Dustin Poirier is going to be in total defense mode in RD1 as he and the whole world knows that’s when Conor is the most dangerous. Conor finished him inside of two minutes when they first clashed in 2014 but Poirier has since blossomed into one of the best fighters in the promotion since moving up to lightweight (155 pounds) directly following the loss and its hard to believe he (and Conor too for what it’s worth) ever fought at 145 looking at the size of him now.
Judging by eye, Dustin appeared to be wearing the weight cut harder and weighed in just at the 156-pound limit so it’ll be interesting to see if that has any effect on the both as he had been looking bigger than ever in the months leading up to this fight what I believe to be a clear attempt to gain a size advantage on Conor. He’s making a major risk there as not being fully hydrated/at full strength against a lethal McGregor is playing with fire.
If he and his team are smart – and they are – they have to know his best path to victory is a submission (a Dustin submission pays +1000, great value) in round 2 or later.
On the flip side, I believe Conor is sick and tired of the “he has no cardio” narrative. His team also knows if he ever wants a real shot at beating Khabib he’ll have to evolve and I think we see a totally new approach tonight, a more methodical Conor with a pace; although he’ll surely go for a kill shot if he sees one early.
Really think this one has a solid chance of going the distance, and until I see Conor actually get hurt on his feet, let alone finished I’ll never believe it’s gonna happen. This is gonna be a dogfight, and it’ll be close but if Conor doesn’t finish him early, he’ll gas out for a bit midway but catch a second win and secure a decision win (Conor is +650 to win by decision).
DP is a legit black belt though and that submission threat is very real. On the flip side, Conor’s takedown defense and Jui Jitsu are so underrated and Dustin isn’t a terrific wrestler so it’ll be easier said than done so submit him.
Unfortunately for Dustin, his biggest strength (throwing lethal multi-punch combos) is exactly what Conor feeds into on offense as he’s probably the best counterpuncher in UFC history. It’s simply going to be extremely arduous for him to rock Conor standing, and if Conor is able to slip a few of those punches it could be lights out at any moment.
Overall, Conor is overpriced at closing at around -330 at most books and is more accurately about a -200 favorite if popularity wasn’t a factor.
This is going to be a terrific, tantalizing fight no matter how it ends up shaking out.
UFC 257 outside of the main event
Chandler – Hooker
Have to be honest, I don’t watch much, if any, Bellator so I’ve never really seen Michael Chandler fight live. I think he’s doing to be in for a rude UFC awakening against Dan Hooker (-120) though who has the antidotes for strong wrestlers in the forms of lethal knees and super slick submissions. Would be surprised to see Chandler win (even money).
Believe Hooker will get a finish here and cement himself in the top-five of the sport’s toughest division. It’s going to take an almost perfect effort out of Chandler to best Hooker who is really coming into his own and that’s a tall ask of a guy who is making his UFC debut on such a big stage against a seasoned UFC vet.
Hooker should easily be able to control the distance and even just feinting knees should keep Chandler at bay.
Ribas – Rodriguez
This will be Amanda Ribas’ (-330) true coming out party, as she’s already only about 1-2 solid outings away from a title shot and will be that much closer when she finishes a tough 12-1 Marina Rodriguez, whose only loss is against former champ Carla Esparza, tonight.
Had she not gotten a bogus two-year PED suspension that eventually got overturned, Ribas would already be in the title picture. She’s the next big thing in the women’s division.
Rest of the Main Card
The rest of the card isn’t super inspiring although there’s the potential (as always) for some crazy finishes on the prelims.
Don’t see Jessica Eye/Jojo Calderwood (-120) being very exciting although the bad blood makes it interesting. Not sure that Jessica Eye (+100) has fully recovered mentally from the vicious headkick knockout she suffered at the hands of Valentina and she has a nagging elbow injury that could hinder her.
The same thing goes for Julianna Pena/Sarah McMann (-125) as far as exactment level/chance of a crazy finish goes but I see Pena (+105) grinding out a fairly decisive decision. She’s worth a look at a play as I feel the oddsmakers have the wrong fighter favored.
As far as the undercard goes, your best potential for a wild finish should come in the Khalil Roundtree (-380)/Marcin Prachnio bout. One of them will get KO’d and I think Prachnio actually has a solid chance of pulling out a shock upset (+300 dog) via knockout as he’s on a three-fight skid and needs to do something special if he wants to hang around the UFC.
Roundtree simply isn’t good enough to deserve to be almost a 4:1 favorite against anyone in the UFC as he’s been finished in the first round in 2/3 fights himself.
Although Prachnio has been finished in all three of those consecutive losses, they came against pretty stiff competition and was very successful in his ONE championship days.
Long Island’s own Matt Frevola is pretty significantly underpriced at +500 and is worth a look at that number.
Arman Tsarukyan (-700) is riding a significant amount (of mostly unwarranted) hype heading into this one and doesn’t deserve to be a 7:1 favorite here.
Fan favorite Brad Tavaras (+100) Antônio Carlos Junior (-120) should be a back-and-forth battle that I believe will end up going to decision but it’s really a coin flip.
Both fighters are relatively young, but extremely seasoned veterans that have fought the majority of their careers in the UFC so their records aren’t a great indicator of how high-quality they truly are.
If you’re going to play something here, Carlos Júnior by submission at +340 as he’s a high-level BJJ black belt with 8 career submissions under his belt.
Here are my personal plays for the night:
(Chuck Vitolo’s YTD record: 0-0)
• Conor McGregor +Amanda Ribas parlay to win (-145) for 3 units
• Conor McGregor by decision (+650) for .5 units
• Dan Hooker (-120) for 2.5 units
• Amanda Ribas by sub (+280) for 1 units
• Julianna Pena (+108) for 1 unit
(My max bets are 5 units and all odds are courtesy of Fanduel Sportsbook)