While the UFC 178 headliners Jones and Cormier have recently stolen the limelight with their press conference brawls and social media ramblings, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier have to some extent flown under the radar. But as the event gets closer and closer to fruition its almost certain we can expect these Featherweight’s to ramp up their trash talking and look to get under the skin of each other. Whilst McGregor seems fixated on becoming the Featherweight Champion by the time the year is out, he first has to get past an extremely well rounded and experienced martial artist in Dustin Poirier. So has Conor bitten off more than he can chew with ‘The Diamond’?
Up until this stage McGregor has looked relatively untouchable and has been ploughing through opponents with relative ease. Undefeated since November 2010 with eleven wins in a row and only one of those wins being a decision win speaks volumes in itself. But let’s dig a little deeper into the level of opponents which McGregor has fought. His past opponents have a combined record of 103-37 which shows that he has been in there with some good level of competition. His only two losses have come at the hands of Artemij Sitenkov who at the time of fighting McGregor was 11-4, and Joseph Duffy who was 10-2 when the two met.
With a fighter like McGregor its incredibly difficult to analyse him without focusing on the positives and if you are looking at the negatives the only real things you can look to jump on are the two red spots on his record. But to put this in perspective, by the time he steps into the cage at UFC 178 it will have been 1400 days since he last suffered defeat. So you can’t even bring that in to perspective when analysing a fighters current performance.
I think what we have to focus on is how McGregor has seamlessly dealt with his new job and has just got on with things in a manner which is really overlooked in my opinion. Joining the world’s biggest MMA promotion and also carrying the weight of a nations expectations is huge. Just look at the England football team, not even an 11 man team could get past the group stages at the world cup with the nations expectations on their shoulders. But McGregor is a special kind of athlete and has a belief in himself that is hard to recreate. I get that in a solo sport such as MMA you need to believe in yourself but McGregor doesn’t just believe in it, he lives it.
So now we look at Poirier and the problems which he can cause for the Irish star. Well firstly without stating the obvious you don’t get to be the number 6 ranked Featherweight in the UFC without reason. Poirier has fought under the Zuffa umbrella since WEC 50 back in August 2010 so is extremely relaxed in his working environment and has fought a whole host of top level fighters including but not limited to Danny Castillo (loss), Josh Grispi (win), Max Holloway (win) and Chan Sung Jung (loss). But those results don’t paint the full picture of the fighter and the evolution of Poirier.
Aside from the experience he has racked up competing Poirier has also made choices outside of the cage to help improve his overall game. Following the defeat to the Korean Zombie Poirier made the decision to move away from training at Gladiators Academy with lifelong friend and coach Tim Credeur and make the move to Florida to join American Top Team. The move has completely flipped Poirier’s training on its head as he has gone from being “The Guy” at Gladiators, to mixing it up with the likes of Thiago Alves, Nick Newell, Douglas Lima and Nik Lentz and on a daily basis. If that level of talent can’t help to build you as a martial artist then you’re in the wrong business.
Poirier is keen to continue winning relevant fights that propel him into the title frame. In such a dog eat dog division as the 145lb category it is imperative that these guys do all they can to differentiate themselves from the competition but ultimately focus on the basic rule of beating everyone who is put in front of them. The slip ups against Jung and Swanson have kept Poirier away from any title talks, whereas the win over Poirier for the Korean Zombie was enough to earn him a title shot at Aldo. It proves if anything that these guys are only ever a few wins away from a title shot and so for Dustin to get a shot at the gold anytime soon he will definitely be needing to win against McGregor.
I think that Poirier is the perfect opponent for McGregor right now and a win for either fighter would leave them one or two wins away from a shot at the title in my opinion. But these things are super complex to predict and an injury to someone down the line may expedite a route for anyone in the division. One area which is often questioned is how us Brits deal with high level wrestlers, and although technically speaking McGregor is Irish (Yes us Brits will claim him as our own if he wins the UFC Title) it’s still something which I would like to see him conquer. Just how well would he stand against Chad Mendes or Nik Lentz’s grinding wrestling? Only time will tell as to whether or not McGregor can overcome these hurdles, starting with Poirier. Jon Jones Vs Daniel Cormier may be the official main event of the UFC 178 PPV but for me McGregor Vs Poirier is the people’s main event!
So now on to the fun part. Here are some stats I have pulled together on both Conor and Dustin and I hope that you enoy reading them. As always open to feedback suggestions on our facebook page which is facebook.com/whoatvmma or on twitter @mmanarchy