- Conor McGregor is favored over Dustin Poirier in rematch
- McGregor won the first match by first-round TKO in 2014
- Michael Chandler makes UFC debut against Dan Hooker
- Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood meet in women's flyweight division
- Watch on ESPN+, UFC Fight Pass and Pay-Per-View
The lightweight division has been thrown for a loop, thanks to the “retirement” (for now?) of undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. UFC president Dana White is still holding out that Nurmagomedov will come back to try and go for a record of 30-0 before he shuts it down. However, in the meantime, the division has to move and it will at UFC 257 at Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. The UFC 257 odds for this event are very interesting as former two-division champion Conor McGregor returns to action in a rematch against Dustin Poirier. Michael Chandler also makes his UFC debut against Dan Hooker. Finally, veterans Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood will square off in the women’s flyweight division.
This is the final of three events on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and the only pay-per-view event of the trio. These three events will also be the first UFC events in which fans will be allowed. This is because the events will be held at the Eithad Arena, which is much larger than the Flash Forum. It has a capacity of 18,000. However, due to restrictions, there is a capacity of 2,000 for these events. Any number of fans will do for the UFC, which obviously has held MMA events without fans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
|When and Where To Watch UFC 257|
|Date: Saturday, January 23, 2021|
|Stadium: Eithad Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE|
|Early Prelims: UFC Fight Pass – 6:15 PM ET|
|Prelims: ESPN and ESPN+ – 8:00 PM ET|
|PPV: ESPN+/Order via Cable Provider – 10:00 PM ET|
Conor McGregor (-302) vs. Dustin Poirier (+252) – Lightweight
Ireland’s McGregor (22-4) made a triumphant return to the octagon as a welterweight in January 2020, needing only 40 seconds to score a TKO win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. That was his first fight since losing the 155-pound belt to Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018. After “retiring” (this happens quite a bit in the UFC), McGregor is looking to get his belt back and another win over Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) would be a big step in doing so. Poirier (a former interim lightweight champion), born in Ohio, but fighting out of Florida, last fought on an ESPN card in June, surviving a brawl with Dan Hooker to come away with a unanimous decision.
This sets up a huge lightweight match between these top-five fighters. Poirier is second in the 155-pound rankings, while McGregor is fourth. White is meeting with Nurmagomedov to figure out his future. However, he has also said that McGregor will fight for the belt if he beats Poirier (which is disrespectful to Poirier, but McGregor is the biggest PPV draw in the UFC). White really wants to rematch Nurmagomedov and McGregor for a title match. We’ll see if Poirier has a say in this.
The UFC 257 odds for this bout opened with McGregor as a sports betting favorite at -235. It has since risen to -275, and now it is up to -302 as of Fight Week, although he took a slight dip on Friday following the weigh-ins. McGregor is, of course, the biggest name in the UFC and one that even the most casual of sports fans probably know. It has also been reported that some six-figure bets are coming in late on McGregor, and his odds could improve even more by fight night. That being said, Poirier is still a very dangerous underdog at +252.
These two first met at UFC 178, as McGregor was starting to make his ascent to the top of the UFC, at least in terms of visibility. It didn’t last long as McGregor dropped Poirier and got the TKO win in just 1:46. It was Poirier’s first loss of his career and he has improved immensely. Even though he got into a brawl with Hooker, Poirier has proven that he can be more patient when he wants to be. That being said, he can be lured into a firefight. This is not a battle he wants to enter with McGregor. The Irishman’s counter left hand is one of the most dangerous punches in MMA. Anything can happen in combat sports, but at his best, McGregor is simply better than Poirier. McGregor should get another knockout win.
UFC 257 Odds Pick: McGregor (-302)
Dan Hooker (-135) vs. Michael Chandler (+115)
Chandler (21-5) will make his highly-anticipated UFC debut after starring in Bellator, where he won the lightweight belt three times, along with one interim-title win. He also won the Season 4 Lightweight Tournament. He’ll get a tough welcome to the UFC in Hooker (20-9), the New Zealander who put up a great fight against Poirier in June. However, Hooker came out on the wrong end of a unanimous decision. Hooker is still ranked fifth in the 155-pound division. He also proved that he is as rugged as they come by standing and trading with Poirier, one of the most powerful punchers at lightweight. He has 10 TKO/KO victories, and even though his last submission win came in 2017, Hooker does have seven of those victories.
The UFC 257 odds for this match opened with Hooker as a sizeable favorite at -170. He has since dipped to -135. Chandler is gaining momentum, opening at +145 and moving to +125. MMA fans know who Chandler is from his time in Bellator. But, let’s be honest: the UFC has more eyes on it than Bellator, and that will affect how the public bets. As of Fight Week, Chandler is at +115.
Chandler, who was born in Missouri, lives in Tennessee and fights out of Florida, is also well rounded with nine knockout wins and seven submission wins, as he fights from a wrestling background. He actually served as the backup for the title fight between Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in September. Many weren’t happy about it, seeing as Chandler had never fought in the UFC before. He’ll have his chance to prove everyone wrong, starting with Hooker, who has stuffed 77% of takedown attempts. That will be tested against Chandler, who is going to push the pressure. If he can avoid turning this into a firefight, Chandler should get through this test against Hooker. But he is going to have to take some punishment to do it.
UFC 257 Odds Pick: Chandler (+115)
Jessica Eye (+100) vs. Joanne Calderwood (-120) – Women’s Flyweight
Eye (15-8, 1 NC) lost a unanimous decision to Cynthia Calvillo in June. However, her biggest opponent for this fight might be her weight cut. She has missed weight in her last two fights, and that is something the UFC frowns upon. If she misses weight again, Eye and White might need to have a difficult conversation. This could include Eye moving back to bantamweight, where she was 1-5-1 in seven bouts. Eye is from Ohio, but fights out of Nevada.
Scotland’s Calderwood (14-5) is looking to bounce back from a submission loss to Jennifer Maia in August. However, to be fair to Calderwood, that was her first match in almost a year due to injury. Also, Maia was a bad matchup for her. Eye should be more suitable for Calderwood as both are strikers. This should be a standup battle.
These UFC 257 odds for this fight are as close as it gets. There really isn’t much between the two both at the sportsbook and in the octagon. Eye opened as the underdog at +120, and she still is the underdog. However, Eye has odds of -102 now, and Calderwood has shrunk from -140 to -118. As of Fight Week, the two were both sitting at -110. But following the weigh-ins, Calderwood is now the favorite at -120 with Eye coming back at +100.
The edge goes to Calderwood, who might have more variety in her striking than Eye. These two are ranked just outside of the top five in the women’s flyweight division, which is dominated by Valentina Shevchenko, who knocked out Eye with a head kick in June 2019. Calderwood was supposed to meet the champion in June 2020, but Shevchenko was injured. A win would move Calderwood up the rankings and a step closer to fighting for a belt, and she should be able to pull it off in a very close fight.