Matches to Make After UFC 257

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Dustin
Poirier
closed the gap—and then some—that once existed between
he and Conor
McGregor
.

The
American Top Team
mainstay avenged a 2014 defeat and evened his
head-to-head series with the Irishman, as he put away McGregor with
punches in the second round of their
UFC 257
headliner on Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates. McGregor, who had never before been stopped
on strikes, succumbed to blows 2:32 into Round 2.

Poirier walked through significant fire but made real headway with
a series of kicks the
SBG Ireland
cornerstone’s lower lead leg. McGregor initially
withstood the assault and backed up his counterpart with power
punches, but it became increasingly clear that the Louisianan’s
efforts were paying dividends. Midway through the second round,
Poirier popped the former two-division champion’s calf with another
kick, pressed him to the fence and cut loose with punches. A right
hook sent the compromised McGregor to the canvas, where he was
either unwilling or unable to defend himself. More punches
followed, leaving referee Herb Dean no
choice but to intervene.

In the aftermath of UFC 257 “Poirier vs. McGregor 2,” here are five
matches that ought to be made:

Dustin
Poirier
vs. Charles
Oliveira
:
With Khabib
Nurmagomedov
looking more and more like a man who plans to
follow through on his announced retirement, the undisputed UFC
lightweight championship could soon become vacant; and there is no
shortage of worthy candidates in line to fill the vacancy. Poirier
has rattled off back-to-back wins since his submission loss to
Nurmagomedov in September 2019 and continues to carry all the
traits of an ascending fighter. He now finds himself one victory
shy of joining the 20-win club—a plateau only six competitors in
UFC history have reached. Oliveira, meanwhile, finds himself on an
eight fight-winning streak, punctuated by his eye-opening rout of
Tony
Ferguson
at UFC 256 in December. A Poirier-Oliveira title fight
seems like a prudent move, unless Nurmagomedov changes course.

Michael
Chandler
vs. Justin
Gaethje
:
Chandler in his first appearance inside the
Octagon planted his flag in the lightweight division and did so in
electrifying fashion, as the three-time Bellator
MMA
champion wiped out Dan Hooker
with punches in the first round of their co-main event. Hooker
bowed out 2:30 into Round 1. Chandler leveled the City Kickboxing
star with a clean left hook to the head, pounced in a kneeling
position and blasted away with rapid-fire right hands until referee
Marc
Goddard
had seen enough. On a run of three consecutive
first-round finishes, the
Sanford MMA
rep moves into immediate title contention at 155
pounds. Gaethje has not fought since being choked unconscious by a
Nurmagomedov triangle at UFC 254 in October.

Joanne
Calderwood
vs. Viviane
Araujo
:
The soft-spoken Calderwood showed off her vast
array of offensive weaponry under the main-card spotlight, taking a
unanimous decision from Jessica Eye
in a three-round flyweight showcase. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and
29-28. Calderwood chewed up the
Xtreme Couture
export at close range, where she employed a
devastating clinch game that featured short punches, sharp elbows
and jarring knee strikes to the body. She also excelled in space,
as she uncorked front kicks to the legs, body and head. By the time
it was over, Calderwood had connected on 61% of her significant
strikes and outlanded her counterpart by a 148-77 margin. Araujo
won for the seventh time in eight outings at UFC on ESPN 20, where
she was awarded a unanimous decision over Roxanne
Modafferi
on Jan. 20.

Makhmud
Muradov
vs. Omari
Akhmedov
:
Though he has thrived in relative obscurity,
Muradov may not be afforded the opportunity to fly under the radar
much longer. The Uzbekistani middleweight extended his current
winning streak to 14 fights—he has not tasted defeat since Dec. 18,
2016—and added to his personal highlight reel when he laid waste to
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 23 winner Andrew
Sanchez
with a flying knee and follow-up punches in the third
round of their featured attraction at 185 pounds. Sanchez met his
end 2:59 into Round 3. Since joining the UFC roster in 2019, the
30-year-old Muradov has carved through Sanchez, Trevor
Smith
and Alessio
Di Chirico
. He seems primed for a run at the Top 15. Akhmedov
on Jan. 20 rebounded from a decision loss to former champion
Chris
Weidman
, as he submitted Tom Breese
with a second-round arm-triangle choke at UFC on ESPN 20.

Marina
Rodriguez
vs. Michelle
Waterson
:
Rodriguez affirmed her place as a Top 10
strawweight with a stunning burst of violence, as she disposed of
Amanda
Ribas
with an elbow strike and follow-up punches in the second
round of their high-stakes showdown at 115 pounds. The stoppage was
called 54 seconds into Round 2. Rodriguez, 33, owns a 3-1-2 record
through six UFC appearances, her wins over Ribas, Tecia
Torres
and Jessica
Aguilar
, offset by her loss to Carla
Esparza
and draws with Cynthia
Calvillo
and Randa
Markos
. Waterson—Ribas’ original opponent in Abu Dhabi—last
competed at UFC Fight Night 177, where the former
Invicta Fighting Championships
titleholder eked out a split
decision over Angela Hill
on Sept. 12.

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