UFC 257: Conor McGregor makes his octagon return this weekend against an old foe in the shape of Dustin Poirier.

The first pay-per-view event of the UFC’s 2021 calendar takes place this Sunday morning (UK time) in Abu Dhabi, and what a headline act we have to start the year. Conor McGregor faces Dustin Poirier in a rematch that’s been seven years in the making. Back in 2014, McGregor finished Poirier in the first round of their featherweight bout, but there’s a lot to suggest that this second instalment, at lightweight, won’t be as straightforward.

After losing to McGregor, Dustin Poirier stepped up to 155lbs and he hasn’t looked back since. His record in the lightweight division since 2015 stands at 10-2-1, with one of those defeats coming at the hands of Khabib Nurmagamedov in a unification bout, after Poirier had won the interim title. The Louisiana native will enter the octagon on the back of five wins in six, which has seen him rise to #2 in the rankings, behind champion Nurmagamedov and #1 Justin Gaethje, who Poirier knocked out in 2018. Despite this, he’s currently trading as a 3.65 underdog on the Betdaq betting exchange.

Standing across from Poirer will be Conor McGregor, the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion. It’s safe to say McGregor’s career has gone a different route since these two men last came to blows. After Poirier, the Irishman went on a tear, knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to claim the featherweight belt in 2015, before achieving “Champ Champ” status a year later with a sublime performance against Eddie Alvarez. In the five years since however, McGregor has only fought once at 155lbs and that was a submission defeat to the aforementioned Nurmagamedov. Maddening as it sounds, Saturday will only be his third fight in the UFC at lightweight. Last year’s win over veteran Donald Cerrone was at welterweight, yet still the promotion’s cash cow is currently seen by punters as a 1.13 favourite.

Picking a winner for this bout is made difficult by the fact that though their resumé’s appear similar on paper, in reality they are not. Both have lost to Khabib, yet you would question McGregor’s state coming into that fight. Both have wins over Max Holloway, but those victories are six years apart and in different divisions. Alvarez never seemed tor recover from losing his title to McGregor, and Poirier was the man chosen to knock him out before being dumped by the UFC.

Saturday’s clash will most likely be fought on the feet, as Poirier likes to brawl whilst McGregor will want a KO. If that is the case, it’ll be a battle of stamina versus technique, with McGregor having the upper hand in the latter. Technically speaking, an in-form Conor McGregor is a level or two above Dustin Poirier, but whether he has the tank to push the American round after round remains to be seen. Especially if Poirier can land, as he packs a punch of his own.

The Dubliner has predicted a knockout within 60 seconds, which suggests he will come flying out of the blocks earlier. Can Poirier withstand the pressure? Possibly, but eventually he will cave, and McGregor will get him out of there before the final bell, providing he is as fit and focused as he claims to be.

Recommended bet:

Back Conor McGregor to win at 1.31