedov, Chandler, or Oliveira. And after waiting nearly seven years for the opportunity, Poirier finally writes redemption into his story. This was not a second-round knockout win for McGregor, as he promised. Instead, amidst the scenic backdrop of the shores of Abu Dhabi, Poirier delivered upon his promise to beat the biggest name in MMA.
MAIN EVENT: CONOR MCGREGOR VS. DUSTIN POIRIER -- 12:30 AM ET
It took seven years, but Dustin Poirier found his redemption in the Octagon against Conor McGregor.
Despite eating some tough blows from McGregor, this bout ended midway through the second round as Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) unleashed a barrage of shots on McGregor (22-5) for a TKO win.
A key to the fight was the success Poirier found from the low calf key, which he executed crisply. This limited McGregor’s mobility and Poirier finally cornered him against the cage and showed off the power in both fists. The victory should propel Poirier into a bout for a vacant Lightweight Championship fight against Michael Chandler or Charles Oliveira, leaving McGregor temporarily out of the title picture.
Poirier stuck to his game plan, taking McGregor to the mat in the opening round, forcing him to work his way back up. He also avoided a brawl, patiently awaiting an opening after hitting the debilitating calf kick.
This was a rematch from 2014, a bout that McGregor won with relative ease. Poirier vowed that the outcome would be different at UFC 257, and he followed through on that promise.
LIGHTWEIGHT FIGHT: MICHAEL CHANDLER VS. DAN HOOKER -- 12:04 AM ET
Michael Chandler is about to get his respect.
Chandler (22-5) earned his first-ever win in the Octagon, making a UFC debut in style with an opening-round TKO against Dan Hooker. Hooker (20-10) hit one low calf kick in the first round, but otherwise, the entire pace was set by Chandler. He immediately put Hooker on his heels, and it was the beginning of the end when he connected with his right hand.
A former three-time Lightweight Champion in Bellator, Chandler now instantly establishes himself in the UFC with such a dominant performance, especially against an elite opponent in Hooker. It is unfair to read too much into a fighter’s actions in the cage in the aftermath of a knockout, but Hooker took his gloves off before leaving the Octagon, often a sign that a fighter is retiring.
Chandler saved even more fireworks for the post-fight interview. While draped in an American flag, Chandler called out, in order, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nuramgomedov, effectively placing the entire lightweight division on notice.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT FIGHT: JOANNE CALDERWOOD VS. JESSICA EYE -- 11:26 PM ET
Unfortunately for Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood, the biggest outcome of their three-round bout is that neither is anywhere close to challenging Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Calderwood (15-5) won the fight by unanimous decision, helped significantly by a distinct advantage in distance strikes, 123-56. Her takedown defense on Eye (15-9, 1 NC) was also impressive, but there is still such a gaping distance separating Shevchenko and every other fighter in the division.
The victory against Eye should elevate Calderwood onto the cusp of the top-five. Moving forward, it is likely that Calderwood will need at least another win to get a shot at the champ.
MIDDLEWEIGHT FIGHT: ANDREW SANCHEZ VS. MAKHMUD MURADOV -- 10:54 PM ET
For the first two rounds, the right hands of Makhmud Muradov were just missing.
Muradov didn’t miss in the third.
In a late addition to the main card, Muradov (25-6) delivered an impressive finish in his bout against Andrew Sanchez, unleashing a vicious flurry of fists for a TKO win. The victory extends Muradov’s win streak to 14.
Sanchez (13-6) was competitive throughout the bout, but the third round was dominated by Muradov. Incredibly, 17 of Muradov’s 25 wins have been by knockout. This win sets Muradov up for a significant middleweight bout as he makes a big stride towards the top-15 in the division.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT FIGHT: AMANDA RIBAS VS. MARINA RODRIGUEZ -- 10:25 PM ET
UFC 257 opens with an upset.
Marina Rodriguez dropped a right hand directly on the chin of Amanda Ribas, earning herself a TKO victory only 54 seconds into round two.
Ribas (10-2) entered the bout as a massive favorite. She controlled the action with an opening-round takedown that kept Rodriguez (13-1-2) grounded. But everything was different in round two. Rodriguez seized control when her fist rattled Ribas’ chin, and it looked like the fight was finished. Rodriguez thought referee Herb Dean stopped the fight, which he did not, but she never complained. Instead, she continued to drill Ribas until Dean was forced to stop the bout.
Had she won, Ribas seemed poised to skyrocket to the top of the division. Now that opportunity belongs to Rodriguez, who looks to jump to the top five of the women’s strawweight division.
PREVIEW -- 10:00 PM ET
Conor McGregor’s chase for the Lightweight Championship, and a rematch against reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, takes full pursuit later tonight at UFC 257.
The wildly talented McGregor (22-4), who enters this fight under the cloud of controversy as the result of a recent multimillion-dollar personal injury lawsuit, is one of the biggest draws in MMA. A victory in the 257 main event immediately places him as the top contender for the Lightweight belt, in either a highly anticipated rematch against Nurmagomedov or, if the champ stays retired, a championship bout for a vacant title.
Standing in McGregor’s way is Dustin Poirier. Far more than the Washington Generals, Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) is seeking to avenge a loss to McGregor that took place at UFC 178 in 2014. A lot has changed since that night when McGregor won by a first-round TKO in under two minutes, but much remains the same: Poirier is still the more well-rounded fighter and McGregor’s knockout power still makes him the favorite.
UFC 257 is defined by the lightweight division. The co-main event is Michael Chandler against Dan Hooker, a battle between two fighters both looking to punch their ticket into a Lightweight Championship bout. If Nurmagomedov does not come out of retirement, it is very likely that the winner of this bout will meet the winner of McGregor-Poirier for the title. Chandler (21-5) is a three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion, but he now needs to legitimize those results in the Octagon. Hooker (20-9) will make that an extremely difficult task, as he has looked outstanding in his past four bouts and is hungry for a title shot.
All eyes are on McGregor tonight, who looks to avoid an upset against a game Poirier, as well as remind the fight world that he is both the top draw and the most elite fighter in the world.