Posted on: January 21, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

When Conor McGregor fights, the world is watching. 

That will be the case Saturday as McGregor and 24-fight UFC veteran Dustin Poirier run it back for a second time at UFC 257. 

This is the second stop on McGregor’s comeback tour as a short stint in boxing and trouble with the law hindered his activity over the past few years. With the right goals, he is refocused and looking to take over the weight class yet again.

Both men are top 15 fighters. The pound-for-pound rankings have Poirier as the seventh best and McGregor as 13th best in the entire UFC.

As for a prediction, I’m taking McGregor in the second round by (T)KO. McGregor’s timing, speed, and power in the pocket will prove too much for the notably hittable Poirier. 

Jack Zampillo

Jack Zampillo

Sports Writer

McGregor and Poirier have been fine-tuning their skills for years, developing different styles that make for an intriguing matchup. 

McGregor, a kickboxing connoisseur, finds most of his success with a focused and calculated approach. The former two-time champion is one of the most precise and diverse strikers the UFC has ever seen, holding an arsenal filled with lethal kicks and stifling combinations to the head. McGregor’s most dangerous weapon, his nuclear left hand, is a shot so measured that nearly every opponent falls victim to it. 

On the other hand, Poirier fights with a style I like to describe as “patient violence.” His bread and butter lies in the boxing department. With quick hands combined with long and violent combinations, Poirier is considered one of the best pure boxers in the UFC. Watching him work a punching bag is mesmerizing. He’s been coined a “brawler” his entire career, and rightfully so. Very rarely is there a Poirier fight lacking blood. With a calculated approach, high fighting IQ, and unbelievable durability, the former interim champion is as tough a test for McGregor as anyone. 

But when McGregor fights, his opponents get lost in the shadows. 

(Credit: Safest Betting Sites)
Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier headline UFC 257 this Saturday.

No matter who stands across from him, McGregor always captures the attention. However, we should not forget the talented, motivated force that is Dustin Poirier. Fighting out of Lafayette, Louisiana, the 31-year-old holds a professional record of 26-6 with 13 wins by (T)KO and six via submission. 

A 10-year UFC veteran, Poirier has fought through a murderer’s row of opponents, finding plenty of success. Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Anthony Pettis are all former UFC champions beaten by Poirier in the past four years. 

In reality, Poirier is more active and consistent and has fought better competition. It would be criminal to underestimate this man. 

McGregor is obviously the most anticipated fighter to watch at UFC 257, but it goes deeper than the fame and knockout power. 

What gets lost in the hype and anticipation of the fight is the significance of the comeback McGregor is in the midst of making. Let’s not forget, he has only fought twice in the MMA since the end of 2016. That, along with poor decisions made outside the octagon, have made for a few rollercoaster years for “The Notorious” one. There was even a point when hope in McGregor was lost, but the great ones adapt and conquer. 

McGregor recognized his faults, bettered himself, and re-ignited the fire that made him a champion. After a horrid 2018-2019 focused on everything but things a fighter should be focused on, the tide has shifted. McGregor went to multiple platforms proclaiming his re-found love for the sport, and insisted he had returned to prime form. Since then, McGregor is 1-0 with an extreme drive to rule the MMA world once again. 

On Saturday, McGregor looks to improve to 23-4 en route to that coveted UFC title shot. 

A look back

Throughout the course of its 27-year history, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has produced countless superstars, champions, and even public icons. 

Former UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva won 11 straight title fights from 2006-2013, and Jon Jones became the youngest UFC champion in history at just 23. He is still unbeaten. 

Plenty of talented athletes have graced the octagon over the years, but nobody has ever been more prevalent than “The Notorious” Conor McGregor. McGregor has deemed himself “the face of the fight game” since his UFC debut, and rightfully so. 

He won nine of 10 fights from 2013-2016, turned in the fastest knockout in UFC championship history (0:13 seconds), and became the first fighter in the organization’s history to hold championship belts in multiple weight classes simultaneously (featherweight and lightweight). 

Fighting at three different weight classes, McGregor truly became the face of the fight game in 2016 and to no surprise, nothing’s really changed. Through his costly decisions and extended absences, McGregor has continued to transcend the sport with his unmatched personality and ability to turn all eyes his way. 

Following a disappointing 2019 that involved trouble with the law, McGregor bounced back beautifully in January 2020, finishing Donald Cerrone in under a minute. 

McGregor seemed to have risen from the shadows and looked ready to get back on track. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and a cluttered division kept the pride of Ireland on the shelf for the remainder of the year, and he looks to build on a renewed version of himself in 2021. 

McGregor and Poirier first collided back at UFC 178 in 2014, where McGregor ended Poirier’s night in under 2 minutes with a stifling left hand to the temple. The fight took place at featherweight (145 lbs) and at the time, Poirier was looked at as nothing more than a stepping stone for McGregor, who would go on to win gold two fights later. 

(Image: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Conor McGregor seconds before his vicious knockout vs Dustin Poirier at UFC 178.

However, with the first meeting occurring more than six years ago, this matchup is much different than the first. Both fighters have drastically improved and accomplished great things in the sport since then. While McGregor has earned two belts, Poirier has won 10 of 13 fights since losing to McGregor, raising interim gold himself in 2019. 

Poirier is a different fighter in 2021, but so is McGregor. There is a very serious element to the mental side of this fight that not many people are talking about.

In a recent interview with The Mac Life, McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh said something that really caught my attention. When asked about Dustin Poirier’s evolution since their first fight, he stated, “He’s gotten better….but the memory of that (first knockout) won’t be erased. He’s fighting someone he knows can shut off his lights very, very rapidly.” 

MMA is more mental than physical, and while Poirier has made enormous strides in his game, it’s worth noting that McGregor won the mental game handedly back in 2014. McGregor had Poirier beat before they even stepped inside the octagon. 

Can Poirier return the favor six years later, or has “Mystic Mac” returned to prime form? 

What’s at stake? 

The UFC’s lightweight division has reached a point of uncertainty, drowning in a slew of potential outcomes. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov meets with Dana White in Abu Dhabi to discuss possible UFC return. (Credit: Twitter@danawhite)

Let me set the scene: Current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov flipped the MMA world on its axis in October of 2020 by retiring with 29 wins and 0 losses after defeating Justin Gaethje by submission at UFC 254. The retirement is credited to the devastating loss of Khabib’s father, a patriarch of Russian MMA and the man responsible for Khabib’s growth as a fighter, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. His dream was for Khabib to reach 30-0, which brings me to the current state of the division.

Nurmagomedov met with UFC President Dana White late last week on Fight Island, telling him that if somebody in the lightweight division did “something that excites him,” he’d consider a comeback. With the state of the lightweight division in Khabib’s hands, the urgency to put on an impressive performance becomes greater.

If McGregor leaves UFC 257 with an impressive victory over Poirier, a potential rematch between McGregor and Nurmagomedov may be waiting in the wings. I’ve never seen such animosity between two human beings as I did in the build-up to their first fight. 

UFC 257 is a fantastic way to kick off the new year after such a tiring 2020. As a fight fan, I cannot wait to witness two of the best lightweights in the world going head to head at such a crucial time for the division.

Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, this one’s going to be fun. There will be blood, there will be violence, and best of all? There will be fans in attendance! 

The stakes attached to McGregor vs. Poirier are incredibly high. Both men have been competing at the highest of levels for years and a win for either puts them in prime position to hail as king of the lightweights.