UFC 257 – I’ll remind you, the current Lightweight division of the UFC is the 1980’s of Welterweight boxing.
Seeing these four on stage in Abu Dhabi it’s very easy for me to imagine the parallels in these fighters:
MCGREGOR as “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. The intimidating, muscular puncher that could switch the lights outs on ANYONE with one blow.
POIRIER as “Sugar” Ray Leonard with his combination striking and footwork to get out of harms way after engaging. Never a quick finisher but often coming out with the win in the end.
HOOKER as Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. The aesthetically pleasing long limbed striker, that you always thought would win but so often would go down (valiantly, and only to the best mind you). CHANDLER as the undersized, jacked Roberto “No mas” Duran, with fast, hands of stone, that everyone underestimated and often to their own demise. (Of course Khabib, Gaethje, Charles and yes Tony will be watching intently, eager to fill the next wave of electric fights in this stacked division).
Let’s break them down quickly:
Conor “The Notorious” McGregor, 22-4 vs. Dustin Poirier, 26-6 (Same exact size, reach advantage to McNuggets)
What happens? Conor KO’s Dustin in the first of course…. But with the look of a man who has worked aggressively on his own cardio, I don’t think he really cares if it takes him longer.
What can Poirier do? Hmmm. Not a lot. Poirier is a predictable, over extending, combination fighter that gets into fan friendly slugfests with similar-style fighters (Conor is a one-punch sniper).
We love Dustin, Gaethje, Alvarez, Nate at times, and probably Chandler because they fight in a phone booth. There is always action, there is always blood. They are our favourite warriors…. They are NOT however champions for long, because of this punishing, rather one-dimensional style (and all susceptible to the counter strike).
To be a champion you need to have a gift that nullifies any opponents array of weapons – You need Conor’s power striking (accuracy), Khabib’s suffocating ground game, or quite possibly Oliveira’s Brazilian Jiu jitsu.
Dustin sure has heart, incredibly polished skills, and confidence in his chin and his lungs. All will help, but the problem is he has to work so hard to get here (practicing/reps/long damaging fights) because he gives up a little in true talent. Yes, Conor talks a lot, and the (100’s of) million dollar man checks in when he wants to in the UFC. He’s also got talent, a business brain, and has Dana eating out of his hand. Conor kept very quiet (strategically), and make no mistake, HAND-picked Poirier (avoiding Gaethje) once Khabib/Justin was announced. Then he got loud. Why? Because it’s not dangerous for him. Conor has already beaten Dustin (a round one demolition), and the fights suits him perfectly (Cowboy was a joke of an opponent).
If Conor eventually fights Gaethje or Oliveira it would shock me. He wants Khabib next, it’s the only reason he is here. So, McGregor by KO, but let’s hope we get a phone booth that truly tests Conor’s resolve….. Because we know exactly how tough Poirier is… And we also know Conor quits with a capital Q at times – see Diaz, Khabib.
Dan “The Hangman” Hooker 6’ vs. Michael Chandler 5’7” (The Bellator dude)
This co main event may only last a minute as well. Chandler will be shot out of a cannon, head hunting from the start. If he connects on that (damaged?) chin it could be over. If he cannot stop Hooker early however, he’s in for a long night…. and we are in for another Hooker masterpiece of entertainment. I’d recommend looking at the Chandler title fight versus Eddie Alvarez to get an idea of his potential (incredible early pace)… but I believe in The Hangman, and I think he’d stuff Alvarez in a locker too. Hooker gets the win (still cannot understand how he makes the weight, he looks like a weight division above these other 3).
Nasrat Haqparast 12-3, 25 yrs old vs. Arman Tsarukyan, 15-2, 24yrs
Speaking of lightweights – two more absolute killers here. NASRAT is coached by the legendary Firas Zahabi (catch any you tube video talking about fighting, fitness, etc). My favourite being workout so you don’t get sore, because it will make you get back in that gym the next day. And build from there. So every day you are your best potential, find your flow state etc (whatever, just check his interview with Rogan). NASRAT is one of his young guns. A 25-year-old with a brilliant left and what seems to be a lucid brain (studied engineering) that follows direction well. I have high hopes…. Unfortunately, he’s been given another Russian (Georgian, even) terminator here. Holy smokes is his opponent tough, and was fed three of the toughest fights I have ever seen given to an unknown (Makhachev, Candian Gangster, then Davi Ramos!! going 2-1 taking all the full 15 minutes – kudos). I hope for a good fight (and if you told me NASRAT or Tsarukyan hold the belt in a few (5?) years I wouldn’t argue). Can’t miss fight here. I’ll take Nasrat cause I like his potential, but you have been warned. In fact, maybe take the other guy.
AMANDA RIBAS (v Marina Rodriguez) – I just love her. She’s the easiest money in the company right now (along with Stipe, McGregor against his good matchups, and against McGregor in the obvious mismatches, Khabib, Jon Jones and I guess Usman (although he will go down soon). She’s just very very good.
KHALIL ROUNTREE v Marcin Prachnio -This guy goes away for stretches of time. One time it was Thailand and he came back with a new Muay Thai left kick that he learned, and he dominated. I lost the very last time he fought, he got demo’d by Cutelaba. But he just seems like a cool cat, with some kind of internal zen – beyond the average goon in this sport. I’ll take him here, and by KO.
Joanne Calderwood vs Jessica “Evil” Eye
The stats on Joanne are stupid. For example: Max Holloway has averaged 7.43 strikes landed per minute when fighting at distance. That’s 3rd in UFC history for anyone with 1+ hour of distance time. First place is Joanne Calderwood, at 8.61 per minute. Ummmm, huh? I’m taking a page out of the quant side of the business/brain. All in Calderwood, and I’m not sure what she looks like.
Movsar Evloev vs Nik Lentz
How is Lentz still fighting in the UFC? Surely this will be the last. He’s between BJ Penn and Jeremy “who the fook is THAT guy??” Stephens (you really didn’t think I was going to get it in?) in terms of damage. This is the biggest mismatch since black beast got um, controlled from behind, ahem by Cormier. Bet the fucking whole bitcoin on this Evloev guy.
Ottman Azaitar vs. Matt Frevola
Wait, I take that back, THIS is my favourite bet of the night because the odds look better. 2 fights ago we thought Azaitar literally killed poor Teemu Packalen (as predicted)… it was scary. He followed that up by knocking out the incredibly dangerous Khama Worthy. This guy is 13-0 with like 18 stoppages in the first round. This is a lock – some guys are just really good at total destruction. Azaitar by round 1 KO. And for the record I’d like to apologise to all of you….. for absolutely nothing!!
Best bet: AZAITAR. EVLOEV. CONOR. RIBAS.