How Does Poirier Beat McGregor?
By Jack Rainbow
Going into his main event bout at UFC 257, against Conor McGregor, much of the narrative in the media and from the fans is on the improvement of Dustin Poirer.
This is with good reason, with Poirier putting together an impressive run at lightweight since his defeat to McGregor at UFC 178 defeating the likes of Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway, and even winning the interim belt in 2019 before losing in the unification to Khabib Nurmagomedov.
There is no doubt that he has consolidated his position as one of the top lightweights in the world, further illustrating this, with an impressive decision victory against the surging Dan Hooker in mid 2020, again proving his ability to dig deep and showcasing his world-class cardio. But he also took alot of damage, limiting some fans confidence in his ability to beat McGregor.
Losing in less than two minutes to McGregor six years ago is, and quite rightly so, not being used as empirical evidence in anticipation of the rematch, due to the simple fact that, it was two completely different fighters.
Since then Poirier has refused to let that performance define him, and after changing weight class has looked far more durable, showing clear improvements especially in his stand up where his boxing has looked crisp and powerful.
Poirier has redefined his aggressive style, and shown immense cardio and heart when going into the later rounds against world-class fighters such as Holloway and Gaethje, and has also proved himself one of the most entertaining fighters on the roster.
However, one issue is that McGregor, throughout his career has shown himself to be very clinical when fighting the more aggressive fighters, due to his ability to snipe his opponents with his straight left. A clear example of this was shown against Aldo, where just seconds into the fight, McGregor showed the instincts to catch the onrushing Aldo and knock him out cold.
Many analysts have noted that the counter-punching ability of the Irishman, is ready made for Poirier’s aggressive boxing style, which normally involves him taking a punch to dish out two or three.
Therefore, if Poirier takes his usual striking approach in this bout, he is playing with fire. However, Poirier does have the ability to wrestle and clinch, having a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, and consequently needs to do is bring in a more varied game plan than his usual kickboxing style in order to tire McGregor before pushing the pace in later rounds.
Poirier, in his most recent bout against Hooker, showed an ability to grapple and utilise clinch work in order to drain his opponent’s gas-tank, and visibly slowed Hooker down towards the end of the fight.
Taking and clinching McGregor can be dangerous in itself, however, with McGregor showcasing against Donald Cerrone that he has an ability to throw unorthodox and dangerous strikes from the clinch with any body part, breaking Cerrone’s nose with his shoulder and showed against Nurmagomedov himself that his takedown defence is far better than many assumed, being able to stuff a number of takedown attempts from Nurmagomedov.
But if Poirier is to win this fight, he will need to ensure he can sap McGregor in his early rounds, akin to how Nurmagomedov did, as those rounds tend to be McGregors most dangerous.
In fact, McGregor has never knocked out an opponent in the UFC past the first two rounds. When considering Poirier’s cardio and the heart he possesses, his route to victory does seem to be reliant on dragging this fight out.
It is not an easy stylistic matchup for Poirier in any sense with McGregor considered by many to be one of the best strikers in the UFC, but if he can stop McGregor fighting on his own terms, and slow him down through clinch work and takedown attempts in his strongest rounds, then his belief will grow as the fight continues.
Poirier will need to be careful to not resort to brawling early, as that would play into McGregor’s hands, literally, and McGregor has already proved that he has the capacity to knock Poirier out, especially a version of Poirier fighting with emotion.
This is easily the toughest matchup on paper for Poirier in the division bar Nurmagomedov, and consequently, there will have to be a measured and calm approach to this fight.
The big challenge for Poirier will be to not fight on McGregor’s terms and to make sure he does not stand in front of that power left-hand. If he can do that and negotiate his way through the tougher earlier rounds, then there is a route to victory when considering that McGregor, against Diaz and Nurmagomedov, is proven to be susceptible to fading the longer the fight lasts. #UFC257 #McGregorPoirier