UFC 257: McGregor vs. Poirier 2 staff picks and predictions

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Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s ‘UFC 257 - ‘MCGREGOR VS POIRIER 2’ card.

The Bloody Elbow team has made its predictions for UFC 257, and we are really split on the main event between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. It’s the slightest of leans towards McGregor to go 2-0 against “The Diamond.” As for the co-main, we all believe Dan Hooker will spoil Michael Chandler’s UFC debut.

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier

Anton Tabuena: Like predicting many McGregor bouts, the opening minutes should make it pretty clear how this will play out. I expect Conor to start out strong as always, and while Poirier has looked much more durable at 155, he needs to do a lot more than just survive that early onslaught. If he can make it competitive early, make it a back-and-forth dog fight where both have to dig deep and showcase their heart, this would be his fight to lose. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see McGregor dominate early and win, but will he even be as sharp as he was? Will his timing still be there? Apart from 40 seconds against Cerrone over a year ago, he hasn’t fought much or done well at all in the last four years, while Poirier has been actively beating on top notch strikers in the same span. I think it’s more likely that Poirier mixes things up and does well enough early on to completely break McGregor down as the fight wears on. As good and as dangerous as he is, I still don’t think McGregor does well with adversity, and he hasn’t really shown anything in the last five years to change my mind on that. Poirier on the other hand, shines in that department. I think this is a toss up, but I’m going with Dustin Poirier by late TKO.

Mookie Alexander: I have gone back and forth on this forever. Started the week going Poirier, leaned towards McGregor, then back to Poirier, and now I think I’ll settle on McGregor. I’m pretty sure that if Poirier survives the first couple of rounds his pace will wear Conor out, dissipate his power, and there’s every chance he’ll hurt and choke McGregor out after piecing him up with volume and body work. Buuuuuut there’s still the Poirier who isn’t afraid to back down from an exchange, and it doesn’t even take a lot of chaos to get sniped by McGregor and put down. Poirier’s chin is clearly amazing but it’s hardly indestructible (as evidenced by the way Michael Johnson flattened him). McGregor is a fast starter and Poirier still starts slowly more often than not, and that really can dictate how this fight plays out. Conor will try and win this at range — his kicks are better than he’s given credit for — and that’s probably where he prevails. If he can’t put Dustin away early though then he’s destined to lose. Conor McGregor by TKO, round 2.

Harry Davies: There is no way Poirier should be a +240 underdog in this fight. Those odds definitely don’t reflect how close I think the fight will be. Although cardio was never his weak point, Poirier’s last fight with Dan Hooker showed he can both dish out and absorb heavy shots over the course of five rounds. But I just can’t see this one going that far. If Poirier does stand with McGregor I think he will have his fair share of success early on, but I can’t see him getting a finish. That is unless it goes to the later rounds and Conor’s gas tank fails him again. I think it will be early doors for the “Diamond” and McGregor will stop him in the second. Conor McGregor by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: Dustin Poirier’s first rounds always tend to be fast paced, and a bit hairy. The longtime ATT fighter towards a style that emphasizes volume and crashing exchanges; ones where he can look to dip back out of the pocket and land big strikes while sliding away from opponents at an angle. But in-between getting that kind of offense going, he’s still awfully hittable and hurtable. The secret to his success isn’t so much slick defense or confounding entries as it is a willingness to bite down and keep the pace high, even as opponents flag and even as he himself gets hurt. That just seems like a miserable way to fight McGregor, who has always found ways to make opponents pay for leaving big openings early in bouts. Even in his loss to Nate Diaz, McGregor still hurt Stockton’s own early. If Poirier’s gonna have a first round like he did against Dan Hooker, can I really bet on him bouncing back for the win? I don’t feel like I can. Conor McGregor via KO, round 1.

Staff picking McGregor: Harry, Phil, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking Poirier: Stephie, Anton, Dayne

Michael Chandler vs. Dan Hooker

Anton Tabuena: I reallyyyy wish this was five rounds. Chandler has power and good wrestling, but I think Hooker is the more versatile, more diverse and more technical striker between them and I believe that will be the difference in this contest. Dan Hooker by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: That this is only a three-rounder really chips away at Chandler’s chances of victory, in my opinion. Chandler does have knockout power and he’s a great wrestler but Hooker has been exceptionally hard to takedown and keep down at lightweight. Hooker is taller, has a longer reach, and his a sharp counterstriker. I can easily see Hooker just sniping Chandler with a knee as he changes levels and it’s lights out for him. Chandler is a damn good fighter but Hooker is a bad matchup. Dan Hooker by KO, round 2.

Harry Davies: It’s so crazy that Hooker used to fight at 145-pounds. I think if he uses his height to his advantage in this fight he can pick Chandler apart on the feet. Hooker hasn’t fought someone of Chandler’s size since Jim Miller (who he viciously KO’d) over two years ago, whilst Chandler was always fighting opponents relative to his size in Bellator. It’s going to take one hell of a shot from the UFC debutant to get Hooker out of there, which is why I think “The Hangman” will absorb the early punishment to get a second-round finish. Dan Hooker by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: At least from the sound of things, it seems like Chandler knows he’s picked himself up a strangely difficult debut fight. Over the breadth of his career, ‘Iron’ Mike has had to face surprisingly few range, comfortable out-fighters. Even fewer with a strong jab or powerful counter game. And when Chandler has had to fight guys that can pick him off well, he’s paid hard for his tendency to go square and/or side-on as he throws power hooks. With Hooker’s only TKO loss coming to deleterious leg and body work, I just don’t see Chandler having the recipe to put him away. So he’ll either have to grind out a win, or get caught hard stepping in with wide punches. I’m betting on the latter. Dan Hooker via KO, round 2.

Staff picking Chandler:
Staff picking Hooker: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane

Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood

Anton Tabuena: Calderwood has had a rough stretch lately, but I think she’s still — by far — the better and more technical MMA fighter here. Joanne Calderwood by Decision.

Mookie Alexander: Hopefully Calderwood shows up focused and does her best to make this as entertaining as possible. Joanne Calderwood by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m betting that Joanne Calderwood out-lands Jessica Eye by a reasonable margin (maybe 20 or so). But whether that’s enough for her to win the inevitable split decision or not? I have no idea. Joanne Calderwood by split decision.

Staff picking Eye:
Staff picking Calderwood: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane

Matt Frevola vs. Arman Tsarukyan

Mookie Alexander: I mean they made this fight on like five minutes notice, what analysis do you want? Tsarukyan is strong, energetic, and his striking has gotten better. I suppose under normal circumstances I’d pick him comfortably against Frevola, who has no doubt played spoiler against prospects before, but I’m pretty bullish on Arman’s future. Arman Tsarukyan by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I liked the Azaitar fight for Frevola. It was dangerous, but would have given him a chance to show off how well rounded he is. Tsarukyan just seems like he’s probably going to be better absolutely everywhere. Arman Tsarukyan via decision.

Staff picking Frevola:
Staff picking Tsarukyan: Mookie, Dayne, Zane, Stephie

Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas

Mookie Alexander: Rodriguez should have the edge in the striking but her takedown defense is too much of a liability against someone like Ribas, who will not stall things out on top and she’ll do enough to win rounds there if not submit her. Amanda Ribas by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Ribas is fully willing to hit takedowns out of striking combinations from the body lock. Rodriguez’s takedown defense instincts still seem to be really poor. The striking could end up being surprisingly competitive, but as long as Ribas doesn’t just stay in the pocket with Rodriguez, she should have this. Amanda Ribas by decision.

Staff picking Rodriguez:
Staff picking Ribas: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane

Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior

Mookie Alexander: It’s a shame that Phil Mackenzie stopped doing the generic middleweight chronicles. This is the classic Flashy but Periodically Disappointing Kickboxer vs. The BJJ Guy with Suspect Gas Tanks matchup. Brad Tavares by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I really don’t want to pick Tavares here. He’s such a negative fighter, in terms of the action he creates in the cage. Much better at nullifying his opponent’s offense than creating his own. And Carlos Jr. for his faults, will try and create a lot of offense. But... if Tavares can shut it down, make himself hard to take down, hard to out-grapple? Then he’s probably a lot more likely to be putting together round winning offense in the latter half of the fight. Brad Tavares by decision.

Staff picking Tavares: Phil, Dayne, Mookie, Zane
Staff picking ACJ: Harry, Stephie, Anton

Sara McMann vs. Julianna Pena

Mookie Alexander: I back Pena to be too strong for McMann but both fighters have had instances of throwing away fights they were winning so I’m not exactly thrilled that we all picked Pena. (Okay nevermind Zane is here to deny the curse) Julianna Pena by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Kinda surprised to see everyone picking Pena here. She’s more assertive than McMann, but she’s also technically worse everywhere. Which is a big problem if she actually intends to wrestle the whole time, like she pretty much always does. Maybe McMann will get reversed and panic her way into a loss (it’s happened before). But I just think she’ll start every round out in dominant positions, with Pena fighting to recover. Sara McMann by decision.

Staff picking McMann: Zane
Staff picking Pena: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne

Khalil Rountree vs. Marcin Prachnio

Mookie Alexander: Prachnio is not good. His chin is bad. Rountree hits hard. Khalil Rountree by KO, round 1.

Zane Simon: Prachnio is just too stiff standing to trade hands in the light heavyweight division. Khalil Rountree via KO, round 1.

Staff picking Rountree: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Prachnio:

Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov

Zane Simon: Sanchez has struggled hard against strikers who can maintain pace and output and don’t get easily overwhelmed by his early blitzes. Even as his technique has come along nicely, he still got entirely handled by Marvin Vettori just a couple fights ago. Muradov’s got the range and the jab and the speed and the footwork. Think he can just stay away and stay ahead all fight. Makhmud Muradov via decision.

Staff picking Sanchez:
Staff picking Muradov: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Anton, Dayne, Zane

Movsar Evloev vs. Nik Lentz

Zane Simon: Evloev is an absolute bulldog. Totally tireless, dedicated to volume in all areas, and hard as hell to dissuade from attacking. Lentz has invested more in power than he used to, but it’s also seemingly made him more prone to gassing out. After a round with Evloev, I don’t think he’ll have much left in the tank. Movsar Evloev via TKO, round 3.

Staff picking Evloev: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phi, Anton, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Lentz:

Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov

Zane Simon: An insanely difficult fight for me to call. Zhumagulov has some fantastic wins before getting to the UFC, and Albazi stumbled pretty much the first time he was presented with a really decent opponent. Still, Zhumagulov’s patient, adjusting, low-output style is firmly against the flyweight meta. Albazi might not be the deepest striker, but he’s a competent, high out-put fighter that can compete everywhere. There’s a chance that Zhumagulov finds a gap to exploit in the second and turns the tide, but I’ll bet on the more active scrapper, even without the quality wins. Amir Albazi by decision.

Staff picking Albazi: Harry, Stephie, Mookie, Phil, Dayne, Zane
Staff picking Zhumagulov: Anton

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