McGregor vs Poirier Live Updates and Results: The Latest from UFC 257

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Jessica Eye

vs.

Joanne Calderwood

After Round 1, Andrew Sanchez’s coaches told him to keep pressing because his opponent, Makhmud Muradov, was already fatiguing.

Sanchez, 32, a former college wrestler, pressed forward as instructed but Muradov, a strong and long-limbed striker from Uzbekistan, was nowhere near tired. He responded to Sanchez’s pressure with well-timed right hands, and stout defense when Sanchez tried to turn their bout into a wrestling contest.

After Round 2, Sanchez’s coaches begged him not to blow his nose, which Muradov had bloodied with well-timed punches. And midway through Round 3, a counter right hand from Muradov wobbled Sanchez. Then came a flying knee strike and the flurry of punches that prompted the referee to stop the fight.

The victory extended Muradov’s win streak to 14 bouts, and prompted him to seek out U.F.C. President Dana White, who was seated near the octagon, to ask why White doesn’t follow him on Instagram.

If you paid to watch tonight’s main event but cannot get ESPN+ to work, you’re not alone. Plenty of U.F.C. fighters are dealing with technical difficulties too:

The problems seem to be concentrated in the United States, where Disney sells the pay-per-view through ESPN+, and not internationally, where it varies depending upon the country but generally is handled by the tech platform of Endeavor, U.F.C.’s parent company.

“We are aware of an issue impacting some fans’ ability to access to tonight’s PPV event and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible,” a Disney spokesman said in a statement.

Knockout

Makhmud Muradov

defeats

Andrew Sanchez

Brad Tavares, left, had live spectators on hand to watch him beat Antonio Carlos Junior.
Credit…Zuffa Llc, via Getty Images

That crowd noise you hear isn’t piped in.

About 1,800 fans were allowed to purchase tickets to U.F.C. 257, meaning the newly built Etihad Arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island will be about 10 percent full. It is the first time spectators have been allowed at a U.F.C. event since last March.

To attend, fans must have obtained a negative coronavirus test within 48 hours of the beginning of the event, and once inside they must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

Abu Dhabi, which is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, had been closed to tourists for months, but began easing restrictions in late December.

Referee Herb Dean during a fight in Jacksonville, Fla., in May.
Credit…Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Herb Dean is widely considered to be the best referee in mixed martial arts, especially after John McCarthy, known as Big John, retired a few years ago.

But like all referees, he’s made his share of curious decisions, and the nonstoppage after Marina Rodriguez dropped Amanda Ribas with a right hand is one of them. He seemed an instant away from stopping the fight before pulling out, awkwardly trying to step out of the way after he’d gotten in too close to the fighters. The move prompted Rodriguez to stop fighting and walk away as if she had won.

Commentator Jon Anik speculated that Dean “saw something” in Ribas’s eyes that led him to continue the fight.

Ultimately, the blunder had little consequence, as Rodriguez resumed, landed a few more punches and Dean stepped in.

Dean will have a chance to redeem himself in a couple of hours: He’s refereeing the main event between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

Upcoming

Andrew Sanchez

vs.

Makhmud Muradov

Marina Rodriguez of Brazil knocked out Amanda Ribas in their strawweight bout.
Credit…Jeff Bottari/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Early in the first round, Amanda Ribas, the betting favorite, dumped underdog Marina Rodriguez on her back, then spent the next few minutes grinding her opponent into the canvas, the fight unfolding the way bettors figured it would.

But Rodriguez, 33, is a Muay Thai kickboxing specialist, and dangerous in fights that don’t go to the ground. So in the second, when Ribas waded in close, looking to engage, Rodriguez popped her with a straight right hand. When Rodriguez pounced to finish the fight, referee Herb Dean moved in and appeared to tap Rodriguez, which could have signaled an end to the fight. An awkward pause ensued. Then the fight resumed. Then Rodriguez landed another home run of a right hand and Dean waved the fight off before Ribas, standing but barely conscious, could absorb more damage.

Rodriguez improves her record to 12-1-2, while Ribas, 27, falls to 10-2.

Knockout

Marina Rodriguez

defeats

Amanda Ribas

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Marina Rodriguez

vs.

Amanda Ribas

Arman Tsarukyan of Armenia, riight, showed why he was a big favorite over Matt Frevola, winning a unanimous decision.
Credit…Jeff Bottari/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Arman Tsarukyan’s bio at the M.M.A. database Sherdog.com says he’s from Russia. According to the U.F.C.’s website, the 24-year-old lightweight is from Georgia — the former Soviet republic, not the battleground state in last November’s U.S. presidential election.

Fight night settled it: Tsarukyan is from Armenia.

But there wasn’t much ambiguity about his fight night strategy. He came to suffocate American lightweight Matt Frevola, dragging him to the mat seconds after the opening bell, then body slamming him moments later. Frevola landed some flurries of his own, and even opened a cut in Tsarukyan’s hairline with a hard punch.

But Tsarukyan, a 5-foot-7 pit bull of a fighter, spent the final round stalking, tackling and mauling Frevola on the way to a unanimous decision win.

The victory improves Tsarukyan’s record to 15-2. Frevola is now 8-2.

Late in Round 1, Brazilian grappler Antonio Carlos Junior nailed Hawaiian striker Brad Tavares with a knee that landed hard. The shot was Carlos’s best of the night, but there was one problem.

It landed between Tavares’s legs. Right on his protective cup. An illegal low blow.

That meant Carlos’s best shot of the night wouldn’t count, but Tavares’ most effective blows did. A right hand dropped Carlos late round two, and the 33-year-old landed several more decisive blows in the third, as Junior labored in vain to turn their fight into a grappling match.

Tavares, who broke a two-fight losing streak, won a unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the fight 30-27, and a third scoring it 29-28.

Unanimous Decision

Arman Tsarukyan

defeats

Matt Frevola

For the U.F.C., the idea of Fight Island was born out of its need to find a place to stage bouts with fighters from outside the United States who faced travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit…Zuffa/Llc, via Getty Images

When the rest of the sports world shut down in March because of the coronavirus, U.F.C. President Dana White vowed that he would not be deterred by a pandemic.

The beginning was rocky. Five previously scheduled events were canceled. Plans to hold an event on Native American tribal land in California — in order to bypass state restrictions on large gatherings — were abandoned after Gov. Gavin Newsom of California asked Disney to intervene. When the U.F.C. did find a more hospitable host, in Florida, the U.F.C.’s employees and fighters struggled to follow policies designed to limit the spread of the virus.

But over the summer, the U.F.C. found its footing. It established American and international home bases, in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, alternating several weeks of fights between the two locations. In total the U.F.C. held 41 events in 2020, just one fewer than the 42 it held in 2019.

Like other sports that eventually resumed competition, keeping the coronavirus out has proved impossible. At least 53 fighters were reported to have tested positive, according to the M.M.A. news site Bloody Elbow, and headlining fights — like a scheduled welterweight championship bout between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns — had to be scrapped because one of the fighters tested positive.

Upcoming

Arman Tsarukyan

vs.

Matt Frevola

Unanimous Decision

Brad Tavares

defeats

Antonio Carlos Junior

Julianna Pena beat Sara McMann in the third round with a rear naked choke.
Credit…Jeff Bottari/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

In a past career, Sara McMann was a world-class amateur wrestler, but her Olympic-medal-level skills — she won a silver in Athens in 2004 — couldn’t save her when fellow bantamweight Juliana Pena dragged her to the mat early in Round 3 and pinned her back to the canvas.

McMann, 40, persevered. She’s so committed to winning that the broadcast crew pointed out that she did a full workout on the plane during the flight from Las Vegas to Abu Dhabi. But Pena, 32, persisted until she climbed onto McMann’s back, locked her legs around her opponent’s waist, and wrapped her forearm under McMann’s neck. Moments later, McMann — still fully conscious but unable to escape the chokehold — submitted.

Pena, now 11-4, used the post-fight interview to lobby for a fight with U.F.C. bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes. Nunes responded quickly:

If legendary Panamanian welterweight boxer Roberto Duran had hands of stone, surely U.F.C. light heavyweight Marcin Prachnio’s head is constructed of something similar. Late in the second round of his bout against Khalil Rountree Jr., Prachnio walked into a right hook that nearly dropped him.

Seconds later Rountree, a Los Angeles native who lives and trains in Thailand, whacked Prachnio across the face with a thunderous left-footed kick. Prachnio, 32, of Poland, wobbled but didn’t fall. Then he rebounded to win Round 3, turning up the pressure on a tiring Rountree, and winning 29-28 on all three scorecards.

The win breaks a three-fight losing streak for Prachnio, now 14-5. Rountree’s record falls to 8-5 with one no-contest.

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Brad Tavares

vs.

Antonio Carlos Junior

Choke Submission

Julianna Pena

defeats

Sara McMann

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Julianna Pena

vs.

Sara McMann

Unanimous Decision

Marcin Prachnio

defeats

Khalil Rountree Jr.

A camera operator during U.F.C. 249 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Credit…John Raoux/Associated Press

U.F.C. 257 is the first big fight of ESPN’s third year showing U.F.C. bouts, mostly on its ESPN+ streaming service.

ESPN will be hoping to make tens of millions of dollars off tonight’s pay-per-view, but it has also used U.F.C. fights as one of the biggest drivers of subscriptions to ESPN+. As of last month, 11.5 million people subscribed to ESPN+.

A good portion of those people are tuning into watch the U.F.C. According to numbers obtained by The New York Times, in 2020 the average fight night on ESPN+ attracted almost 575,000 unique viewers — that is, anybody who watched for at least a small amount of time — who collectively watched for more than 80 million minutes.

The U.F.C. is also making a push for a broadcast television presence. Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar’s fight last weekend was shown on ABC — which is owned by Disney, like ESPN — the first combat sport to appear on the channel in 20 years. The U.F.C. hopes Disney executives are happy enough with the viewership to continue putting fights on ABC on Saturday afternoons, and perhaps soon on Saturday nights.

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Khalil Rountree Jr.

vs.

Marcin Prachnio

Amir Albazi, right, won a unanimous decision over Zhalgas Zhumagulov in a featherweight bout.
Credit…Jeff Bottari/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Movsar Evloev and Amir Albazi won decisions at the start of U.F.C. 257, fighting in early preliminary bouts to try to make a case that they deserve to move their way up.

Evloev beat Nik Lentz in a split decision, losing in the eyes of one judge even though he dominated much of the last half of the fight, barely breaking a sweat while Lentz’s face was thoroughly bloodied.

“I’m very hungry,” Evloev said. He added a plea to Dana White, the U.F.C. president, for better competition: “I need top 15 — I deserve it. Give me somebody who deserves to fight with me.”

Credit…Jeff Bottari/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Albazi clinched his decision win against Zhalgas Zhumagulov on the ground in the third round, outgrappling Zhumagulov and threatening several times to choke him from behind. Zhumagulov got back up toward the end of the bout and fought as if he knew he was behind, but he was unable to knock out Albazi before yielding the fight to the judges.

Split Decision

Movsar Evloev

defeats

Nik Lentz

Upcoming

Nik Lentz

vs.

Movsar Evloev

Unanimous Decision

Amir Albazi

defeats

Zhalgas Zhumagulov

Dan Hooker lost his last fight to Dustin Poirier. But he could climb back into title contention with a win over Michael Chandler.
Credit…Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

It might help to think of the two fights atop U.F.C. 257 as a playoff bracket, with Chandler and Hooker on one side and McGregor and Poirier on the other. Chandler’s value in his U.F.C. debut, after all, is that if he wins impressively, he provides another high-stakes option for McGregor later this year, provided that McGregor wins as well.

That matchup, of course, isn’t guaranteed.

A year ago, U.F.C.’s president, Dana White, spoke openly of matching McGregor and the lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, in a football stadium. One year, one pandemic and one retirement later, it appears that a rematch might never happen. So right now, McGregor-Chandler looks like the medium-term goal, and Justin Gaethje could also be an option.

Upcoming

Amir Albazi

vs.

Zhalgas Zhumagulov

McGregor during a news conference in Moscow in 2019.
Credit…Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For more than a year, Conor McGregor was under investigation in Ireland, his home country, after a woman accused him of rape. He was not charged criminally, but this week the woman filed a lawsuit. Here is where the case stands:

  • Two years ago, the woman told law enforcement in Dublin that McGregor had raped her. McGregor was arrested, questioned and released by police, but was not charged with any crime as the investigation continued.

  • The police referred the case to prosecutors, who ultimately declined to pursue criminal charges against McGregor.

  • The woman filed a lawsuit against McGregor in Ireland’s High Court on Monday. The statement of claim in the lawsuit, which was obtained by The New York Times, lays out for the first time in graphic detail what she says happened during their encounter. Her claim said McGregor choked and raped her. She was told later by the police, the claim said, that a friend of McGregor’s said he had sex with her as well, but she had no recollection of it and did not consent.

  • McGregor has denied the allegations. In a statement, a spokeswoman for McGregor said he “will dispute any claims and is confident that justice will prevail.” On Thursday, McGregor himself called the lawsuit “old news” and said that he had been cleared of wrongdoing, even though.

  • If the lawsuit continues moving forward, the case will eventually be heard by a jury. A jury would have to decide whether what the woman describes more likely than not occurred, a lower burden of proof than in a criminal case, where the offense must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dustin Poirier beat Dan Hooker in June in Las Vegas.
Credit…Ufc/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

The focus on McGregor makes it easy to forget Poirier, but it takes two to fight, and his seven-figure guarantee tells you he’s a serious competitor and not just a dummy for McGregor to pummel.

Poirier, 32, has won six of his last eight fights — a stretch that includes one no-contest and wins over top-echelon fighters like Justin Gaethje and the former featherweight champion Max Holloway. Poirier lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov, but a lot of fighters do that — including McGregor.

In 2014, Poirier lost to McGregor, then a rising U.F.C. star, by first-round knockout. And in 2011, Poirier was featured in “Fightville,” a documentary examining the mixed martial arts community in Lafayette, La.

One of his best U.F.C. performances came in July 2018, when he dispatched Eddie Alvarez in the second round.

Conor McGregor will fight Dustin Poirier at U.F.C. 257 early Sunday in Abu Dhabi.
Credit…Zuffa Llc Via Getty Images

McGregor last fought 53 weeks ago, blowing out Donald Cerrone in 40 seconds and setting up a potential big-money rematch against the lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. But then the coronavirus pandemic scrambled those plans. Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje in October and then retired immediately afterward. McGregor campaigned to return to the octagon but couldn’t line up a bout until this main event against Poirier came together.

But the upside, for the U.F.C., of McGregor’s yearlong absence is that it has been able to sell the fight as a comeback. And the U.F.C. is paying McGregor and Poirier as if their main event is a special occasion.

Last year, McGregor earned a $3 million guarantee for routing Cerrone, who was guaranteed $200,000. This weekend, McGregor (22-4) will earn a minimum $5 million, while Poirier (26-6, 1 no-contest) is guaranteed $1 million. Those figures don’t include performance bonuses or the share of pay-per-view revenue headliners typically receive.

The numbers tell you how seriously the U.F.C. is taking the event — its first pay-per-view card in 2021 — and how much it values the audience McGregor attracts for as long as it can be sustained.

Michael Chandler during the weigh-ins on Friday.
Credit…Zuffa Llc, via Getty Images

The lightweight contender Michael Chandler will make his U.F.C. debut when he faces New Zealand’s Dan Hooker in Saturday’s co-main event, but he’s not a rookie. Chandler has a 21-5 record and a reputation as a skilled wrestler and a versatile mixed martial arts fighter.

Last year, he signed with the U.F.C. after a decade with the rival promoter Bellator. In October, he served as an understudy for the main event between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje.

He trained as if he were going to fight and even weighed in at the 155-pound lightweight limit, so he could fill in immediately if some last-minute catastrophe sidelined either headliner.

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