UFC 257: McGregor and Poirier In Different Places Ahead of Rematch

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, UFC
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 21: (L-R) Opponents Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor pose face off for media during the UFC 257 press conference event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 21, 2021 in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Conor McGregor is on the cusp of returning to the top of the MMA world, but he must overcome a former foe eager to exact revenge in Dustin Poirier at UFC 257.

The stage is set for Conor McGregor to return to glory.  For all the layoffs and setbacks of the last three years since he held UFC gold, “The Notorious” is one win away from setting up a fight for the lightweight title and returning to the top of the mixed martial arts world.  The UFC does their best business when the biggest stars holds the title, and no star in the sport of MMA is bigger than McGregor.  If you need any reminder, look at the numbers McGregor set for his fights against Nate Diaz, Floyd Mayweather, and Khabib Nurmagomedov on pay-per-view.  Remember, each record was set immediately after winning the featherweight and lightweight titles respectively.

Though with noticeably less bravado than the man who throttled José Aldo and Eddie Alvarez a few years ago, McGregor is looking the part of the leading man in MMA once again.  Can he entice his arch-nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov to return with a victory?  Only time will tell.  But with names like Charles Oliveira, Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje, and others surging up the ranks, a setback could virtually eliminate the Irishman from the title hunt in 2021.  One thing is certain, a victory will see him compete for the championship for the first time in three years in his next outing.

One can argue, the loss to McGregor encapsulated the longtime story of Dustin Poirier’s career.  For all his success, it seemed as if Poirier would always seem to suffer a brutal stoppage loss that set him back just as he was on the verge of breaking into the title picture.  Though a victory this Saturday doesn’t change the results of 2014, it would still be the biggest victory of Poirier’s career and cement his place amongst the elite in the world at 155 pounds.

Over the past several years, “The Diamond” has turned the proverbial corner.  Stoppages of former and future champions like Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje saw him in the best form of his career.  His performance against then featherweight champion Max Holloway to win the interim lightweight title stands amongst his most impressive.  While he came up short in his bid for the undisputed title against Nurmagomedov, Poirier bounced back last year with one of the best fights of the year in winning a five round war against Dan Hooker in June.

Control of the distance will be crucial for a McGregor victory as he does his best work when he is able to counter-opponents with his timing and explosive power.  McGregor should look to put early pressure on Poirier to disrupt his timing and force a sense of urgency early.  Should he be effective, Poirier will leave more openings for McGregor to capitalize on.  For Poirier, a multi-faceted attack will be the key with kicks to the calf and shots to the body all wearing down the former champion and neutralizing his formidable boxing.  Though not seen often, he could also look to get the fight to the ground where his dangerous submission game could pose problems for McGregor.

Should McGregor win, it is expected that the UFC will push for a rematch with Nurmagomedov more than any other fight they’ve held before.  A Poirier victory would open a greater sea of possibilities.  Without the greater negotiating hurdles, “The Diamond” could find himself in the cage with Michael Chandler (who meets Dan Hooker in the co-main event), Charles Oliveira, or even Nurmagomedov as well depending on the reigning champion’s final verdict next week.