Conor McGregor is a legend unlike anything the UFC has ever seen and likely will ever see in the bright future ahead of the company. The company's first ever 'champ-champ' and headliner in five of the company's six highest-selling events ever is a mogul, a role model, and a legend.
Arguably the greatest Featherweight in UFC history, Conor is one of the only fighters ever to compete in three different weight classes, also competing in Lightweight and Welterweight competition. While his records outside of his true weight class isn't stellar (2-1 in WW and 1-1 in LW), he will again be competing at Lightweight against the epitome of consistency in the division, Dustin Poirier.
As I said in parts 1 and 2 of 'Conor's Return', their previous bout in 2014 was won by McGrgeor with an extraordinary 1st-round knockout, but with both men's improvements over the last six-and-a-half-years especially striking-wise, the outcome of Saturday's matchup is firmly in the air.
Conor is larger than life when it comes to the UFC and it's athletes. Conor made his UFC debut in April of 2013 and within two-and-a-half years became the most popular athlete the company had ever seen. With his jaw-dropping knockout victories, his hilarious and quotable press conferences, but most especially his national following form the proud and rampant citizens of Ireland, Conor has inked a legacy for himself commandeering worship from die-hard MMA fans and casuals alike.
Saturday January 23rd's matchup between UFC god Conor McGregor, and the long-under appreciated dark horse Dustin Poirier is intriguing in more mays than one. Conor's over-whelming favoritism in Vegas odds has put him on a pedestal this writer believes is undeserved. There is no question Conor is great and quite possibly the best, pure striker in the sport's history, but Poirier is one of the toughest and most experienced fighters Conor has or ever will compete against. Pair those traits with Poirier's wrestling superiority along with an arguable advantage in "hunger to win", and the recipe for an underdog win is all there. I'm not saying Conor's going to lose, frankly I would hesitantly pick Conor to win via tko in the 3rd round, but a victory for Poirier whether it be an early submission or a decision, would not render me surprised but happy for the underdog.
The PPV on January 23, 2021 will have a long way to go to become the highest-selling event in the promotion's history, the highest being UFC 229 which grossed an astonishing $180 million dollars. That headliner also included McGregor along with the second-highest grossing event UFC 202 which "only" grossed $90 million.
The Lightweight division is the most competitive and most talked-about division in the UFC with contenders like Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira and Tony Ferguson. McGregor and Poirier may be the biggest names in the division and rightfully so, but this division doesn't stop there.
In the co-main event in UFC 257, #5 ranked Lightweight Dan Hooker will fight debuting and soon-to-be-ranked, former Bellator Lightweight world champion Michael Chandler. Chandler is a consummate grappler who's striking on his feet or on the ground puts people to sleep. Dana White officially signed Chandler in September and was an unnecessary backup plan in case either Gaethje or Nurmagomedov were unable to compete at UFC 254. Three months later and we finally will get to see what Chandler is made of when he takes on the explosive Dan Hooker on January 23rd. This matchup will cement the winner firmly in the top-5 of the division which at the moment, has no champion thanks to the shocking retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov after his victory at UFC 254.
Will the winner of the co-main event soon have a championship opportunity? Will it be against the winner of the main event in the same card? Will the last champion not named Khabib Nurmagomedov, Justin Gaethje get his rightful opportunity to go for the belt again? Or will the dominant veteran Charles Oliveira, fresh off his scary victory over fan-favorite Tony Ferguson, finally get the title shot he's deserved after an eight-year unbeaten streak? Now you're starting to see why this is the most competitive and most talked-about in the UFC.
This concludes the three-part series 'Conor's Return' articles. This series was at first meant to drum excitement for MMA Complete Podcast's UFC 257 Live Reactions starting 6 p.m. on January 23, 2021. However, it turned into more for me as it progressed. The matchup between these two titans was on first sight, a mismatch that was going to be ended by Conor quickly, but on further research I'm still picking Conor, but only barely as I truly believe Poirier will give Conor all he can handle and would not be surprised at all if Poirier outclasses McGregor into a decision victory for the underdog. The only way to find out is to tune into the PPV and if you aren't subscribed to ESPN+, you'll have to tune into the link above for the main event's estimated start time of twelve o'clock midnight on Sunday morning.