The Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier trilogy bout is set to take place this Saturday night at UFC 264 and it feels even more significant than the rematch in January this year.
Poirier earned a second-round knockout victory against McGregor at UFC 257 and immediately called for a trilogy bout, reminding fans that the rivalry was now 1-1.
At UFC 264, Poirier gets another “money fight,” and McGregor gets an immediate chance to avenge his stunning defeat to “The Diamond” earlier this year.
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McGregor vs. Poirier 3 predictions
In their last fight, Poirier implemented two very important tools. The left calf kick, which broke down Conor’s roots, and the right check hook. The latter being effective for two reasons – one, because it forced McGregor to shift his weight to his left, onto the compromised leg in order to balance on impact, and two; because it is both offensive and defensive. Along with the punch, it also leaves Poirier’s shoulder protecting his chin from McGregor’s left hand.
At UFC 264, I do not believe that going into the fight with this same game plan will be enough. Look for Poirier to feint the takedown throughout the fight in order to set up his strikes. Although unable to do much with it, Poirier was able to take McGregor down in their second fight, and with that in the back of McGregor’s mind, it would do Poirier well to exploit it. Poirier should consistently mix it up between the head, body, and legs.
Conor McGregor has one of the most dangerous left hands in the game. He is so fast, accurate and good at timing, that it is rare that he totally misses. However, when he does miss it leaves an opening, due to the fact that he over-extends in order to accentuate reach and power. These are the moments the Poirier has to make him pay for that over-extension.
McGregor is also a much better technical grappler than people give him credit for. He was able to chain fairly impressive takedown defense even against Khabib early. However, his grappling work has a lot of thought behind it, he has an understanding but it’s a secondary element to his striking. At a point in the fight, fatigue forces movements to be dictated more by instinct than thought, which is where his reaction time on the ground increases significantly.
I think that McGregor’s best strategy would be to utilize his front leg kicks. This keeps his front leg light so as to absorb less impact when kicked, and it also keeps Poirier working at a further distance than in their first fight. Opening that fight with a lead hook kick established Conor’s weapons from a distance one step further than Poirier’s preferred boxing range, a distance I believe Conor is more comfortable in than the Louisiana native.
However, I think that while this will once again create success for the Irishman early, The Diamond will pour it on as the fight progresses and eventually break down McGregor’s mind and body in the later rounds. Conor is very dangerous to meet early when he is sharp, so Poirier has to capitalize on those moments where he is stunned or off-balance and make them matter. By investing in breaking down his body, legs, and cardio, I think these moments come more often and Poirier gets it done.
Official prediction: Dustin Poirier to win by TKO (Round 5)
Conor, Dustin, Dustin, Conor, I’ve flipped and flopped on my prediction for weeks. McGregor won round 1, Poirier’s leg kicks debilitated McGregor, McGregor tagged Poirier, Poirier took McGregor down, McGregor taking a more karate approach, and Poirier being the more successful lightweight.
All of these are interesting, important, and impactful variables to consider when handicapping the trilogy. But, an angle that I don’t think is getting a balanced analysis is the mentality of these foes. Many people are suggesting that McGregor may be soft now that he is a multimillionaire. That lack of an edge is deadly inside the octagon. But, is it really accurate?
A poor kid from Ireland fighting to survive is not just a Hollywood story; but, many argue, is the environment that bred a killer. Now that he has money, fame, and a more than comfortable lifestyle, those same people argue that McGregor has lost his edge. My question is, was it the environment or the mindset that created a killer? During the hardships of his life, few people were there for McGregor and even fewer people believed in him. That underdog mentality is a powerful motivator. So, consider for a moment that the environment didn’t breed a killer; rather, being alone, on an island, and doubted by most is what created one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC.
Poirier is uncharacteristically vocal and confident, Vegas has Poirier as the favorite, and many analysts say the “sharp money” is on Poirier. Everyone, for the first time in a very long time, is publicly doubting “The Notorious.” Since before his rise to fame, McGregor has not had the doubted, unsupported, and underdog mentality that he likely has headed into UFC 264. You’ll likely hear leading up to this fight that McGregor’s environment of fame and fortune has made him soft. But, if it really is the mindset, not the environment, that makes him a killer, we could be in for a special show come Saturday night.
I do think, looking at blind resumes, Vegas would have Poirier at a -180 or higher. He’s 13-2-1 as a UFC lightweight, his only recent loss came to the arguable GOAT in Khabib, and he just beat this same opponent seven months ago. That all being said, I think there is real merit in recognizing that, in their last matchup, McGregor won round 1, got up from the takedown quickly, really tagged Poirier, and has a game plan to neutralize the leg kicks- a karate approach that McGregor has naturally and successfully implemented in the past. Poirier’s game plan is to replicate the previous fight, walk away with the bag, and likely a championship fight. Meanwhile, McGregor has adjustments to make. I think if McGregor can make those adjustments and his mentality, not his environment, causes his hunger, he’ll be the better man on Saturday night.
Prediction: Conor McGregor to win
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Formerly the lead MMA Editor at RealSport.
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.