Source: Jeff Bottari/ Zuffa LLC
At UFC 257 on Saturday night, No. 2 Lightweight contender Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier proved that he deserves another title shot after knocking out No. 4 contender Conor “The Notorious” McGregor.
Imagine entering the Octagon on the world’s biggest stage as a +250 underdog against one of the best strikers in UFC history.
Now imagine thinking you could win.
If Poirier's spirit and record from Saturday proved anything, that’s exactly what he was thinking.
Him and the former double weight division champ McGregor faced off against each other all the way back in 2014. McGregor came out in his classic style and finished Poirier in the first round. All of the buzz was about how the Notorious would come out there and end his opponent even faster than the first time.
I wasn’t quite sold on the 60-second knockout idea that McGregor started to throw around, but everything was leading me to believe that McGregor would take care of business. He is in a great place personally, he seems happy in every appearance and his camp seemingly went well. On top of this, he spent valuable time with his family on fight island, so he was coming into the battle with great spirits.
However, all of this dissolves when the cage is locked and there is another killer staring you down.
McGregor looked steady in the first round. He was landing shots from distance and keeping Poirier’s grappling attempts at bay. Both fighters were close and focused enough to land shoulder strikes (a tactical McGregor utilized well in his defeat of Donald Cerrone last year).
I scored round one 10-9 in favor of McGregor. Round two, however, was an entirely different story.
Poirier did a fantastic job of chewing up McGregor's lead leg with low calf kicks. This was the big difference maker that led up to the moment almost no one was expecting.
As the second round progressed, McGregor’s lead leg became completely useless. He couldn’t move it and Poirier knew it. This allowed Poirier to close the distance and hand McGregor his first knockout loss of his career.
Poirier’s heavy hands were too much for any fighter to handle. For the first time in history, Conor McGregor was put to sleep.
“I have no excuses here,” McGregor said in the post-fight press conference. “It was a phenomenal performance by Dustin. The leg was compromised, and I was rushing the shots a little bit. It is a bitter pill to swallow.”
As a fan of mixed martial arts and both of these fighters, it was truly a blessing to watch UFC 257. I was on my feet watching on a 14-inch screen the entire time.
Poirier knew he was an underdog. This is the position in which he thrives. The Diamond only gets better when he is under tremendous pressure. I mean, pressure is what makes diamonds.
“I feel like I’m just hitting my prime,“ Poirier said in the post-fight press conference. “I’m always having fun in there. I have so many things happening outside of fighting, this is just something I do.”
Dustin Poirier needs a title shot. Period. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. He has to fight for the Lightweight strap next time up. Whether it be for the interim or unified, I don’t care, but there has to be gold on the line the next time Poirier steps in the Octagon.
Because we don’t really know for sure if the current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired or not, his opponent is unclear. It’s hard to follow up a performance like this, but there are still plenty of worthy opponents out there for him. Some possible players could be Nurmagomedov, Charles Oliveira, maybe even Michael Chandler.
We can fully speculate at another time. I don’t really care who it is. It all comes down to Poirier staking his claim at being one of the best Lightweights in the world.
So, give the Diamond the respect he deserves by sleeping one of the best in history, and give him another try at UFC gold.