Conor McGregor makes his eagerly-awaited return to fighting on January 23 to take on Dustin Poirier in a rematch of their September 2014 - will it be a winning return for 'The Notorious' at UFC 257 or can 'The Diamond' avenge the knockout defeat he suffered just over six years ago?
There is no disputing that Poirier has improved leaps and bounds since being knocked out by McGregor. He has established himself as a premier fighter in the lightweight division, won interim gold and challenge for the 155lb crown. That shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov ended in failure but there is certainly no shame in losing to the unbeaten Russian so his stock has hardly suffered as a result of that loss. He is 5-1 in his last six fights and in that time he has stopped Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, and he has also managed to best Max Holloway over five rounds. That win over Holloway may have needed the nod from the judges, but it was a deserved win for ‘The Diamond’ and shows just how far he has come since being iced in Ireland.
Poirier clearly has an edge in the ground game and if he can get McGregor to the mat here he could dominate proceedings and wear down the Irishman to either finish him in the later rounds or at least get the backing of the judges. He is no slouch in the stand-up either. ‘The Diamond’ showed in his win over Holloway just how far he has come in that aspect of the fight game, but is he really ready to stand and fight with McGregor? That, after all, is the Irishman’s world. He has dumbfounded opponents over the years with his fluid, crisp, accurate and powerful striking, so the best route to victory is for Poirier to get this bout to the canvas. If not, he could be in a world of trouble.
But what about ring rust, could that be an issues for McGregor? He looked great for 40 seconds against Donald Cerrone last year, but what would have happened had he not put ‘Cowboy’ away so quickly? The Irishman’s lack of activity over the past couple of years has to be concerning – he has fought just twice (in MMA) since that historic night in November 2016 that saw him become the first ‘champ champ’ in UFC history, going 1-1. And let’s be real honest, I mean no disrespect to Cerrone when I say that fight was something of a ‘gimme’ for McGregor. In the one real test he has faced in the past four years he was dominated and stopped by Khabib Nurmagomedov. He looked rusty and, more importantly gun-shy on that night, seemingly afraid to let his hands and feet go out of fear of being taken down. He will not be as concerned with Poirier’s ability to take him down, keep him there and finish him, but ‘The Diamond’ does have an edge there that he has to be wary of and, as we all know, McGregor’s gas tank is not the best. He notoriously tires after the first two rounds.
So as you can see, this is a much different fight to that 2014 meeting when a red-hot McGregor strolled into the Octagon and ruthlessly dispatched Poirier in just under two minutes. This fight will almost certainly last longer, but I do believe that we will see the same outcome. Poirier had to rally to win his fight with Dan Hooker earlier this year, after losing the first two rounds, and if he does not start better here he could find himself staring up at the lights because McGregor will not let him off the hook. The Irishman is the most talented and dangerous striker that Poirier has and probably ever will face, and he has that finishing power that can be unleashed in the blink of an eye. That will be evidenced here as McGregor stops Poirier before the end of Round 2 and does the double over ‘The Diamond’.
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Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier Odds
Road To Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier 2
Dustin Poirier has been forced to wait over six years for another crack at Conor McGregor, but he finally gets his wish on January 23 and he will be desperate to make the most of the opportunity.
It was back in September 2014 that the two men first fought. McGregor had reeled of three straight victories after arriving in the UFC to much hype, while Poirier had established himself as a top contender at featherweight thanks to an 8-2 record inside the Octagon. ‘The Diamond’ represented the first real test for McGregor and also represented his first opportunity to show that they hype surrounding him was for a reason. He showed he was more than just hype. Poirier enjoyed a couple of fleeting moments of success, but it was clear for all to see that the smooth, skilful striking of McGregor was too much for the American, and that was confirmed in less than two minutes as the Irishman dropped Poirier with a left hook behind the ear and finished him off with a few more strikes on the ground.
Afterwards Poirier conceded that McGregor was “the real deal” and the Irishman did his part to back up those words, embarking on an historic quest to be the ‘champ champ’. Having dispatched teak-tough Dennis Siver in less than two rounds McGregor was set to fight for featherweight title in the summer of 2015, but after much hype his bout with Jose Aldo had to be scrapped when the Brazilian withdrew through injury. McGregor stayed on the UFC 189 card though and earned the biggest win of his career to date by stopping Chad Mendes in the second round, and when he finally fought for the featherweight title in December he won the crown in spectacular fashion, ending Aldo’s decade-long unbeaten run in just 13 seconds.
That set him up nicely for a crack at lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in 2016, but his bid to become the first fighter to hold titles in two different weight classes at the same time was put on hold when RDA pulled out of the fight and McGregor spent a good chunk of the year ‘feuding’ with Nate Diaz, avenging a second-round submission defeat in March of that year by besting the American over five rounds in a thrilling summer scrap. There was still time for a shot at the 155lb belt though and McGregor took his opportunity to make history in Madison Square Garden in November, outclassing Eddie Alvarez before stopping him in the second round.
Little did we know at the time, but that would be McGregor’s last MMA fight for two years. ‘The Notorious’ crossed over to boxing in 2017 for a mega-money fight with a legend of the sweet science, Floyd Mayweather Jr, but after coming up short he made his eagerly-awaited return to the UFC in late 2018 to take on heated rival Khabib Nurmagomedov. Their personal feud took the sport to a pretty dark place and left a sour taste in many people’s mouths, but the two men did finally meet in the Octagon in October and Khabib left now doubts, dominating McGregor for almost four rounds before forcing him to tap out.
Another long absence from the Octagon followed for McGregor before he finally returned in January 2020 to stop Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds, and although he ‘retired’ once again several months later it was only a matter of time before he agreed to return. That return comes against Poirier on January 23 and ‘The Diamond’ is a much different, and much better fighter than he was back in 2014.
While McGregor chased gold, boxed and retired repeatedly, Poirier went back to work to establish himself as a premier fighter in the lighter weights and he has done just that. There have been a couple of hiccups along the way, but his CV now features stoppage wins over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, while his April 2019 victory over an in-form Max Holloway means he has now beaten ‘Blessed’ on two occasions – no other man can boast that achievement.
His quest for gold ultimately ended in disappointment as he was stopped by Khabib Nurmagomedov in September of last year, but Poirier rebounded to best Dan Hooker over five rounds in June and he knows that if he can follow up with another win here he will be front of the queue to either fight for a vacant lightweight title or challenge Khabib should he come out of retirement.
So who will get the victory they crave on January 23? Will McGregor make a winning return to action and potentially land himself another crack at UFC gold and heated rival Khabib Nurmagomedov, or can Dustin Poirier avenge that 2014 defeat and put himself at the front of the queue for a crack at the lightweight belt? We will get our answer on January 23.
Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier Tips: Expert Predictions
Renowned MMA trainer Firas Zahabi talking on his Tristar Gym podcast: “Two elite guys who were world champions. They both have ways to win, they’re both super seasoned, super experienced, super dangerous. They’re both finishers. Conor McGregor is the best counter-puncher in UFC history. There’s never been a counter-puncher like him in MMA. Dustin Poirier‘s number one weapon is boxing so he’s kind of feeding the McGregor machine — exactly what Conor wants. But because he’s primarily a puncher, and he’s a very good puncher, he’s just not a puncher at the level of a McGregor. McGregor has reached, in my opinion, the highest level of MMA so far. I don’t think it will go that far. I think McGregor is going to get his job done in the first two rounds.”
Former welterweight title contender Stephen Thompson talking to Submission Radio: “Dustin Poirier has improved a lot, but whenever Conor McGregor steps out there, he has this way with people of getting into their heads and making this fight so hyped. If you’ve got to go out there and face Conor McGregor, it’s going to be a hyped fight, but he’s got a way with people and a way with words, his demeanour, not just his fighting style. That gets to people. You see it every time. The only person that I really didn’t see it get to was Nate Diaz. I think Conor can definitely get it done again this time. Dustin Poirier has made some improvements, but the thing is even though we haven’t seen Conor McGregor fight in a while, the guy’s a lifelong mixed martial artist. The guy’s training constantly, always in the gym, always training with people. So, you know he’s improved as well. So, at this point, I think Conor McGregor takes it home again.”
In the latest episode of UFC’s Inside The Octagon, John Gooden and Dan Hardy preview the UFC 257 main event, Poirier vs McGregor 2. The biggest star in the sport, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor, makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon to face former foe Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier – a rematch six years in the making.
Conor McGregor v Dustin Poirier Tips: Fighter Predictions
Conor McGregor via his Instagram page: “I am very grateful to be about to return and get to do what I love again. I look forward to the fresh test Dustin will bring since our first bout, while also showcasing my own incredibly deep cache of weaponry. Whatever tool is needed on the night will be pulled from the duffel.”
Dustin Poirier talking to MMA Junkie: “He was obviously a great fighter in finishing a bunch of guys before me in his UFC career, but at this point we’re both so much more established and have so much more experience, just more mature fighters, and I think you get a completely different fight here. I was emotional in the first one. I wanted to hurt the guy. This time I just want to outsmart him, just want to beat him. This is business. This isn’t any ill will towards the guy. When I was younger, I used to fight with a lot of emotion. This isn’t the same thing for me. This isn’t about getting even for me. This isn’t like a revenge type of thing for me. This is about moving my career forward, about putting my family in a better spot. It’s not trying to get back a guy who got me. This is just business.”