Six years ago, Conor McGregor was living inside Dustin Poirier’s head.
In the lead up to their featherweight scrap at UFC 178, McGregor’s personae and banter got to Poirier. He fought emotional in that bout and McGregor stopped him in the first round. A lot has changed since that fight and Poirier displayed just how different a fighter he is today when he scored a second round TKO win over McGregor in the main event of UFC 257.
Poirier is a much mature man these days. He’s more confident in his abilities as a fighter and he showed that in how relaxed he was while fighting a man who had knocked him out in the past.
Former Bellator champion Michael Chandler made a huge splash in his UFC debut. Chandler couldn’t have had a better performance, scoring a TKO win over Dan Hooker. The win should see Chandler rocket up the lightweight rankings and put his name on the short list for potential title challengers.
Dustin Poirier: UFC president Dana White straight-up disrespected Poirier in the lead up to his bout against Conor McGregor. When he spoke to Khabib Nurmagomedov about getting the undefeated lightweight to unretire, he told Nurmagomedov to imagine the numbers a fight against McGregor could do. He didn’t mention Poirier’s name. What assumed McGregor would run through Poirier like he did in 2014. That did not happen.
Poirier looked magnificent in finishing McGregor. He was loose and relaxed. At a few points he ate some big strikes from McGregor and just smiled and wagged his finger. Poirier’s confidence was off the charts.
I know there were many mentions about Poirier being a different fighter from the first time these two met, but I don’t think anyone imagined just how different Poirier would look.
I’d say this was the best performance of Poirier’s career, but I’m reluctant to do so. With his victory over McGregor, Poirier’s confidence will be at an all-time high the next time he steps into the octagon.
Michael Chandler: Outside of Conor McGregor, Michael Chandler had the most pressure on him on Saturday night. The 34-year-old was a big free agent signing of the UFC and as a three-time Bellator lightweight champion there were questions about his ability to hang with the UFC lightweight fighters at this point of his career.
Chandler answered those questions by scoring a TKO win over Dan Hooker in the first round of their matchup.
Chandler looked frustrated with Hooker’s circling on the outside, but he wasn’t discomfited enough to lose his focus. Chandler made a statement and that statement could vault him past Charles Oliveira when the UFC considers who could be in line for a lightweight title shot.
Joanne Calderwood: Calderwood bounced back from a submission loss to Jennifer Maia with a big win over Jessica Eye. Calderwood showed off the best of her striking in every position in the octagon.
Calderwood started the fight with a lot of energy, but her corner calmed her between the first and second round and her striking improved at that point. Calderwood tagged Eye with knees, kicks, elbows and punches on her way to a victory. Calderwood’s volume was also impressive in this contest. She threw 240 significant strikes and landed 148 for a 61 percent success rate.
Makhmud Muradov: Muradov moved his winning streak to 14 in a row when he stopped Andrew Sanchez at UFC 257. Muradov’s pace, patience and output were the keys to his victory. Muradov is now 3-0 in the UFC. HIs win over Sanchez was his second straight third-round stoppage.
Marina Rodriguez: Rodriguez spent most of the first round of her fight against Amanda Ribas on her back. That did not happen in the second round as Rodriguez, who is a powerful striker, dropped Ribas. Rodriguez mistakenly thought referee Herb Dean had stoped the fight and allowed Ribas to get back to her feet. After some additional strikes, Dean stopped the fight.
Rodriguez, who was coming off a loss to former strawweight champion Carla Esparza, will see her stock rise with her impressive finish at UFC 257.
Arman Tsarukyan: Tsarukyan scored a quick takedown and moved to control but Matt Frevola worked out of it only to get taken down again and that was the story of this fight. Tsarukyan landed 10 of 12 takedowns and rang up more than eight minutes of control time on his way to a unanimous decision win. Tsarukyan was just too much of a wrestler for Frevola to deal with.
Brad Tavares: Tavares did a nice job stopping the takedown attempts of Antonio Carlos Junior on his way to a decision win. A solid striker, Tavares had a chance to finish the contest in the second round, but a misplaced kick to the groin put an end to any momentum Tavares had. Overall this was a nice performance for Tavares, who had not fought since November 2019. The win ended a two-fight losing skid for Tavares.
Julianna Pena: Pena did not have a fast start in her bantamweight contest against Sara McMann, but she upped her activity in the second round. Pena was very active from her back in the second stanza. Pena was not as active in the third round, but her calmness and patience paid off. After a takedown, Pena used her strikes to gain position. She moved from side control to back control to a rear-naked choke submission victory. This was a solid win for Pena, who then called for a fight against bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes.
Marcin Prachnio: Prachnio had been knocked out in the first round of all three of his UFC bouts. He was more than likely fighting for his UFC contract when he faced Khalil Rountree Jr. on Saturday. He showed some development in his striking game in this contest. He added some kicking techniques we had not seen before and he was able to take advantage of an opponent who faded in the third stanza. This win should help Prachnio, who had never gone to a third round before, understand he can be more patient and composed when he steps into the cage and that could help him extend his UFC career.
Movsar Evloev: Evloev movd to 14-0 overall and 4-0 with a very good performance opposite Nik Lentz. Lentz was close to securing a submission win in the first round, but Evloev remained calm and slipped out of the guillotine attempt. From there, the 26-year-old took over and ate up Lentz with head strikes. Don’t be surprised if Evloev gets a big step up in competition in his next outing.
Amir Albazi: Albazi moved to 2-0 in the UFC with a nice win over Zhalgas Zhumagulov in the opening bout. Albazi was much faster and effective with his strikes. He was good at getting Zhumagulovto to bit on his feints and throw a wild striking attempt and then tagging him on the inside. Albazi showed nice technique on the ground as well. Albazi, already ranked in the flyweight division looked relaxed and comfortable in the octagon and he is a 100 percent someone to watch.
Dana White: White is know for betting big and getting what he wants. He lost on both fronts tonight. He thought Conor McGregor would beat Dustin Poirier and he thought he could convince Khabib Nurmagomedov to come out of retirement for a big money rematch. Neither of those things happened and his decision to not make the UFC 257 main event a fight for the vacant title seems foolish.
ESPN: The ESPN+ streaming app, which is the only way to legally view UFC pay-per-view cards in the U.S., failed in a big way on Saturday night. Everyone knew this fight card would test the system, yet it failed. That was a surprise and a disappointment.
Conor McGregor: McGregor suffered the first knockout loss of his career at UFC 257. Before the fight I speculated that McGregor’s life outside the octagon might be catching up with him. I don’t know if that was the case here, but there were times were he did not look like the fighter he had been. The fact that he wasn’t prepared for the low kicks Poirier landed was alarming. That speaks of poor preparation or over confidence.
Dan Hooker: Things went bad quickly for Hooker. He spent the majority of his fight with Michael Chandler circling against the cage and throwing out some strikes that appeared to be designed to gauge distance or see if he could get a reaction from Chandler. When that reaction came, it was quick and powerful and cost Hooker the fight.
Hooker did not get interviewed in the cage, but he did leave his gloves on the canvas, which leads to some questions about his future.
Jessica Eye: Eye could not deal with the distance striking of Joanne Calderwood in this flyweight bout. Eye did well in close, scoring with her strikes in the clinch and with her ability to neutralize Calderwood against the cage. However, whenever Calderwood kept the fight at distance, compliments of her kicks, Eye could not get close. The loss dropped Eye to 1-3 since 2019.
Andrew Sanchez: Sanchez did his best to mix it up with Makhmud Muradov, but he failed in the long round. He did well with his jab, but he could not land with much accuracy and he never had his opponent in danger before he fell to Muradov via TKO in the third stanza.
Amanda Ribas: There was one way Ribas was going to lose her bout against Marina Rodriguez and that was by standing with her and striking. Ribas avoided that in the first round with an early takedown. She couldn’t avoid the striking of Rodriguez in the second stanza and she fell to Rodriguez via TKO.
The loss was the first for Ribas in the UFC. It’ll be intriguing to see how she bounces back from this stoppage defeat.
Matt Frevola: Frevola was a game opponent against Arman Tsarukyan, but he could not deal with the wrestling of his opponent. Frevola tried to tire Tsarukyan with his activity, but that approach did not pay off as he lost a unanimous decision.
Antonio Carlos Junior: Carlos Junior spent a lot of time going for takedowns and not getting them against Brad Tavares. He landed one takedown on 12 attempts and that reliance on a failing technique could have been what cost him this fight.
Sara McMann: McMann had a good first round using her wrestling skills and elbow strikes to keep Julianna Pena busy. However, McMann struggled after the first five minutes and fell victim to the ground skills of Pena. Four of McMann’s six defeats have come via choke submissions.
Khalil Rountree Jr.: Rountree looked very good with his striking against Marcin Prachnio and he might have won this fight had he showed better awareness or better cardio. Rountree did not capitalize when he had his opponent staggered a number of times and his output and power both faded in the third stanza. In the end, he lost the contest via decision.
Nik Lentz: Lentz seemed focused on getting a guillotine choke. He was close to securing that submission in the first round of his bout against Movsar Evloev, but Evloev was able to slip out. Over the course of the 15-minute battle, Lentz slowed and paid for that by eating a steady diet of strikes that left him bruised and bloodied.
Zhalgas Zhumagulov: Zhumagulov was a game opponent for Amir Albazi, but he was outmatched in speed, technique and talent. Everything Zhumagulov threw was telegraphed and he paid for it by eating jabs.