ABU DHABI, U.A.E. — When Conor McGregor is concerned, there’s at all times potential for hyperbole. When you’ve got a star that large, every thing tends to dial up a notch — together with any feedback associated to him or an upcoming battle. But enable me to say, I’ve genuinely seemed ahead to this second for the reason that finish of 2016.
Whether this all involves fruition, solely time will inform. But I consider we’d lastly understand the true preventing potential of McGregor in 2021. If you return to the tip of 2016, McGregor was the reigning featherweight and light-weight champion. He’d avenged his submission loss to Nate Diaz. He wasn’t thought-about the very best fighter on this planet, however he was on the radar for that honor.
Of course, everyone knows what occurred subsequent. McGregor (22-4), who fights Dustin Poirier in a nontitle light-weight battle at UFC 257 on Saturday in Abu Dhabi (important card at 10 p.m. ET, buy right here on pay-per-view), pursued a profitable boxing match towards Floyd Mayweather in 2017, proceeded to run into varied authorized troubles, misplaced a championship battle to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018, did not battle in any respect in 2019 and competed as soon as in 2020 for lower than a minute.
And frankly, all of that is not exhausting to know. McGregor rose to never-before-seen ranges of fame in 2016, and he cashed in with the Mayweather battle. That match was entertaining and it paid McGregor greater than any MMA battle would have, but it surely was additionally a farce and a monumental pivot from what he may need achieved in MMA.
It’s wild to assume: McGregor has been within the UFC since 2013, and one might argue he has competed in his most pure weight class solely twice. His reduce to featherweight was manageable however brutal. And he isn’t even near the typical dimension of a welterweight. McGregor is a light-weight, and we have seen him compete there solely in 2016, when he received the belt from Eddie Alvarez, and 2018, when he did not regain it towards Nurmagomedov.
Look, we all know who McGregor is as a star and a public determine. He has had an apparent influence on the total fight sports activities trade, in addition to on the sports activities media trade as an entire. And we all know quite a bit about him as a fighter, too. We know he is supremely proficient. We know he was the UFC’s first “champ-champ.” We know he is good — nice even.
But we do not understand how really nice he’s. That’s the half that is left to be outlined. Had he by no means deviated into the world of a “Money Fight” with Mayweather and roughly disappeared from competitors after, what would possibly he have carried out? Defended the light-weight championship a number of instances? Challenged for a 3rd belt? Might he even have overwhelmed Nurmagomedov underneath totally different circumstances, if he’d maintained all of the momentum of 2016?
I actually, really hope we’re about to seek out out. McGregor has repeatedly mentioned he is dedicated to this 155-pound body, and he is seeking to be energetic in 2021. We know McGregor is a tremendous fighter. I need to discover out this 12 months precisely how wonderful he may be.
By the numbers
91: Percentage of McGregor victories that he has ended with finishes (19 knockouts and one submission in 22 wins).
1.95: Knockdowns per quarter-hour within the cage for McGregor, the eighth-highest fee in UFC historical past.
8: Pay-per-view occasions headlined by McGregor since 2015, together with this one. Only Daniel Cormier (9) has carried out it extra. This would be the fourth McGregor PPV important occasion that is a nontitle battle, essentially the most of anybody prior to now 10 years.
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
A glance again
Since then …
Five vs. 5
Dustin Poirier’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Dan Hooker (UD, June 27, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Khabib Nurmagomedov (Sub3, Sept. 7, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Max Holloway (UD, April 13, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Eddie Alvarez (TKO2, July 28, 2018)
Win: Justin Gaethje (TKO4, April 14, 2018)
Conor McGregor’s most up-to-date outcomes
Win: Donald Cerrone (TKO1, Jan. 18, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Khabib Nurmagomedov (Sub4, Oct. 6, 2018; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Eddie Alvarez (TKO2, Nov. 12, 2016; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Nate Diaz (MD, Aug. 20, 2016; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Nate Diaz (Sub2, March 5, 2016; watch on ESPN+)
Dom & Gil’s movie examine
Dominick Cruz on why Poirier-McGregor 1 went the way in which it did:
On Unlocking Victory, Dominick Cruz breaks down how Conor McGregor arrange his knockout win vs. Dustin Poirier in 2014.
Gilbert Melendez on how Poirier-McGregor 2 can go in a different way:
On Unlocking Victory, Gilbert Melendez shows how Dustin Poirier can keep away from Conor McGregor’s counter left hand.
And the winner is …
“I feel Poirier is gonna attempt to battle sensible and win a combined martial arts bout, not make it a standup battle or a grappling battle,” says UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber. “Conor has been trying tremendous spectacular so far as his athleticism goes. It appears to be like like he is taking it actually critically. I’m leaning on the aspect of Conor once more.”
Faber is one in all a number of fighters and coaches who’ve weighed in with evaluation and predictions. See what they needed to say right here.
Taking a deeper dive right into a breakdown of the battle is ESPN MMA analyst Gilbert Melendez, the two-time Strikeforce light-weight champion and a former WEC light-weight champ. His place to begin: that this can be a rematch.
“McGregor obtained the perfect of Poirier years in the past,” Melendez writes, “and it doesn’t matter what, that may weigh closely on the mindset of each fighters.”
How to look at the fights
Don’t have ESPN? Get prompt entry.
Don’t have ESPN+ for the prelims and PPV? Get it right here.
Purchased the battle in your cellphone and need to stream in your TV? Find out how right here.
There’s additionally FightCenter, which gives reside updates for each UFC card.
Saturday’s battle card
PPV (through ESPN+), 10 p.m. ET
Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor | Lightweight
Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler | Lightweight
Jessica Eye vs. Joanne Calderwood | Women’s flyweight
Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov | Middleweight
Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas | Strawweight
ESPN/ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET
Matt Frevola vs. Arman Tsarukyan | Lightweight
Brad Tavares vs. Antonio Carlos Junior | Middleweight
Julianna Pena vs. Sara McMann | Women’s bantamweight
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio | Light heavyweight
ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET
Movsar Evloev vs. Nik Lentz | Catchweight (150 kilos)
Amir Albazi vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov | Men’s flyweight
Co-main occasion raises the curtain on a champion
Michael Chandler, the previous Bellator light-weight champion, makes his Octagon debut within the UFC 257 co-main occasion, going through Dan Hooker, who’s No. 6 within the ESPN light-weight rankings. Chandler is No. 7.
Chandler would be the ninth former Bellator champ to maneuver on to the UFC, with the earlier eight going 5-3 of their debuts. Those who received: Alexander Volkov, Lyman Good, Ben Askren, Will Brooks and Zach Makovsky. Those who misplaced: Hector Lombard, Eddie Alvarez and Joe Soto.
Alvarez is the one former Bellator champion to go on to win a UFC title.
A few notable numbers — or, why the judges possibly needn’t even trouble to take their seats at cageside: Chandler has had finishes in 76% of his profession fights (9 knockouts and 7 submissions in 21 wins), and Hooker’s end fee is 85% (10 knockouts and 7 submissions in 20 profession wins).
Two extra issues to know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Joanne Calderwood, who faces 2019 title challenger Jessica Eye, has landed 444 important strikes in her UFC profession, the third most in girls’s flyweight historical past. Calderwood is No. 5 within the ESPN rankings for the 125-pound division.
2. Opening the principle card is a matchup between prime Brazilian strawweights Marina Rodriguez, who’s No. 8 within the ESPN rankings at 115 kilos, and Amanda Ribas, who’s 4-0 within the Octagon. Rodriguez is coming off her first profession defeat, a split-decision loss to former champ Carla Esparza in July. Ribas has finishes in seven of her 10 profession wins (4 submissions, three knockouts).
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this battle preview.