It’s the biggest UFC match up in years, certainly for casual fans attracted to the Conor McGregor story. The famous fighting Irishman takes on old rival Dustin Poirier for the third and possibly final time in the headline act of UFC 264.
The pair complete the trilogy at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 10. With the head-to-head scores at one win each, this is an all or nothing clash for both men. The winner will propel themselves back into contention for the UFC championship, leaving the loser to contemplate where he goes from here.
Which fighter will come out on top and grab their big chance in front of a capacity crowd and millions watching around the world? Let’s check on the form of both men ahead of this grudge match.
One stoppage win each
McGregor is a two-weight UFC world champion and the self-appointed biggest name in UFC. Conor first met Poirier in 2014 at UFC 178 in Las Vegas. The Irish went into that bout as a hot favourite and lived up to expectations, winning the bout via a first-round stoppage. Conor was awarded performance of the night for this win, and the manner in which he beat Dustin suggested the fighters would never share the octagon again.
McGregor and Poirier renewed rivalries in January of this year on UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi. It was billed as McGregor’s big comeback fight and the one that would launch him back towards the big time, but it didn’t go according to plan for Notorious. Poirier beat McGregor in round two by TKO.
That loss took McGregor’s recent form to two defeats in his last three fights, and he has since dropped out of the UFC’s pound-for-pound list. That ramps up the pressure on him to make a return to winning ways. Failure to do so would likely end his place in the P4P list going forward.
Notorious remains dangerous on his feet
Conor will step into the octagon on fight night with his professional mixed martial arts record standing at 22 wins against five defeats. Of his victories, he has bagged 19 by knockout, two on a points decision and one submission. The stats show McGregor is an elite striker who prefers to stay standing and utilise his improving boxing skills.
He’s dangerous while he’s on his feet. His best chance of claiming a 2-1 victory is by landing a knockout blow in the first two rounds, catching Poirier cold. McGregor’s last win came against Donald Cerone on UFC 246 last January.
That win over Cerone was a welterweight clash, with McGregor bagging the bonus of performance of the night. In beating Donald, he proved he could compete in the welterweight category. That win followed a defeat to Khabib at lightweight with the UFC championship belt on the line. McGregor lost that one by late submission.
Poirier prepares without pressure
All the focus pre-fight has been on McGregor and the importance of him getting back to winning ways. That has allowed Poirier to prepare free from the pressures of the spotlight. The American is again the underdog to win this bout despite his victory over McGregor last time. That’s nothing new. He is the type of fighter who thrives off the underdog tag but will be confident in his ability to settle an old score with Conor.
Dustin holds a professional MMA record of 27 wins against six defeats. Of his victories, there have been 13 by knockout, seven submissions and another seven on points. Unlike the man in the opposite corner, Diamond is a genuine all-rounder who is as skilled on his feet as he is on the deck.
Poirier will seek to stay out of his opponent’s range in the early exchanges. He knows and respects the power of McGregor but also knows how to defeat him. The longer the bout goes on, the power chance Dustin has of winning. Taking McGregor to the floor and turning this into a grappling match is Diamond’s key to causing another upset. The odds-makers might be dead against him, but if McGregor takes him lightly again, there will only be one winner, and it won’t be the Irishman.