UFC 257, the return of Conor McGregor. All the promo, all the hype and all the attention has been on the Notorious one and that’s probably fair.
He’s the biggest star in the history of the sport and is one of the best in the world when it comes to actually fighting in the octagon. The attention is warranted, but definitely shouldn’t be one sided.
On the other side of the cage will be Dustin Poirier. A former interim world champion at lightweight who has won ten of his 13 fights at 155lbs, Poirier is one of the best boxers in the sport with fantastic power in both hands and good grappling skills.
The two fought previously six years ago at featherweight, where McGregor stopped Poirier in the first round with a big shot that landed just behind the ear.
He has promised to do the same thing again this time around, but Poirier is a completely different fighter now.
For a start, this fight is at a more natural weight class for both fighters. We’ve seen Poirier develop a more durable chin since that fight, and he’s only been knocked out once ever in the division. He’s fought some of the best strikers since his move up in Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway and Dan Hooker and yet he’s beaten them all with powerful striking on display.
He’s a great pocket fighter, with fantastic footwork and a left hand that could put anyone to sleep if it lands flush.
This is not your typical superstar return fight, where they get a tune up and walk through someone. Dustin Poirier is not someone who lets occasions get to him like Donald Cerrone, he is a prize fighter.
He’s felt Conor’s power before and has improved ten-fold since that fight. The fact that people are overlooking him is scary, because there is arguably nobody in the division that can go toe-to-toe with Conor on the feet other than Poirier and Gaethje.
He’s got knockout power, he’s got grappling skills that he can lean on if he is in trouble on the feet against McGregor and he’s shown in the fights against Holloway and Hooker in particular that he can go the distance giving and taking huge shots in the process.
McGregor has a window in the opening two rounds where his power is at it’s best and he’s at his slickest, but after that we’ve seen countless times that his cardio is his biggest deficiency.
If Poirier gets the chance to apply pressure going into those rounds then he will cause big, big problems. I expect some leg kicks early from Poirier to avoid the power shows of Conor before he starts working the body and firing his power left-hand.
McGregor is the favourite and based off their last fight against each other it’s no surprise, but Poirier is not there to just make up the numbers. He is a world championship level fighter and will pose a huge threat on the night.
If I have a word of advice for Saturday night’s UFC 257 main event, it’s don’t sleep on the Diamond.