It’s official – the biggest star in UFC history is set for a return. Conor McGregor’s rematch with Dustin Poirier has now been signed and sealed for UFC 257, scheduled for January 23rd, 2021. The fight will reportedly take place at Lightweight and will headline the card, which is likely to go down on Abu Dhabi’s Fight Island. Of course, it won’t be the first time that McGregor and Poirier have faced off.
The last time they fought was at UFC 178 on September 27th, 2014, and it didn’t go well for Poirier. ‘The Diamond’ found himself knocked out cold by Conor McGregor in the first round. This time though, Poirier will be gunning for revenge, and there’s every chance he’ll take it.
Here are five reasons why Dustin Poirier will beat Conor McGregor in their rematch at UFC 257.
#1 Dustin Poirier is a massively improved fighter since their first clash
September 2014 doesn’t feel that long ago, even taking into account all that’s happened in the world since then. But in the world of MMA, six years is almost a lifetime, and plenty has changed in the time that’s passed since UFC 178.
And Dustin Poirier has changed massively in that time period, too. ‘The Diamond’ was on a three-fight winning streak when he faced off with Conor McGregor and had put together a strong UFC record of 8-2 in the UFC.
However, he was still very young at the age of 25 and had not fully developed his skills inside the Octagon. Poirier was already an excellent striker and grappler, but he hadn’t really found a way to marry up his natural aggression with a more technical boxing game.
And more to the point, Poirier was still starving himself to make the 145lbs Featherweight limit. Sure, McGregor was doing the same, but after his loss to the Irishman, Poirier immediately moved up to 155lbs.
He’s now a large Lightweight who’s comfortable in both his frame and the style of fighting he brings to the Octagon. He now hits harder than he ever did before, but he’s also much more capable of absorbing punishment than he was at 145lbs – as we saw in his wars with Justin Gaethje and Dan Hooker.
While Conor McGregor has remained largely the same fighter he was in 2014, Poirier has developed hugely, which gives him the advantage at UFC 257.
#2 Conor McGregor no longer possesses the fear factor that he once did
Conor McGregor hadn’t won a UFC title by the time he faced Dustin Poirier in 2014. In fact, the Irishman had only fought in the UFC three times, besting Marcus Brimage, a raw Max Holloway, and Diego Brandao. And he wasn’t close to being the major mainstream star that he is today.
However, what is certain is that ‘The Notorious One’, even by September 2014, had the fear factor around him. Holloway had survived the distance with him, but only after McGregor had severely injured his knee.
And the way that both Brimage and Brandao were dispatched showed that not only could the Irishman back up the smack that he was talking, but also that he possessed a level of knockout power that was unusual for a Featherweight.
Coupled with the aura of invincibility that he carried with him, was it any wonder that Poirier appeared to be somewhat intimidated at UFC 178?
Of course, plenty has changed since then. Conor McGregor has still only lost twice in the UFC, but both fights showed massive holes in his game. His fights with Nate Diaz – even the rematch that he won – saw his cardio exposed somewhat, while in his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, his limitations on the ground were clear.
Conor McGregor is no longer the UFC’s bogeyman – instead, he’s just another fighter, albeit one with a huge profile in terms of mainstream stardom. That means that rather than be intimidated by him, Poirier will probably now view the Irishman as a target.
#3 Poirier has far more experience at the top of the UFC now
Dustin Poirier had fought in the UFC on ten occasions prior to UFC 178. He’d even fought in the main event of a UFC show – against Chan Sung Jung in Fairfax, Virginia. However, he’d never faced the level of spotlight that shone upon him before his clash with Conor McGregor.
Sure, the fight with McGregor wasn’t UFC 178’s main event – that was a UFC Flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Chris Cariaso. It wasn’t even the co-main event – that spot went to Eddie Alvarez vs. Donald Cerrone.
But coming into the event, the only fight that the fans really cared about was McGregor vs. Poirier. And to anyone watching, it was pretty clear that Poirier was at least a little overwhelmed by the attention and the pressure.
Even his trash-talk coming into the fight seemed forced and unconvincing compared to the jibes that Conor McGregor fired at him.
And so was it any surprise when he fought in a strangely restrained way and ended up being knocked out in the opening round?
Since then, though, Poirier has become more used to the spotlight. He rebuilt his career with four wins post-McGregor, and while he lost his next main event to Michael Johnson, he followed that with the best run of his career – winning five fights, including four main events, to claim the UFC interim Lightweight title.
And while he fell to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he’s since bounced back impressively with a win over Dan Hooker.
Basically, at this stage in his career, nothing is going to overawe Poirier when he steps inside the Octagon. And that gives him a major advantage coming into this fight.
#4 Conor McGregor might be rusty due to his stretches of inactivity
By the time that UFC 257 rolls around, it’ll be almost exactly a year since the last time Conor McGregor stepped inside the Octagon. That fight saw him face off with Donald Cerrone, and to say that it didn’t last long would be an understatement.
Conor McGregor took out ‘Cowboy’ in a blitz, and the fight lasted just 40 seconds. ‘The Notorious One’ looked as good as he’d ever done, but in truth, how much can really be taken from a 40-second fight?
In all honesty, not a lot can be taken from it at all. We already knew that Conor McGregor had explosive power in his strikes, but Cerrone was expected to test his cardio, his ability to absorb punishment, and perhaps even his ground game. In the end, though, ‘Cowboy’ simply folded under pressure.
That means that realistically, McGregor hasn’t been active in a longer fight since his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov – which took place in October 2018, nearly two and a half years before UFC 257 is scheduled to go down.
Meanwhile, Dustin Poirier has been massively active, even if it’ll be over six months since his win over Dan Hooker by the time UFC 257 comes around. In the time since Conor McGregor lost to Khabib, he’s fought on three occasions, all against top-level opponents in clashes that went into the later rounds.
Conor McGregor will undoubtedly be training hard for this fight, but only minutes in the Octagon can prepare a fighter for the kind of storm Poirier can bring. And over the last few years, Conor McGregor simply doesn’t have those kind of minutes in the bank. He’ll be rusty and could be ripe for the picking.
#5 Poirier can test McGregor’s ground game if he wishes
Dustin Poirier has undoubtedly become one of the UFC’s most feared strikers over the past few years. He’s taken out the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway and Justin Gaethje with his brutal boxing game and has the power to take out any man standing.
However, because he’s become such a notable striker, it’s easy to forget that Poirier also has a venomous ground game. He can wrestle strongly, and when the fight hits the ground, he’s adept at catching his opponents in submissions.
In fact, we’ve seen him submit four opponents in the UFC alone, three of them with chokes. Sure, he’s not Khabib Nurmagomedov on the ground, but then who is?
More to the point, Conor McGregor’s ground game is still a major question mark. Outside of a ground-and-pound based win over a raw Holloway, the only times we’ve seen the Irishman on the mat, he’s been in trouble.
He was submitted by both Nurmagomedov and Nate Diaz, and he also took plenty of damage against Chad Mendes on the ground too.
So rather than trading shots with Conor McGregor, could Poirier simply look to take this fight to the ground and finish ‘The Notorious One’ there? It’s quite possible. After all, we know ‘The Diamond’ has a big advantage there, and he could look to prove it at UFC 257.Published 20 Nov 2020, 18:56 IST