UFC 257 Preview: Julianna Pena – Sara McMann

A UFC 257 matchup that’s been flying under the radar takes place tomorrow in the women’s bantamweight division. Two top ten bantamweights will battle it out as Julianna Pena (9-4) will take on the former Olympian, Sara McMann (12-5).

Sara McMann was an Olympic Silver Medalist in freestyle wrestling and she’s challenged for UFC gold during her tenure as a fighter. However, we haven’t seen much of her over the past couple of years.

Tomorrow night will be McMann’s third fight since the start of 2018. The former title challenger is looking to pickup her second consecutive win tomorrow night. The last time we saw McMann she won a decision over Lina Lansberg.

That fight took place almost a year ago exactly. McMann seems very focused and she seems intent on making another run towards a potential UFC title shot. She has a tough test in front of her if she wants to do that.

Former Ultimate Fighter winner, Julianna Pena, last fought back in October on Fight Island. The Venezuelan Vixen had a really good fight with top contender and former UFC champion, Germaine de Randamie.

Pena had some real bright spots in that fight. However, she was choked unconscious in the third round. Had Pena won that fight, she might’ve been the next in line to face Amanda Nunes for the bantamweight title.

UFC 257 Prediction

This is a very good matchup and a very intriguing one at UFC 257. I’m very curious to see how the grappling exchanges go in this fight. Of course, we all know McMann’s pedigree as a wrestler.

However, Pena is one of the better grapplers at 135 pounds. She’s good on top and she’s good on her back. She poses a number of challenges for McMann when it comes to the grappling.

On the feet, Pena is going to enjoy a reach advantage at UFC 257. For her to get the better of the striking, she’s going to need to keep the fight at range and strike long tomorrow night.

I think Pena is going to have the advantage there. For McMann to win tomorrow, she’s going to have to do some damage in the clinch and control Pena on the ground. While I think she’ll have her moments, I see Pena scoring more over three rounds and edging out a decision.

Prediction: Julianna Pena by Unanimous Decision

UFC 257 Preview: Jessica Eye – JoJo Calderwood

At UFC 257 we will see a battle of two top ten flyweight contenders on the main card. Jessica “Evil” Eye (15-8, 1 NC) will take on Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (14-5) in a key battle at women’s flyweight.

2020 certainly didn’t go as planned for JoJo Calderwood. Calderwood started the year believing that she was going to get a UFC title shot. In fact, the UFC booked her against Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) for the title in June.

However, Shevchenko ended up having a knee injury and the fight was delayed. Calderwood wanted to stay active and decided to take a fight against Jennifer Maia (18-7-1). This proved to be a massive mistake as she was submitted in the first round and lost her title shot.

Calderwood is just 1-2 in her last three fights. However, both of those losses came to former title challengers. She will look to bounce back against another title challenger tomorrow night.

Jessica Eye also didn’t have a 2020 that went according to plan. She ended 2019 strong with a big win over Viviane Araujo (10-2). However, she was then tasked with welcoming Cynthia Calvillo (9-2-1) to the flyweight division.

Eye didn’t look good at all in that fight and she lost a five round decision to Calvillo. That was the only time we saw Eye in the octagon in 2020. It’s worth noting that she’s still one of the UFC‘s best flyweights having only lost twice since moving up to 125.

UFC 257 Prediction

This is a very intriguing matchup and I could see both of these ladies getting their hands raised at UFC 257. When it comes to the striking, I believe that Calderwood is going to have the advantage on the feet tomorrow night.

I believe she has a much more diverse attack especially when she mixes in her kicks. Jessica Eye has some pretty decent boxing, but we really don’t see her mix it up that much. That said, she does strike in bunches would could be key at UFC 257.

I don’t think either of these ladies is going to score a finish tomorrow night. To me, this is going to be a contest of who scores the most. If we stay purely at boxing range, I think Eye can pull this decision out.

However, I’m actually going to lean the other way in my prediction. I believe that Calderwood is going to come out with something to prove tomorrow. Maybe look for her to utilize the clinch and mix in her kicks. This fight will be close, but I’ll lean Calderwood on the cards.

Prediction: JoJo Calderwood by Split Decision

UFC 257 Preview: Amanda Ribas – Marina Rodriguez

At UFC 257, one of the rising stars of the promotion will make the walk for the fifth time. Kicking off the PPV main card tomorrow night, rising star, Amanda Ribas (10-1), will be taking on fellow Brazilian, Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2).

Amanda Ribas has star written all over her and the UFC knows it. Ribas has an extremely vibrant personality and she seems to captivate the attention of everyone. Not too mention the fact that she’s unbeaten in the UFC.

The rising strawweight contender made her debut with the promotion just about a year and a half ago. Since then, Ribas has gone 4-0 in the UFC with wins over Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos, and Paige VanZant.

Originally, Ribas was supposed to take on Michelle Waterson at UFC 257. However, Waterson had to pull out of the fight and in stepped the top ten contender, Marina Rodriguez.

Rodriguez suffered her first career loss in her last fight that came during the UFC‘s first trip to Fight Island. She took on former strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, and Esparza was able to walk away with a split decision.

Rodriguez earned herself a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender series back in 2018 when she scored a first round knockout. Since the, she’s 2-1-2 in five fights with the promotion. The highlight of her tenure was a win over Tecia Torres.

UFC 257 Prediction

Based on their past performances and looking at their skillsets, I can see a path to victory for both of these ladies at UFC 257. For Ribas, she’s going to have to keep this fight in close quarters.

She would be best served to try and force this fight to take place on the ground or in the clinch. In those two positions, I think she has a massive advantage over Marina Rodriguez. However, I’m not sure she’d have a pure striking advantage.

For Rodriguez, she’s going to need to keep this fight at range. If this is purely a striking match from distance at UFC 257, I think that Rodriguez could pickup the win and derail the Ribas hype train.

That said, I really like Amanda Ribas in this matchup. I believe she’s going to be able to force her way on the inside and I think this fight will touch the mat. Once it does, I think Ribas will be in full control. I’m going out on a limb and I’ll say she picks up a submission tomorrow night.

Prediction: Amanda Ribas by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 2

Ottman Azaitar was removed from UFC 257 due to protocol violations (Updated)

The morning we saw some shuffling in tomorrow night’s UFC 257 card. Originally, Ottman Azaitar (13-0) was scheduled to take on Matt Frevola (8-1-1) on the PPV main card. However, we learned early this morning that the fight was scrapped. 

Originally, the assumption was that the fight was scrapped due to a weight cutting issue from Azaitar. Frevola still made the walk to the UFC 257 weigh-ins and he made weight successfully at 155.5 pounds.

With the Azaitar fight scrapped, the promotion shifted gears to get Frevola another fight. Lightweight Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) was scheduled to take on Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) tomorrow night. However, Haqparast came down with an illness and was pulled out.

The UFC has paired Frevola and Tsarukyan for a fight tomorrow night. A couple of hours after all this drama and we are learning more about what happened with Ottman Azaitar. Azaitar’s team posted an Instagram video of his tough weight cut just hours before weigh-ins.

For this reason, many believed it was an issue with his weight. However, the UFC has come out with a statement discussing why Azaitar was removed from tomorrow night’s card.

Their statement reads, “UFC is aware of a recent violation of the health and safety protocols involving Ottman Azaitar. As such, Azaitar has been removed from the safety zone and his upcoming bout against Matt Frevola has been canceled.”

What’s next for the UFC’s Azaitar?

One thing we know for sure is that the promotion takes their protocols extremely seriously. The rules that the UFC has in place are extremely strict and so far, fighters have done a good job of obeying the rules.

That of course changed this morning with Azaitar. Azaitar – Frevola was a very good fight for UFC 257 and now we will not get to see it due to health and safety violations from The Bulldozer.

Dana White announced that Ottman Azaitar has been cut from the promotion due to the violations. He told Farah Hannoun the news after this morning’s ceremonial weigh-ins.

UFC 257 Preview: Dan Hooker – Michael Chandler

Tomorrow night at UFC 257, we have another incredible lightweight fight in the co-main event of the evening. Dan Hooker (20-9) will be tasked with welcoming Michael Chandler (21-5) to the UFC.

Chandler is the former Bellator lightweight champion and he’s been widely considered to be one of the best lightweights in the world for a long time. After spending ten years with Bellator, Chandler made the jump to the UFC in 2020.

Chandler was actually introduced to the UFC audience as the backup for the Khabib Nurmagomedov – Justin Gaethje fight. He traveled to Fight Island and made weight, but ultimately didn’t compete.

This will be Chandler’s first true action in the UFC. Outside of a doctor stoppage due to a leg injury, Chandler has only lost once since 2015. He comes into the fight tomorrow night riding a two-fight first round knockout streak.

However, Chandler is jumping right into the deep end of the pool. Dan Hooker completely turned his career around when he moved up to 155 pounds. After struggling for years at 145, Hooker moved up and it’s changed everything.

Since moving to lightweight, Dan Hooker has only lost twice. Those two losses came against Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier. However, he’s picked up wins over Paul Felder, Al Iaquinta, and Gilbert Burns.

UFC 257 Prediction

When it comes to my UFC 257 prediction, it’s all going to come down to the grappling. Yes, Michael Chandler has two first round knockouts in his last two fights. However, I don’t believe he wants to purely stand and trade with Dan Hooker.

Hooker is a sniper on the feet and enjoys a big reach advantage in this fight. For Michael Chandler, he’s going to have to land some takedowns or get some control in this one if he wants to win. If it becomes just a standup fight, I think he’ll get picked apart over three rounds.

That said, Chandler does have the power and speed to land one massive shot on the feet. For Dan Hooker, he needs to keep this fight standing and he needs to keep this fight at range. If he does that, he’ll be able to spoil Chandler’s UFC debut.

This is a fight where I see both men enjoying some success. I think Hooker is going to land some big shots, and I also believe that Michael Chandler is going to land a couple of takedowns as well as land on the feet. So who walks away with their hand raised?

I’m not confident in this pick at all, but I’m leaning towards Michael Chandler. If this fight was five rounds, I’d probably lean towards Hooker because I’ve seen Chandler get tired, but in three rounds, I think he’ll use his wrestling to score enough points to win two of the rounds.

That said, if Dan Hooker is able to keep this standing, I could easily see him picking Chandler apart on the feet. I wouldn’t put money on this pick, but Chandler will win his UFC debut in a very close fight.

Prediction: Michael Chandler by Split Decision

Matt Frevola will now meet Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257

UFC, Matt Frevola

There was a bit of drama this morning at the UFC 257 weigh-ins. To start out the morning, Jon Anik announced that the lightweight matchup between Matt Frevola (8-1-1) and Ottman Azaitar (13-0) was called off.

There still has been no update other than that from the UFC. Azaitar’s team posted a video on Instagram a few hours ago saying it was a tough weight cut, but supposedly Azaitar was close to making weight.

However, he never made it to the UFC 257 weigh-ins. Matt Frevola still showed up and successfully made weight at 155.5 pounds. The word was that Frevola would serve as a backup with many other lightweight fights on the card.

At this point, you can imagine Frevola would take a fight against anyone considering this would be his fourth cancellation in the last year. Later on this morning, Arman Tsarukyan (15-2) took the scale. He was three pounds over coming in at 159 pounds.

Tsarukyan was scheduled to take on Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) tomorrow night. UFC officials have announced that Haqparast will not compete tomorrow and never made it to weigh-ins this morning just like Azaitar.

With those two out, the promotion moved to book the matchup between Frevola and Tsarukyan. After some scrambling, the UFC confirmed the bout and now Matt Frevola will take on Arman Tsarukyan tomorrow night.

UFC 257’s new lightweight matchup

This will be the first UFC fight for Frevola since October of 2019. As previously mentioned, Frevola had three fights fall through in 2020. It was not surprising at all to see him accept the fight against Tsarukyan this morning.

Tsarukyan is a Russian prospect that has a decent amount of hype behind him. Since 2015, the only man to have defeated Tsarukyan is Islam Makhachev. That loss came in Tsarukyan’s UFC debut.

Since that fight, he’s 2-0 with two decision wins. Both men are riding two-fight winning streaks heading into tomorrow night. While it’s not the opponent they originally had, they both will still have the opportunity to compete on a massive Conor McGregor card.

UFC 257 Preview: Conor McGregor – Dustin Poirier 2

We are just one day away from UFC 257 and the main event that fight fans have been waiting for. Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) will get his chance at revenge when he takes on the biggest star in the sport, Conor McGregor (22-4).

The fight is of course a rematch from UFC 178. That night, Poirier was supposed to provide the first true test for Conor McGregor. Instead, McGregor tore through Poirier and finished him in the first round.

Here we are now over six years later getting ready to see the rematch and this time at lightweight. For Dustin Poirier, his career really took off when he moved up to 155 pounds. Since making the move to lightweight after the McGregor loss, he’s only lost twice.

One of those coming to the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0). Outside of that, Poirier has been sensational at lightweight. He’s tougher, more durable, and way more powerful at 155 pounds.

He became the UFC interim lightweight champion during his run. Poirier holds victories over Dan Hooker, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Anthony Pettis since moving up. Simply put, he’s one of the best.

Return of the Mac

Then of course you have Conor McGregor. The UFC’s first champ-champ will be making the walk for the first time since last January. It’s worth noting that this is actually only McGregor’s third fight in the UFC’s lightweight division.

In his first fight, he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the title. After that, he pursued a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. The only other time he fought at lightweight was at UFC 229 when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Despite this only being McGregor’s third fight in the UFC’s lightweight division, it should be noted that he’s one of the best in the world. If you’re doubting the skill of Conor McGregor, you’re simply hating on the man because his skill can’t be questioned.

You do not just knockout Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez the way he did without skill. You don’t finish Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds without skill. Conor McGregor is an incredibly dangerous lightweight contender and he might be the best in the world outside of Khabib.

UFC 257 Prediction

The rematch at UFC 257 is incredibly fascinating. I believe that both men are fighting at their natural weight class in this fight. Dustin Poirier is so much better than he was the first time they fought. However, McGregor is a lot better than he was as well.

The questions surround whether Poirier has done enough to not just make up the gap, but surpass McGregor. One thing I’ll be looking at right away tomorrow night is the pace and who pushes forward early.

When Dustin Poirier is at his best, he’s the one pressing the action. However, if he’s tentative and moving backwards, he gets himself into trouble. When he fought Max Holloway, the only time he was getting touched up was when he didn’t press the action.

He can’t afford to let McGregor dictate the pace at UFC 257. That said, he also needs to be incredibly careful in the first round when McGregor’s at his most dangerous. It’s a tight rope to walk and the first round is going to tell me a lot.

I’ve gone back and forth and I’m making this prediction based on the best version of both guys. If the best version of Dustin Poirier fights the best version of Conor McGregor at UFC 257, the result will be similar to the first and that’s what I’m going with.

I like McGregor’s speed and ability to throw straight shots. Poirier hooks a lot more than McGregor and if he does that too much, he’ll get beat to the punch down the center line. In the end, I think McGregor wins the rematch in the second round with a finish.

Prediction: Conor McGregor by TKO – Round 2

UFC 257 loses Matt Frevola – Ottman Azaitar

UFC, Matt Frevola

This morning we had the weight-ins for UFC 257 and the PPV lost one of the fights on the main card. While reasons are still unknown at this time, Jon Anik announced that the main card bout between Matt Frevola (8-1-1) and Ottman Azaitar (13-0) was off.

It’s worth noting that Frevola did successfully weigh-in at 155.5 pounds for UFC 257. However, we never saw Azaitar this morning. The word is that Frevola will now serve as a backup for one of the other lightweight bouts on the card should someone else fall out.

This was a fight that I was very intrigued by. Azaitar has looked sensational since he made his UFC debut back in 2019. He’s scored two devastating first round knockouts including one over Khama Worthy.

The Bulldozer looks like he can be a force at 155 pounds. Matt Frevola is riding a two-fight winning streak of his own. “The Steamrolla” was supposed to be a really good test for Azaitar to see just where he’s at in the lightweight division.

Frevola last fought in October of 2019 when he defeated Luis Pena. Frevola had a couple of UFC fights fall through in 2020 and that kept him out. After a year off, you can imagine that Frevola is very frustrated with the developments this morning.

The UFC’s Plan

As mentioned, the UFC’s plan is for Frevola to stick around. There are several lightweight bouts on the card and should someone fallout, he would be there to step in. It’s hard to say what the promotion will do when it comes to the original Azaitar – Frevola fight.

We still don’t know what exactly happened with Azaitar, however, we can likely assume it was a weight cutting issue. This is a really good matchup on paper and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the UFC put this together again soon should Frevola not compete tomorrow night.

 

UFC: Conor McGregor issues response to Jake Paul

Conor McGregor, UFC

Conor McGregor (22-4) is getting prepared for his return at UFC 257 against Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC). McGregor appears to be as focused as he’s ever been. He also looks like he’s in incredible shape ahead of his return this Saturday.

One thing that McGregor hasn’t addressed in the past couple of weeks is the callout from Jake Paul. It doesn’t seem that really any reporter has asked the question, but that changed when he was interviewed by BT Sport.

Towards the end of his interview, McGregor was asked about YouTubers calling him out. The former UFC champion made it clear that he really doesn’t take it seriously and he believes that Jake Paul is a little confused.

“He seems like a confused little kid to me. Now, he’s willing to get in there so I don’t know what’s going to happen. You never know,” McGregor said to BT Sport. While his tone seemed to indicate he doesn’t take it seriously, he at least left the door open for the potential fight.

UFC’s McGregor – Jake Paul

McGregor has made it clear that his focus is on another UFC run at lightweight. However, he does have interest in boxing. He’s openly talked about his desire to box Manny Pacquiao and he alluded to that in this interview.

It was announced yesterday that Paul would be headlining a boxing card on April 17th. However, we do not know the opponent of that bout just yet. Paul has made it clear that he wants to box an MMA fighter in his next bout.

I think it’s safe to say that he’s not going to be boxing the former UFC champion next. I’m very curious to see who Paul ends up boxing in April, and if he wants to be taken seriously, he needs to box someone from a combat sports background.

Conor McGregor hit with multimillion-dollar lawsuit to kick off UFC 257’s Fight Week

Conor McGregor, UFC

This upcoming Saturday at UFC 257, Conor McGregor (22-4) will be making his return to the octagon. McGregor is headlining the first PPV of 2021 against Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) in a rematch from their original fight that took place over six years ago.

It seems that everything has gone smooth in McGregor’s preparation for his UFC return. He seems more focused than ever and he seems to be in the best shape he’s ever been in leading up to the fight.

McGregor has been through a lot over the past few years. In reality, he’s brought a lot of negative attention onto himself with his actions. Whether it was throwing a dolly threw a bus window or punching an old man in a pub in Dublin, McGregor has made some questionable decisions.

That said, the last year has been smooth for McGregor. He fought at UFC 246 to kickoff 2020 and won in 40 seconds. After that, he had some public spats with the UFC that caused a brief retirement. However, nothing extremely negative happened outside the cage.

Instead, McGregor appeared to still be training despite his self-proclaimed retirement. Just when you thought we were in the clear of all the outside drama, news broke today that McGregor has been hit with a multimillion-dollar law suit over events that took place in 2018.

Will this impact UFC 257?

ESPN reported today that a suit was filed against McGregor in the High Court of Dublin. The lawsuit is a personal injury lawsuit that has been filed by a woman in Dublin. McGregor and an associate are both listed as defendants in the case.

It is worth noting that the UFC star was already investigated for this alleged incident. After collecting evidence and doing a series of interviews, the UFC star was not charged of any crime.

Of course, just because McGregor wasn’t charged doesn’t mean that the woman cannot pursue damages. That said, it appears that it will be an uphill battle for the woman and her mother who have filed the lawsuits against McGregor.

You already know that there is a high-level legal team that will start to handle this. However, one has to wonder if it will be in the back of his mind as he prepares this week. Then again, maybe McGregor will be able to block it out and just focus on the fight in front of him.