Ahead of Saturday's UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, theScore's Nick Baldwin makes his picks for the top bouts.
Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC)
Conor McGregor (22-4)
A lot has changed since McGregor knocked out Poirier in 2014.
Both fighters are established veterans, both have had tastes of UFC gold, and Poirier, especially, has shown tremendous growth over the past seven years.
On paper, the always entertaining Poirier has a real chance to pull off the upset. But inside the Octagon, I expect the bout to play out similarly to the first.
One of the most technical strikers in the UFC, McGregor will have a significant edge over Poirier in the stand-up department. Poirier has always been hittable, and that's a flaw McGregor is likely to exploit. If the Irishman lands a few solid shots as Poirier comes forward, it could be game over for "The Diamond."
Poirier's best shot to win will be dragging McGregor into deep waters. McGregor has struggled with his cardio endurance in previous fights, and Poirier - who is a very solid striker himself - would likely thrive in the later rounds.
But that means surviving the first three rounds, and I don't think that's something Poirier will do.
THE PICK: McGregor, third-round TKO
Dan Hooker (20-9)
Michael Chandler (21-5)
Chandler, one of the most accomplished fighters in Bellator history, will finally test himself against the UFC's elite when he faces No. 6-ranked Hooker in Saturday's co-feature.
This is a competitive matchup on paper, and it has the potential to be close when the two square off. Hooker holds the advantage in the striking department because he's much bigger than Chandler and uses his reach well. But Chandler is a former NCAA Division I All-American collegiate wrestler, so if he gets Hooker to the ground, he could find himself in the driver's seat.
I'm ultimately leaning toward Hooker to pick apart and batter Chandler on the feet. He stands 6-feet and has a 75.5-inch reach, while Chandler is 5-foot-8 with a 70-inch reach. Hooker should be able to land several strikes from the outside while his opponent struggles to close the distance.
Hooker doesn't have a ton of one-punch knockout power but can absolutely finish any lightweight with an overwhelming barrage of shots. Chandler has been knocked out before, and Hooker will become the latest man to put away the former Bellator champion.
THE PICK: Hooker, third-round TKO
Jessica Eye (15-8, 1 NC)
Joanne Calderwood (14-5)
Two flyweights looking to return to the win column will meet in what is shaping up to be a very close contest.
Calderwood's volume should lead her to victory in a strike-heavy affair. She stays much busier than Eye in the stand-up department, landing an average of 6.17 significant strikes per minute compared to Eye's 3.65 strikes, according to UFC Stats.
The 35-year-old also has a few more weapons in her arsenal as a former Muay Thai practitioner, whereas Eye is primarily a boxer. That said, it'll be far from a walk in the park for Calderwood. Eye has some solid wins on her resume and can't be overlooked.
This is essentially a coin toss, so I'll take the fighter with the better chance of swaying the judges by staying just a bit busier.
THE PICK: Calderwood, split decision
Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2)
Amanda Ribas (10-1)
This is the toughest test of Ribas' career by far.
Ribas is a hot prospect in the 115-pound division and has a chance to become a legitimate contender by taking out the No. 8-ranked Rodriguez, who has shown some promise herself over her five UFC bouts.
Ribas is coming off a first-round submission over Paige VanZant last summer, but this bout won't be nearly as easy. If Rodriguez can keep the fight standing, she could possibly clinch the upset. But even if Ribas takes the fight to the mat, Rodriguez won't be a fish out of water.
That said, it's tough to go against Ribas, who's been nothing short of spectacular through four Octagon appearances dating back to 2019. I don't think the Brazilian will secure a submission, but she'll do enough work over three rounds to earn the judges' nod and continue her journey up the strawweight ladder.
THE PICK: Ribas, unanimous decision