UFC 2021 First Quarter Preview – Part One

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We wave goodbye - and good riddance - to 2020, and look forward to what's in store for the UFC in 2021.

Conor McGregor at a Las Vegas weigh-in in 2017

With the UFC having kicked the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year of 2020 out the door, we can turn our sights to 2021, which is going to a not terrible, not horrible year, very good, not very bad year, right?!

In fact, all signs are indeed pointing to 2021 being a very good year, at least in terms of UFC action. The world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion has announced quite a few exciting fights to kick off the year, including the return of the biggest star the sport has ever seen. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the first quarter of 2021 has in store for us in the octagon.

So, let’s get it on, c’mon!

Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar – UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Kattar – UFC Fight Island – January 16th

The UFC won’t kick off the new year until the middle of January, and they will do so from the mythical “UFC Fight Island” (peek behind the curtain – it’s the Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates). This could be a pivotal night for the organization, as it was recently leaked that the event will likely air on ABC in the United States, which would be their first time on broadcast television since December of 2018 when they aired on FOX.

As for the headline fight, former featherweight champion Max Holloway is currently a 1/2 betting favourite on MansionBet’s board over Calvin Kattar. Personally, I agree with this, as Holloway’s high volume striking output should be too much for Kattar, who gets hit more than he dishes out on average every fight.

Leon Edwards vs Khamzat Chimaev – UFC Fight Night: Edwards vs Chimaev – January 20th

A rare Wednesday night card for the UFC – they are actually running three events between January 16th to the 23rd. The matchup between British veteran Leon Edwards and Chechen upstart Khamzat Chimaev was supposed to headline the December 19th card before both men contracted COVID-19. Chimaev is having the rocket strapped to him by the promotion, which had him fight three times (all wins) this summer and are now giving him a ranked opponent and a headlining slot.

Chimaev has demolished all his UFC competition thus far, and the oddmakers seem to think the song will remain the same against Edwards, having him in the 20/33 range at the moment. While I’ll probably pick Chimaev to win this battle, I’d hope for a line closer to a pick ‘em, as Edwards has so much more experience and has knocked off top name, elite UFC fighters, like Rafael dos Anjos and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor – UFC 257 – January 23rd

The crown jewel of the UFC’s first quarter (and perhaps the whole year) will be the return of Irish superstar Conor McGregor. He’ll head to Fight Island for a rematch six years in the making against top lightweight contender Dustin Poirier. When they first faced off as mid-20-year-old featherweights at UFC 178, McGregor won via first round TKO. Both men have had quite the careers since that time, so this could be a very different fight this go around.

It’s easy to underestimate McGregor due to his long stretches between fights, his seemingly nonstop chaotic (oftentimes illegal) lifestyle, and the hype surrounding him. But overlook him at your own peril – more often than not, he delivers once the cage door locks shut. He’s currently around a 2/5 favourite – pretty steep but he’s probably my pick to win.

*All odds correct at time of writing.

Jeff Fox offers expert insight into the world of MMA & UFC betting from his years of experience in the industry. His work has appeared in publications such as SI.com, St Louis Post-Dispatch, SLAM, Fighters Only Magazine & FIGHT!, among many others. Jeff shares his UFC betting tips with MansionBet readers on a weekly basis.

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