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The spotlight feels just a little brighter when it’s a Conor
McGregor
fight night. All the normal drama of winning and
losing is amplified by the mainstream media attention, the betting
bonanza and the millions of additional eyes.
UFC 257
featured the hotly anticipated return of the sport’s
most transcendent star and strongest pay-per-view draw, and the
promotion loaded the card with a combination of high excitement and
high stakes, including the Octagon debut of a man once synonymous
with the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s main
competitor. As always, some fighters elevated their stock on
Saturday while others saw it plummet—including, incidentally, the
man responsible for the magnitude of the occasion. Here is the
stock report for UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor 2.

STOCK UP



Dustin
Poirier
:
It must feel pretty good. In just under eight
minutes of work, “The Diamond” avenged a humiliating 2014 loss,
demonstrated his stunning growth as a fighter, and affirmed his
status as the top lightweight in the post-Khabib
Nurmagomedov
world. While discussion of Saturday’s headliner
will touch on how much McGregor’s recent inactivity contributed to
the second-round knockout, nothing should detract from an
absolutely sensational performance by the Louisianan. Poirier’s
game plan was impeccable and executed to near-perfection, he
weathered McGregor’s fabled punching power when called upon to do
so, and he did all of it while exhibiting a poise and confidence
completely unlike their first meeting. The true level-up moment? On
the stool after the first round, despite having lost the round,
Poirier’s face and body language seemed to say, “I got this.” He
did indeed have it, and now it remains to be seen if one of the
sport’s truly good guys will join Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz in
springboarding to the next level of stardom off of a win over
McGregor.

Michael
Chandler
:
It might have been impossible to upstage the
winner of a main event featuring the sport’s biggest star, but
“Iron Mike” sure gave it his best shot. Not only did he blow away a
Top 5 lightweight in minutes, but he did so in a way that answered
some of the questions hovering over his long-awaited arrival in the
UFC. Always an undersized lightweight who thrived on speed and
explosion, the 34-year-old former Bellator champ needed to prove he
could still close the distance on a much taller, rangier,
out-fighter like Dan Hooker.
Mission accomplished, and his hilariously over-the-top promo in the
cage afterward was simply the cherry on top. In the history of
established fighters entering the UFC with championship-level
expectations, Chandler knocking out Hooker, then channeling Ric
Flair, is probably a top-three debut, rivaled only by Anderson
Silva
(Chris Leben,
air guitar) and Justin
Gaethje
(Michael
Johnson
, backflip off the cage).

STOCK DOWN



Conor
McGregor
:
However good it must have felt to wake up on
Sunday morning and be Poirier, it likely stung in equal measure to
be McGregor. Obviously, any discussion of the man’s stock falling
is relative. He remains a superstar, absurdly wealthy, and despite
the loss on Saturday, his next fight—whether it be in a cage or a
boxing ring—will be another guaranteed blockbuster. However, this
was a serious competitive setback, and despite all the distraction
and destruction that seem to orbit him, greatness and legacy
clearly do matter to McGregor.

As a 3-to-1 favorite over a man he had plunked in their first
meeting, McGregor was probably winning the fight right up until he
lost, but the fluidity, the effortless mastery—for lack of a better
word, the magic—was missing. In the immediate aftermath, “The
Notorious” admitted his sporadic schedule had adversely affected
his performance. Not that he needed to admit it. All we needed was
his statement that he had not been prepared for Poirier’s calf
kicks, considering that the resurgence of those kicks as a favorite
weapon in MMA just happens to coincide with when McGregor stopped
fighting regularly. As we learned from G.I. Joe, knowing is only
half the battle. How the 32-year-old former champ chooses to
respond will be the other half.

Khalil
Rountree
:
Prior to UFC 257, Rountree’s UFC run could
best be described as “consistently inconsistent.” On the right
night, he might punch through Gokhan Saki,
one of the greatest kickboxers ever to cross over to MMA, in 90
seconds. On the wrong night, he might make fellow flakes like
Johnny
Walker
or Ion
Cutelaba
look like absolute world-beaters. Nonetheless, for one
of the hardest hitters in the 205-pound division, a matchup with
Marcin
Prachnio
, who was 0-3 in the UFC with three first-round
knockout losses, felt like a lob that even Rountree couldn’t
fumble. Not so, as Rountree dropped two rounds to Prachnio; the
knockout blow simply never came, and Prachnio’s superior volume
carried the day. While Rountree remains an entertaining fighter and
his job is more than secure at the moment, if he has any
aspirations beyond entertainment and job security, a loss to a man
who might have been, on paper, the worst light heavyweight in the
UFC, will be a lot to come back from.

ESPN Plus: Despite Dana White’s assurances that
UFC 257 was still one of the top three pay-per-views in UFC
history, the technical difficulties that plagued the main card were
a disaster. Twitter exploded with fans, media and even UFC fighters
reporting that they could not purchase the event, or had purchased
it but could not view it. As someone who falls into the latter
category—I spent nearly an hour and a half refreshing my
browser and ESPN app while cursing liberally—it was maddening. (The
reminder that fighters don’t get to watch for free was jarring, but
that’s a rant for another day.) However many pay-per-views UFC 257
sold, it could have been more, as potential paying customers were
driven to the very same illegal streaming sites White had declared
war on this week, and will be dinged in the days to come by the
legions seeking (completely justifiable) refunds.


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