To top off the UFC’s triple header fight week, the UFC put together a PPV containing Bellator prospect “Iron” Michael Chandler fighting the City Kickboxing alumni Dan “The Hangman” Hooker. The main event matchup consists of Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier against *Bruce Buffer’s voice* “The Notorious” Conor McGregor! When Conor McGregor fights it’s no longer fight week, it’s Conor McGregor week. Of course, all of the hardcore fans of course will be tuning in for the entire fight card. When it comes to the sport of MMA, McGregor is the most recognizable name in the history of the sport. Come Saturday night he will have his hands full when he takes on Dustin Poirier. The main and co-main event are both massive bouts to determine the future of the 155lb division. Two winners and two losers will emerge on the evening and I’m here to help determine the “Path to Victory” for each fighter.
Co-Main Event – Daniel Hooker vs Michael Chandler
Dan “The Hangman” Hooker
20-9 MMA, 10-5 UFC |10 (T)KO’s, 7 Submissions | 6’0″ (183cm) | 75.5″ Reach
The man from Auckland, New Zealand is the #6 ranked lightweight according to the UFC rankings. Dan Hooker began his UFC career fighting Ian Entwistle in the featherweight division where he would score a win via devastating elbows on the ground. It wasn’t until he came up to the 155lb weight class that Hooker began to find real success. Believe it or not “The Hangman” once competed in a MMA bout against Marc Creedy at heavyweight!
Much like his training partner UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker competed in kickboxing at a high level. He finished his career with a 9-1-3 record. Now Hooker has the opportunity to welcome former Bellator Champion Michael Chandler to the UFC on Saturday.
Path to Victory
If there is an MMA gym to prepare any fighter for Michael Chandler, it would be City Kickboxing. Luckily for Hooker, he has one of the best coaches in all of MMA with Eugene Bareman to create his “Path to Victory”. The taller and lengthier Hooker will need to utilize his kickboxing, keeping the shorter Chandler at range with his front kicks.
The Auckland native has maintained an impressive 79% takedown defense rating. Given the percentage, Hooker will need to be sharp with his takedowns due to the wrestling credentials of Michael Chandler. We can only expect that the American would want to take this fight to the ground and get Hooker on his back.
The height discrepancy will sure be noticed this Saturday as Hooker posses a four-inch height advantage. This will allow “The Hangman” to utilize his infamous knees. In Hookers’ 155lb debut against Ross Pearson he knocked out the shorter veteran with a knee. Pearson, much like Chandler was using his wrestling to fake and attack with a barrage of strikes. Hooker was able to time it well with a devastating knee up the middle which gave him the second-round finish.
In summary, Hooker must take advantage of the height disparity by employing his kickboxing range. By keeping Chandler at bay, he can rely on knees and outstanding takedown defense to earn his victory come Saturday night. That will be Dan “The Hangman” Hookers’ “Path to Victory”.
“Iron” Michael Chandler
21-5 MMA, 0-0 UFC | 9 (T)KO’s 7 Submissions | 5’8″ (173cm) | 69″ Reach
Michael Chandler is the only fighter on the UFC 257 card to not have had a prior UFC bout. Chandler is the most anticipated promotional debut since the signing of Ben Askren from ONE Championship. The former Bellator Lightweight Champion was the hottest free agent in all of combat sports after his stunning performance and devastating knockout over former UFC Champion Benson Henderson.
Upon his signing, he was chosen to be the alternate for the main event of UFC 254. That card was headlined by a title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to carry out his alternate duties as the main event managed to stay intact. “Iron” Michael Chandler is now set to face Dan Hooker in the co-main event slot of UFC 257.
Path to Victory
As a former Mizzou Tiger, Michael Chandler’s wrestling is top notch. He will need to utilize his wrestling base to take Hooker to the ground along with feinting takedowns to open up strikes. Most of his previous opponents are worried about the takedowns of Chandler, so Chandler will need to use that to his advantage by faking a shot and coming over the top with either a straight or overhand right.
For Chandler to successfully implement his “Path to Victory”, he must utilize his boxing and far superior wrestling to prevail as the winner. His boxing will help him set up takedowns and his wrestling will allow him to take the fight to the ground when needed.
Main Event – Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor II
Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier
26-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC | 12 (T)KO’s 7 Submissions | 5’9″ (175cm) | 73″ Reach
Lafayette, Louisiana is home to some of the finest fighters in all of mixed martial arts. Among those on that list is one half of Saturday’s headliner, Dustin Poirier. He is proud of where he comes from and continues to give back to his community. As a way to give back to his community, he started ‘The Good Fight Foundation’ which helps his hometown with food insecurity to health care and environmental disaster relief.
Dustin Poirier is one of the few fighters on the UFC roster that is a WEC original. He fought twice under the banner before the UFC bought out the organization. Since being in the UFC, “The Diamond” has picked up wins over Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis and Max Holloway (twice). All of these wins are over former UFC title holders, and all were en route to capturing the Interim Lightweight Championship.
Poirier currently sits in the #2 position in the UFC lightweight rankings. On Saturday night he looks to improve his ranking against Conor McGregor.
Path to Victory
After the performance last weekend from Holloway, there is an ongoing argument regarding who the best boxer in MMA is. Poirier is too humble to throw his name out there, but there is a case for him. He will need to apply his boxing in order to close the distance to prevent McGregor from using his signature kickboxing. In addition, he Lafayette native is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt under former UFC fighter Tim Credeur.
Being an expertise in BJJ can come in handy in his fight against McGregor. McGregor is known to be vulnerable on the ground. In fact, all four of his losses have come by way of submission. Even though Poirier is known to be a striker, he can create openings with his boxing to take this fight to the ground. With another submission win to his already outstanding MMA career, he would increase his career subs to eight.
The path to victory for “The Diamond” begins with closing the distance with boxing in order to avoid McGregor’s kicks. Poirier must take the fight into deep waters. McGregor has a tendency to fatigue in the later rounds and if Poirier is able to push the championship rounds, he could get the finish.
“The Notorious” Conor McGregor
22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC | 19 (T)KO’s 1 Submission | 5’9″ (175cm) | 74″ Reach
The Irish superstar is one of the most well-known combat sports athletes around the globe. One of his most coveted titles in all of sports right now is “Champ Champ” status. McGregor claimed this title when he captured the UFC Featherweight Title in only 13-seconds. He then proceeded to defeat Eddie Alvarez to conquer the UFC lightweight division in a flawless victory. This isn’t the only time the Irishman captured “Champ Champ” status. Prior to his UFC featherweight dominance, McGregor fought in the Cage Warriors promotion in the U.K. where he was able to win the 145 and 155lb championships.
McGregor is known to have a phenomenal kickboxing repertoire with a series of hook and spinning kicks. Don’t let it fool you, most of his knockouts come from his left hand. He sets you up and shoots his piston left hand to deliver a crushing blow.
Part way through McGregor’s UFC career he decided to take a fight against the consensus greatest boxer of all time, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. This was one of his greatest bouts in his entire combat sport career. Not only did he fight arguable the greatest to ever do it, he did it in his first boxing match! McGregor will look to build on his legendary career with a win over Dustin Poirier on Saturday.
Path to Victory
The Irish superstar is a notoriously fast starter. In his fights with Marcus Brimage, Jose Aldo, Donald Cerrone and many more he sets the tone right from the beginning of the fight. This method should be utilized again against Dustin Poirier on Saturday. Poirier is a slow starter and if McGregor comes out guns blazing, it will overwhelm his opponent.
As previously touched upon, McGregor has great kickboxing. He will use his spin kicks and side kicks to decide where his opponent moves. Being able to dictate your opponents movement can help set up a finish. If McGregor can employ this tactic against Poirier, he could set up his left hand and finish him like the first outing between the two.
Ultimately, Conor McGregor will apply his quick start and kickboxing to win the fight. The fast start will overwhelm Poirier. Lastly, his kickboxing arsenal will be able to set up his range, strikes and possibly the finishing shot.
UFC 257: Poirier vs McGregor II will air Saturday, January 23rd, on ESPN and ESPN+ at 10pm ET. Watch the fights and see who emerges victorious on the evening. More importantly tune in to see if they can execute on their “Path To Victory”.