Poirier vs McGregor 3: Prediction & Preview
This weekend’s big UFC 264 headliner is being billed as the final chapter, and in many ways, for Conor McGregor, it might be.
If Dustin Poirier replicates in Las Vegas what he did earlier this year, the days of McGregor being a viable contender for UFC Gold would almost certainly be over. Faced with that humbling reality, McGregor might well walk away. This time it could be sincere and permanent.
If McGregor loses and fights on he could be relegated to the fun fights circuit, even the YouTube stars might suddenly seem attractive opposition.
A win is an absolute must, without a ‘proper’ win since he defeated Eddie Alvarez in 2016, that can’t be understated. Beating Donald Cerrone last year proved very little. Poirier is no Cerrone, Poirier is at his peak, Cerrone was a long way past his when McGregor destroyed him.
Against Alvarez, McGregor was at the peak of his physical powers, a flawless performance that enabled him to win his second UFC title. But McGregor then went away and tried to conquer another world he didn’t belong in. He found legal trouble easy to come by, and it looked as though McGregor would become another fighter who had it all but then lost everything. The unsavoury headlines mounted, there were very worrying signs. He looked out of control, blinded by arrogance and the size of his enormous ego.
McGregor does appear to have stopped the legal woes, but in recent times as an MMA fighter, he hasn’t looked anywhere near what he was back in 2016. McGregor turns 33 a few days after UFC 264, and his peak seems to be now a thing of the past. The remaining prime lost in the wilderness years of excess, abuse and inactivity. Time lost is hard to get back.
Back at UFC 257 in January, Poirier highlighted much of what has changed for McGregor. As a lightweight, he is 1-2, the left hand doesn’t seem to carry the same potency it did at featherweight, the chin is showing signs of decay. We have seen him fade, we have seen him break. McGregor is still a good fighter but not an elite one.
McGregor still seems fixated on boxing and winning a world title in that world. Trying to dabble and be successful in two different sports, almost certainly means you fail in both. He cited a boxing heavy approach as a reason for the loss in January. A fight with Manny Pacquiao was signed and sealed, but the Irish superstar couldn’t deliver what he needed. Inactivity was another reason given for his loss to Poirier, but his body just seemed to break. An inability to check leg kicks contributed greatly to his demise before Poirier finished the job with punches.
The inability to adjust to calf kicks, or even acknowledge them, and that goes for the corner as well, was worrying. Does the boxing narrative really cancel everything else out?
McGregor seemed to fall apart incredibly quickly, we have seen him break before in a similar fashion, the body and mind seem to fail him when he needs them the most.
The focus in recent years has been elsewhere, MMA has been an afterthought, McGregor has found the sport waits for nobody. The talk has been he is obsessed again, gunning for revenge, but has he left it too late to rekindle the old fire. McGregor has isolated himself away from family and friends and the old temptations. If he had got too comfortable, and the edge just wasn’t there, the total solitude and isolation could get it back. The Mr Nice Guy act was refreshing but did it take something away from McGregor?
The defeat to Poirier and the manner of it, was a bad one. At the finish, McGregor looked old, the ageing process visibly apparent in his face.
Poirier is the one who has been fighting and winning, at the top level. The body hardened to battle, if the trilogy fight goes long, Poirier is the likely winner. McGregor almost certainly needs to get it done quickly. An easy assumption maybe, but history tells us it is the right one.
McGregor fades in fights, we’ve seen it before and he doesn’t seem to win fights when they go deep. The rematch with Nate Diaz and to a lesser extent, the fight with Chad Mendes, are the only two fights where he has been made to swim deep and come through to win. If McGregor overcomes early adversity to beat Poirier, it will go down as one of his finest wins. Any win will likely go down as one of his best nights.
Poirier had a simple but highly effective strategy in January. The calf kicks started within eight seconds, an early successful takedown was followed by around three minutes of clinch work. Poirier was steadily wearing on McGregor when the Irishman was at his most dangerous. McGregor edged the round, but Poirier had done what he needed to do. He rode out the storm.
I can see the argument about McGregor being overconfident, and being to boxing reliant. McGregor will make adjustments, especially with his stance, but will it change the end result. He will be better. He needs to be. But it still might not be enough.
Poirier is by far the more proven lightweight, he looked the bigger fighter of the two back at UFC 257. I thought McGregor had the look of a fighter who had a too tough weight cut, definitely an appearance of a drained fighter, which might account for the ageing look at the end of the fight. The Crumlin native has referenced changes to his nutrition for the trilogy fight. McGregor will need all the additional help he can get.
If the fight goes any length I can’t see McGregor winning. Poirier is the more rounded fighter, the one with more durability and stamina, and the more proven fighter of late. McGregor is looking to turn back the clock to another time, but despite the motivation for revenge, has he left it too late in getting serious and focused about MMA again. I believe he has.
Poirier isn’t the same fighter he was in 2014, and maybe more crucially, neither is McGregor. That first fight where McGregor proved he was legit, is now irrelevant. Any demons that were left from that first encounter, Poirier banished them in impressive style.
McGregor just doesn’t seem to carry the same firepower at lightweight, Poirier showed no signs of folding on Fight Island. When a fighter has only one chance of victory, that is a very bad sign for McGregor. Poirier has more ways to win, McGregor, seemingly only has one. That to me is what decides the outcome on Saturday night.
McGregor with a win earns himself another shot at a UFC title, another defeat will see him sink to a lower level or even retirement. Even in defeat McGregor will remain a massive draw, but fights with Diaz again or Jorge Masvidal will probably be his future. But for a fighter like McGregor who has achieved so much, will that satisfy him. I have my doubts.
While McGregor deserves credit for seeking the immediate return with his conqueror, in reality, he had little choice.
Poirier has turned down a shot at the UFC lightweight title for a third fight with McGregor. Yes, he’s earning far more money, but to me, it’s also a sign of his immense confidence in repeating the win from January. Poirier knows the title shot will come with another win over McGregor.
The odds last time were heavily favouring McGregor, Poirier unfairly written off. With the resume he has, he deserved better. Even now the odds are dead even, again Poirier deserves better. At the conclusion of UFC 264 true recognition will finally come.
I can see McGregor lasting a little longer this time, but as Poirier says himself, he bleeds better. If it goes deep, and I believe it will, Poirier has shown his worth time and time again. He is the safe bet. As the McGregor gas tank empties, Poirier will just be getting started.
Poirier will mix it up to survive the still dangerous opening segments of the fight and ride out any uncomfortable moments and gradually take over the fight in the 2nd round. The fight will end probably in the 3rd round with McGregor pinned against the cage before falling to punches again and from title relevancy and maybe so much more.