The Proper No. Twelve is flowing, the pizza has just arrived, and UFC 257 is bought and paid for (and totally not being illegally streamed). You’re not the biggest fight fan, but you never miss a Khalabeeb Eagle fight, and you know you like watching Conor McGregor do his thing.
Then you realize that it’s going to be a couple of hours before the Irishman steps into the cage. First, four fights featuring eight folks you’ve never heard of.
“Who the fook are these people?” you whisper to yourself.
Some don’t see a game of football all year until the Super Bowl. Others only tune into the sweet science when Tyson Fury or hell, Jake Paul step into the ring. And you know what? That’s fine. MMA isn’t the easiest sport to follow, with its fight cards often being split across multiple channels and paid services.
Well, that’s what The Scrap is here for. Let us be your guide to everything UFC 257 that’s not just McGregor.
Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) vs. Amanda Ribas (10-1)
Amanda Ribas will be looking to build on her first-round submission of Paige VanZant. Ribas is more than competent on the feet but claims she was “born on the mats,” alluding to her time spent in her father’s Jiu-Jitsu dojo growing up. Once the fight hits the ground Ribas immediately begins scrambling for submissions or positions to land ground and pound.
Ribas comes into the bout the -300 favorite, but she must work her way through a whirlwind of punches and knees to get her hand raised. Marina Rodriquez brings an aggressive and hard-hitting Muay Thai style to the cage with her this Saturday. Rodriguez loves to work her long punches and kicks en route to closing the gap and sucking her opponents into a hellstorm of knees and elbows. A striker through and through, Rodriguez has had some issues with stopping takedowns in recent bouts. If she wants to win this one, she’ll have to keep Ribas off of her.
Ottman Azaitar (13-0) vs. Matt Frevola (8-1-1)
This matchup has the potential to be an absolute banger for as long as it lasts. Now, there is a chance we see Matt Frevola resort to his wrestling to secure a win here. Frevola is a skilled grappler who has studied Jiu-Jitsu since high school. “The Steam Rolla,” though, doesn’t mind slugging it out on the feet. He throws with ill intentions and will put himself in danger to try and land the bigger punches.
Ottman Azaitar is no stranger to throwing hard blows himself. The German-Morrocan has finished 10 of his 13 bouts via knockout. In fact, Azaitar has only gone to decision one time in his perfect career. Fighting in the UFC’s lightweight division is no straightforward task and both men are far from contention, but an impressive showing on a card of this magnitude could help boost their brands exponentially.
Jessica Eye (15-8) vs. Joanne Calderwood (14-5)
This has the potential to be a fun striking battle. Jessica Eye is known for her boxing and clinch game, while Joanne Calderwood is a former pro kickboxer and likes to mix things up on the feet. Eye may try to use her cage clinching to get Calderwood to the mat where Calderwood tries to stay active if on the bottom.
Though both women have gone 1-2 in their last three fights, Calderwood vs. Eye is still a battle of top 10 flyweights. But, both are also on the cusp of exiting the rankings. That means a win here is a must for both.
Dan Hooker (20-9) vs. Michael Chandler (21-5)
Michael Chandler comes into his UFC promotional debut with a considerable amount of hype behind him. The three-time Bellator champion served as a backup fighter for the Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov fight that took place late last year. Chandler has long been considered one of the best lightweights outside the UFC. With one-punch-knockout power and NCAA Division 1 wrestling, the 34-year-old is a welcome addition to an already stacked weight class.
But Chandler isn’t getting the easy road to the upper echelon of the UFC. Standing across from him will be the Auckland banger, Dan Hooker.
Hooker’s blood-and-guts brawl against Dustin Poirier was on the shortlist for Fight of the Year in 2020. The decision loss to Poirier may have snapped “The Hangman’s” three-fight winning streak, but Hooker looked game even in defeat. A training partner of UFC champs Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski, Hooker keeps good company, brings crisp striking topped with hellacious knees, and should be well-prepared for the task at hand.