A swift return to action for the UFC as the final instalment of their Fight Island triple header is upon us, with Dustin Poirier taking on Conor McGregor in a lightweight eliminator.
A rematch from six years prior, both men look to put their stamp to a claim to be the next challenger for the 155lbs championship while in the co-main event, two other lightweight contenders scrap to do the same thing. Michael Chandler makes his UFC debut after signing from Bellator to take on Dan Hooker, with both men knowing that a win puts them firmly in the conversation for the next title shot.
A fun 11 fight card is on the horizon here, with plenty of good fights on the undercard to come before the two big bouts of the night.
Last time out at UFC Fight Island 8, we went 12/14 with our picks with four perfect picks to boost us up to 212/327 (64.83%) with 93 perfect picks (43.87%) since starting our picks back in June 2020.
We’ll look to improve that record here and having already predicted the prelim bouts, we take a look at the main card now.
** Ottman Azaitar was removed from the card after breaking healthy and safety regulations. He has been released from the UFC.
Nasrat Haqparast didn’t weigh in due to illness. Matt Frevola will now fight Arman Tsarukyan on the prelims.**
Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) vs Amanda Ribas (10-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
An interesting bout at 115lbs as the division’s biggest prospect Amanda Ribas returns to the cage to take on Marina Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s last two fights have seen her fight Cynthia Calvillo to a draw before a split decision loss to Carla Esparza on Fight Island last year, while Ribas is on a five fight win streak including two wins in 2020 against Randa Markos and a first round submission over Paige VanZant.
Rodriguez has good striking skills as her five knockout wins show, while Ribas is one of the best grapplers in women’s MMA. Rodriguez loves a Muay Thai clinch, and throws great elbows and knees and is also busy off her back as she showed against Esparza. Ribas is one of the best on the ground though with phenomenal jiu-jitsu, and if she gets the fight to the ground she will win this bout. Ultimately I think she will, but it will likely be closer than it looks on the odds.
PICK – Amanda Ribas via Submission, Round 2
Matt Frevola (8-1-1) vs Ottman Azaitar (13-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs) Another fun lightweight fight on a card made to shine a light on the division, as Matt Frevola makes a return after missing all of 2020 to take on Morocco’s Ottman Azaitar. Frevola beat Jalin Turner and Luis Pena in 2019, while Azaitar knocked out both Teemu Packalen in 2019 and then Khama Worthy in the first round in Vegas after just 93 seconds. Frevola is a wrestler, who will look to take you down and control from the top while Azaitar is an undefeated striker with tremendous power. Azaitar’s wrestling isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as Frevola’s. That said, Frevola isn’t the type to strike fear into your heart if he shoots on you. Azaitar should feel confident if he takes the centre of the cage that he will be able to land heavy shots as Frevola tries to close the distance and get a knockout win.
PICK – Ottman Azaitar via Knockout, Round 1
Andrew Sanchez (13-5) vs Makhmud Muradov (24-6) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
A fun fight between two middleweights as former Ultimate Fighter winner Sanchez takes on ‘The Money Team’s’ first MMA fighter, Makhmud Muradov.
Sanchez has won three of his last four, with the defeat coming to Marvin Vettori, before bouncing back with a first round knockout win over Wellington Turman. Muradov is on a 13-fight win streak including wins in his first two UFC fights against Alessio Di Chirico and Trevor Smith back in 2019.
Sanchez is very well rounded, with great wrestling and steady striking, while Muradov is one of the better boxers we’ve seen in MMA. 16 knockout wins in his career show the power he possesses, but his footwork is excellent too and he has the striking edge. It’s a classic clash of styles and we’ve not seen Muradov’s ground game just yet. Sanchez has decided to start striking in his recent fights and if he does that here he’s going to sleep, especially with his cardio issues.
PICK – Makhmud Muradov via Knockout, Round 2
Jessica Eye (15-8) vs Joanne Calderwood (14-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
An interesting flyweight fight between two women who want to get back up to the top of the 125lbs division after suffering two losses in their last three fights.
Eye got head kicked into a different stratosphere when she fought Valentina Shevchenko for the title, before bouncing back for a win over Viviane Araujo but then lost her main event against Cynthia Calvillo back in June. Calderwood was preparing for a title shot with ‘Bullet’ but got tired of waiting and took a short notice fight with Jennifer Maia, but lost the fight and her future title shot via first round armbar.
It’s a tight bout between the two, with both women preferring the stand up game to grappling and they’ll play into that with each other. It really is all about who’s more on point on the night, and I think Calderwood has looked better in her recent bouts so will be able to claim a decision win.
PICK – Joanne Calderwood via Decision
Dan Hooker (20-9) vs Michael Chandler (21-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A huge fight at the top of the lightweight division as ‘Hangman’ Hooker takes on ‘Iron’ Michael Chandler.
Hooker has established himself as one of the best lightweights in the world, although he lost his last fight to Dustin Poirier back in June. Prior to that he did beat Paul Felder in a split decision war, Al Iaquinta in a wide decision and KO’d James Vick. Chandler has come over from Bellator after winning their lightweight title three times and comes after consecutive wins over Sidney Outlaw and Benson Henderson.
Chandler has been chinny in his past, as he showed when he was knocked out in the first round by featherweight champ Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire in Bellator. Hooker has a crazy power advantage on the feet but Chandler is a crazy good wrestler. He will look for a takedown quickly and if he gets it, he will have control of the fight. That said, I don’t think he can withstand the power of Hooker. Hooker’s footwork is superb, he has power with both hands and he has a big range advantage so I think he gets a stoppage win catching Chandler on the way in for a takedown.
PICK – Dan Hooker via Knockout, Round 2
Dustin Poirier (26-6 1NC) vs Conor McGregor (22-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
The return of the Notorious one to the UFC is of course a big deal, but the fact he’s fighting Dustin Poirier makes it even better.
Both men lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov before bouncing back with impressive wins, as Poirier defeated Dan Hooker in a fight of the year contender, while McGregor returned and demolished Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds last January.
Both men are phenomenal strikers, with a left hand of dreams. McGregor of course knocked Poirier out in just 106 seconds in their first meeting at featherweight back in 2014 but this is a different fight. Both guys are more mature fighters now and much smarter, while Poirier is much more durable at 155lbs. It’s a fight of two halves if you will, with McGregor almost certainly more dangerous in the first two rounds. He’s had conditioning issues in the past and if Poirier can stay in the fight past that point he will likely take over.
With that said both men are still dangerous throughout the entirety of the bout but I do think McGregor can get it done. He still has knockout power, he’s quick, strong and he can take a shot himself. Poirier will look to drag it into the later rounds and turn the pace up but I think McGregor gets a huge win to really announce himself back in the lightweight division.
PICK – Conor McGregor via Knockout, Round 2