One of the biggest events of the year just concluded with a tragic ending. Dustin “The Diamond '' Poirier defeated “The Notorious” Conor McGregor in the first round via doctor stoppage. Although he is the winner of this epic trilogy, the ending did not compliment the accomplishments of both men.
These are my biggest takeaways from UFC 264.
The way McGregor Vs Poirier III ended was not the ending neither man wanted, but it was the ending we needed.
“The Notorious” one has always been seen as this mystical fighter that can overcome every single obstacle in front of him. He proved so when he defeated Nate Diaz in their rematch after suffering his first loss in the UFC. Immediately following that, he did it again by beating Eddie Alvarez to earn double-champ status.
His first defeat to Poirier by knockout had the world buzzing, because it was the first time he was stopped by strikes in the Octagon. Everyone knew his jiu-jitsu wasn’t at an elite level, so people tended to excuse his submission losses. However, seeing McGregor beaten at his own game was a sight to behold.
For it to happen a second time in the span of six months —which seemed possible prior to his ankle giving out— would have been a worst case scenario for fans of the once beloved Irishman. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that he was a key catalyst for bringing the sport to where it is today.
His injury brings in a better storyline upon his return, rather than him suffering another devastating knockout loss to the same man who has a pretty good shot at becoming champion by the end of the year. There is the possibility of a part four between these two with a title on the line if Poirier defeats Charles Oliveira.
-The Evolution of Dustin Poirier
Poirier debuted in the UFC in 2011, and he is nowhere near the same fighter as he once was. When he first fought McGregor in 2014, he admitted the mind games were a big factor in his loss. Since then, many have tried playing mind games with him, including McGregor, but to no avail. Understanding who he is as a fighter and as a person has made him one of the best fighters in the world.
He has also dramatically improved as a mixed martial artist. He was seen as a brawler in many of his early fights, but now he also grapples and fights at his own pace. He has become a more well-rounded martial artist who continues to improve in every fight. Between his fight in January and the one in July, he has become a completely different fighter with a different game plan. He truly is one of the best lightweight fighters in the world, with his first round finish of McGregor proving so.
-Gilbert Burns Deserves a Title Eliminator
Gilbert Burns proved his original title shot against Kamaru Usman was no fluke. In many sportsbooks, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson was the favorite entering the contest. That didn’t matter to Burns as he went in there and won a decisive unanimous decision victory. Burns took control of Thompson on the ground in the opening round and continued the same formula all the way to victory.
Burns deserves another chance at the title, but since Colby Covington is next in line, “Durinho” will have to wait for his opportunity. In the meantime, he can cement his status as the number one contender in a title eliminator fight against another man who also believes he has done enough to earn a shot—Leon Edwards. Both have been on impressive runs, both have an argument to make for being next in line, so what better way to settle it than inside the octagon?
-The Legend of the Green-Haired Zombie Kris Moutinho
If you ask anyone in the arena who believed Kris Moutinho would win, you would get crickets. Moutinho received the beating of a lifetime. Several times during the fight, one could argue there should have been a stoppage, up to and including the eventual stoppage.
Moutinho has the heart of a warrior. His face was disfigured, he was unrecognizable, yet he was proud. He continued walking “Sugar” Sean O’Malley down. He was going forward like a zombie, and he was talking to O’Malley as he did it. As each round progressed it seemed he was getting stronger. As he was getting stronger, the more the crowd was behind him.
When he made the walk towards the octagon, he was reigned down with boos. As he left, thunderous cheers were heard for the UFC newcomer. The fight was stopped with 27 seconds left in the final round, but many were in disbelief because he wasn’t rocked or as hurt as he was in previous moments. Many believed the fight should have continued for the simple fact Moutinho justified the right to finish the round.
Even as he added another loss to his record, he and O’Malley stole the show. Expect to see him again inside the octagon, except only this time with a more appropriate opponent. Thus, the legend of the green-haired zombie was born.
-The Sugar Show
Sean O’Malley put on a brilliant performance against the UFC newcomer. Many expected O’Malley to close the show within the first round but the determination of Moutinho killed those expectations. It didn’t matter that O’Malley eventually got the finish in the third round, somewhat controversial for what it may be, “Sugar” got the job done.
In his post fight interview, he had some interesting callouts, majorly unrealistic, but interesting. He called out Petr Yan, who will be most likely fighting Aljamin Sterling next after the problematic ending to their bantamweight title fight, Cody Garbrandt, who has expressed interest in moving down to 125 pounds for his next fight and a couple of other bantamweights.
The most realistic option for O’Malley should be a rematch against the man who gave him his first UFC loss and that is Marlon “Chito” Vera. O’Malley considers that loss a fluke because of his ankle injury. So, if he considers that loss a fluke, why not run it back as a main event for a UFC Fight Night card? “Chito” is a viable opponent and O’Malley will have a chance to even the score against the still young bantamweight. O’Malley has yet to beat anyone seen as a worthy opponent for him, so this can be his opportunity.
UFC 264 came with it’s ups and downs, yet it will probably be one of the most successful UFC pay-per-views ever. Although, now we seem to have even more questions than answers when it comes to the future for many of the company’s fighters such as the most notorious of all, Conor McGregor, and the man who beat him, Dustin Poirier. Will we see them collide again? Only time will tell.