The first pay-per-view of the year lived up to the hype, as Dustin Poirier knocked out Conor McGregor in the second round of their UFC 257 rematch.
The lightweight contenders were matched up in order to figure out who would be the next challenger for the 155lbs championship, with Khabib Nurmagomedov’s future unclear.
It was a wonderful performance from Poirier, as he implemented a game plan to smother the early power of McGregor before smashing him with calf kicks to stop his movement. After getting a takedown early in the first round and exchanging in the pockets, Poirier’s leg kick really damaged McGregor and in the second round the boxing exchanges were easier.
He hurt him with some big shots and while McGregor fired back with great accuracy, the difference in durability between their first fight and now was evident – Poirier could take the power now. He went to work with big combos against the cage, before a short right hook landed flush on the nose and dropped McGregor. He landed two more while Conor was down, but the fight was already done and the referee waved it off.
It was a showing that really emphasised the coming of age ‘Diamond’ has had since that first fight at featherweight in 2014. He has now won 11 of 14 fights at lightweight, with arguably the best CV of fighters on his record of anyone else in the division – including the champion Nurmagomedov.
His next fight will almost certainly be for the title now, although Dana White announced after the fight that the chances of a Khabib return from retirement are “not looking so positive.”
That means that he will likely fight either Charles Oliveira or Michael Chandler for the vacant belt later this year, after the latter’s successful debut in the co-main event.
Chandler took on number six ranked Dan Hooker and applied pressure from the opening second of the fight. As they circled, Hooker looked nervous and barring a few tame leg kicks didn’t throw any strikes. Chandler threw two long jabs to the body before a huge left hook landed flush on the chin and dropped him. He landed a barrage of shots before the referee stepped in and looked powerful to make an impression on all the eyes tuning in for the card.
It was a big eye opener for many, as his pressure seemed to freeze Hooker and has put the rest of the division on notice.
White commented in the post-fight press conference that Poirier vs Hooker for the vacant title makes the most sense if Khabib doesn’t return, although Poirier “guaranteed” that he would not be fighting Chandler in his next fight as he doesn’t feel he’s earned a title shot in the promotion just yet.
As for McGregor, he vowed to return later this year as he needs the activity and hopes for a rematch with Poirier to settle their trilogy at some point in the future.
What this performance showed though was that right now, Dustin Poirier is the best active lightweight in the world. Paid in full.