UFC 257 Main Card Preview

A rematch 7 years in the making… He’s back! McGregor has arrived to make another run at the title, and the man who stands in his way has one of the best resumes in all of UFC. This highly anticipated rematch is why many fans will happily buy the paper view but continue reading to find out why this entire main card is well worth the price!

Strawweight: Marina Rodriguez (+255) vs. Amanda Ribas (-315) Usually the opening fight to the main card of such a big event isn’t anything to write home about, but both of these fighters possess elite traits that make this a much watch bout. After defeating Paige VanZant by a round 1 arm bar, Amanda Ribas looks to continue her rapid ascent. Critics argue she has only beaten weak competition, but what has caught my eye is how dominant she has looked fight after fight. Each fight she displays incredible stamina and I haven’t seen many fighters with her overall quickness and overwhelming ground game. Looking at Rodriguez she has arguably fought better fighters, but is coming off a split decision loss (her only loss). In her second to last fight vs. Cynthia Calvillo, she displayed aggressiveness with continuous knees to the head and body that definitely did damage. I would even go as far to say she dominated the first 2 rounds of the fight. In the last round, Calvillo realized her weakness was on the ground and her domination in this round led to a draw. I chose to look into this fight when discussing her Ribas matchup because it displays her strengths and weaknesses as a fighter. If Rodriguez is able to stay on her feet, she’s got a good chance to make this interesting, but Ribas is too good on the ground if the fight ends up there.

Bottom Line: Ribas is one of my favorite fighters to watch and I expect that her cardio and ground game will be too much for Rodriguez to handle. Ribas will get a title shot very soon.

Value Play: Ribas by submission +300

Lightweight: Matt Frevola (+130) vs. Ottman Azaitar (-165) Stylistically, these fighters are very different as Frevola strengths revolve around his wrestling ability, while Azaitar has elite hand speed. Once Azaitar sees blood and starts swinging his opponent doesn’t really have a chance. Both of his UFC wins have come by first round KO and TKO. Frevola tries to get early punches and leg combos off to try and get his opponent off guard, but he will have to be careful in this one. His ground game is pretty solid and he often man handles opponents when he gets the right leverage. I just don’t think Frevola has enough power on his feet to knock Azaitar down because there is no chance he wins this fight without dominating on the ground. 

Bottom line: Honestly after watching a few fights I am just unimpressed with Frevola’s arsenal when considering Azaitar’s overwhelming power. He allows himself to take too much damage when being the aggressor and I don’t see this fight lasting long.

Value Play: Azaitar by KO/TKO (+130) and/or Azaitar Moneyline parlay with U 1.5 rounds (+253)

Flyweight: Jessica Eye (-110) vs. Joanne Calderwood (-120) Both fighters are coming off a loss and are trying to get back on track with this one. Jessica Eye loss unanimously vs. Cynthia Calvillo, but she threw punches throughout the entire fight even when she took significant damage. This is a common characteristic of her in her fights, she throws continuous combos with minimal leg attacks. She doesn’t have great power so Calderwood should have plenty of chances to be the aggressor without worrying about being dropped. Calderwood uses her legs a lot more than Eye and I think this will allow her to work more combinations. She has the advantage grappling, but I don’t expect this fight to be on the ground much and whoever lands more significant blows will end up winning. 

Bottom Line: I don’t see either fighter possessing the power or ground game to end this one early and give the slight edge to Calderwood on her feet. 

Value Play: Calderwood by decision  (+125)

Lightweight: Dan Hooker (-135)  vs. Michael Chandler (+105)

Dan Hooker, who is coming off a loss in one of the best fights of 2020 vs. Dustin Poirier, is looking to continue his enforcer ways versus a longtime Bellator champ making his UFC debut. Hooker is very long and uses this length to try and control every fight he’s in by constantly throwing punches. He often throws body shots to set up his powerful left hook. In his fight vs. Poirier they traded vicious blows the entire fight and defense was disregarded. He was unable to finish Poirier but Hooker has real power and despite being absolutely gassed he continued to be aggressive. Poirier gained control as the fight progressed as the damage inflicted to Hooker was too much. In the fights that Hooker has gotten roughed up in, fighters focus on body shots due to his very lean frame and Chandler will have to do this early and often to avoid being overwhelmed with Hooker’s significant reach advantage. Looking at Chandler, despite this being his UFC debut, his Bellator resume speaks for itself. He is a Bellator legend and looks to transfer his years of success. He is very powerful and uses a lot of energy in every punch he throws. His last 2 fights displayed this insane power with 2 knockout wins in the first round. His right hand is something special, but he often loads up leaving his body susceptible to damage. Neither one of these fighters have great defense and I don’t see this fight going the distance. Hooker has a great chin and Chandler has shown that he can be dropped. Chandler has a great ground game, and if he’s able to inflict enough damage to Hooker a submission wouldn’t be shocking. 

Bottom Line: I like both of these fighters and Dan Hooker has more in his overall toolbox. Due to his reach advantage and the chin he displayed versus Poirier it could be tough for Chandler to drop him. However, Chandler’s power is unreal and if anyone can, it’s him. Ultimately, I think Chandler will be too aggressive and leave himself exposed too often. The former Bellator champ will turn heads in his UFC debut but Hooker will get the win. Value Play: Hooker by KO/TKO (+175)

Lightweight: Dustin Poirier (+250) vs. Connor McGregor (-310) The first fight 7 years ago went exactly how Connor predicted: a first round KO. These 2 had bad blood leading up to the fight and the first fight was very personal. The vibes have been different this time around. Connor has praised Poirier and even has said he’s known this rematch has had to happen eventually. Since then Poirier has defeated top competitors Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway. His last fight sets him up very well for this fight due to Hooker’s reach advantage and constant blows he threw to Poirier’s head. McGregor possesses real power and Poirier knows this better than anyone. In his last fight Poirier took a lot of damage and that is extremely dangerous versus a fighter with McGregor’s power. With that said, Hooker has great power too and failed to drop Poirier. In McGregor’s return to fighting last year, he dominated Cowboy and the fight didn’t even see a round 2. He has shown this ability throughout his career and why he is such a weapon. He’s quicker than Poirier but his gas tank has been a weakness in the fights he has struggled in. These are two of the best UFC fighters ever and this should be a great fight. 

Bottom Line: I lean Poirier because he has shown he can take punches and get better as the fight goes on. I just see more avenues to him winning than Connor, and I think it is disrespectful that this line is so heavily favored to Connor. I don’t see this fight ending like the first one and could see a slugfest similar to what we saw in Hooker versus Poirier. If you can’t decide between the two fighters, O 2.5 rounds +155 is great value.

Value Play: Parlay—> Poirier Moneyline and O 2.5 rounds (+779)

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