We are barely three weeks away from one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history and the excitement is palpable among mixed martial arts fans.
Under normal circumstances, UFC 257 would have been a huge spectacle. In fact, McGregor initially suggested that the bout could take place at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, which would have been fitting for an event of this magnitude. However, concerns over the Wuhan virus pandemic forced Dana White to choose Yas Island in Abu Dhabi – which has hosted several UFC events before – as the venue. So, if you feel bad about not being able to be at the event, you know who to blame!
It certainly would not be in crime ridden lockdown New York or lockdown anti freedom California!
What makes McGregor vs. Poirier II one of the most eagerly anticipated rematches of all time? Let me tell you.
The History between the Fighters
McGregor and Poirier first met inside the octagon in 2014 (a couple of years after Biden, Hillary, and Obama allowed and watched good men die by terrorists in Benghazi – the tremendous movie 13 Hours depicts this tragedy). The fight generated tremendous response from MMA fans, largely due to McGregor’s antics which are ostentatious to say the least.
McGregor, who was an up-and-comer in the UFC, threw truckloads of shade at Poirier, who had fought 10 times in the UFC at the time and had faced better quality opponents than McGregor. Still, McGregor repeatedly belittled Poirier’s achievements and said that he would finish him off in the first round.
Such was the effect of his trash talk that a section of UFC fans genuinely wanted to see him get his ass kicked by Poirier. The fight, however, went on exactly how McGregor had predicted. He managed to finish Poirier in the first round by TKO.
After the fight, Poirier admitted that McGregor’s trash talk and antics had gotten under his skin and made him lose focus. While Poirier has improved tremendously as a fighter since then, he is yet to forget the humiliating first round defeat he suffered at the hands of an arrogant rookie. You can bet your bottom dollar that he is looking to avenge his defeat in the most satisfying manner possible. This is one of the reasons why the rematch has the potential to become a better fight than their first bout, which was disappointingly short.
Both Have Improved as Fighters
Back in 2014, McGregor was primarily known for his lethal left hook and vicious kicks. He has not only added more tools in his arsenal since then, but also improved his takedown defense and ground game.
Poirier, on the other hand, has become a better striker (evident from his bouts with Gaethje and Alvarez) and a more durable fighter (evident from the punishment he took in the Gaethje fight).
More importantly, the fight takes place at Lightweight, which means both fighters do not have to drain themselves out, like they did the last time. The extra weight will add more pop to their punches and kicks, which means the chance of a KO/TKO finish is very high, which is good news for the fans.
What Can We Expect from the Fight?
Both McGregor and Poirier are strikers who love to stand on their feet and slug it out. While McGregor was able to exploit the holes in Poirier’s defense last time, it won’t be easy this time around, as Poirier’s defensive skills have improved significantly. His fights with Gaethje and Alvarez – two of the best sluggers in the division – have helped Poirier improve his defense game to a great extent.
McGregor, on the other hand, is unpredictable with his strikes. Unlike Poirier, he does not depend on the standard jab, hook, cross, and pull counter combination alone. As we saw in the Cerrone fight, he likes to use every limb in his body as a weapon, much like a Muay Thai fighter. So, while Poirier is a solid boxer, McGregor definitely has the edge in the striking department due to his unpredictability and the wide range of shots he has in his arsenal.
On the ground, Poirier definitely has the edge as he is the more accomplished grappler (he is a BJJ black belt, while McGregor is only a brown belt). Still, Poirier likes to take risks while grappling. Particularly, he tends to give up positional control in search of submissions. This could be a problem, especially if he ends up giving his back to McGregor – like he did in the Nurmagomedov fight.
McGregor, as we all know, is a fast starter. He starts with rapid-fire combinations and looks to finish off his opponent as quickly as he can. Poirier, on the contrary, is methodical in his approach and tends to pick up pace as the fight goes on. What it means is that if he can survive McGregor’s initial flurry, he can dictate the pace of the fight and try to overwhelm McGregor in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Poirier is unquestionably the better conditioned fighter, as he has repeatedly shown that he can fight for 25 minutes without having to take a round off.
McGregor, on the other hand, is not used to fighting for 25 minutes on a consistent basis, as most of his wins have come in the first round. Against Diaz and Mayweather, he noticeably slowed down in the middle of the fight and struggled to keep up with the pace of his opponents.
Simply put, the longer the fight goes, the better it is for Poirier, especially if he manages to tire McGregor out with body shots and kicks.
Who Is It Going To Be – McGregor or Poirier?
While the fighters seem to be equally matched, I’d still have to go with McGregor, as he seems to be the more ‘polished’ fighter – for the lack of a better descriptor. He can definitely trouble Poirier with his strikes, his wrestling is good enough to defend against Poirier’s takedowns, and I believe his ground game is decent enough to survive Poirier’s aggressive submission attempts.
So, here is my prediction – McGregor by TKO or UD. And the fight will certainly be longer than the first fight.