UFC 178: Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier Head-to-Toe Breakdown
On September 27 in Las Vegas, Demetrious Johnson will put his flyweight title on the line against No. 8-ranked flyweight Chris Cariaso. In the co-main event, perennial lightweight contender Donald Cerrone will face off against UFC newcomer and former Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
While those are two big fights in terms of importance in each division, the third fight on the main card may have more people talking going into it.
That fight is a featherweight matchup between No. 9-ranked Conor McGregor and No. 5-ranked Dustin Poirier.
McGregor came into the UFC with a huge amount of hype behind him. Thus far, he has delivered. He is 3-0 and hasn't really been in trouble yet inside the Octagon.
Meanwhile, Poirier has won three straight, including two finishes, ever since dropping a unanimous decision to Cub Swanson in February 2013.
A win for either would put them in serious title contention, so let's check out an early head-to-toe breakdown.
Dustin Poirier is a very well-rounded fighter. Of his 16 wins, seven have come by knockout and six have come by submission.
Lately, he has leaned more on knockouts. His last two wins were via (T)KO in less than six minutes each.
However, those are his only two (T)KO victories in the UFC. His last win by TKO came in 2010 back in the WEC.
Conor McGregor is known primarily as a striker. Of his 15 total wins, 13 have come by (T)KO, including two of his three wins in the UFC. He also earned a post-fight bonus for each (T)KO.
McGregor should have a definite edge on the feet that he'll look to take advantage of.
Both fighters are solid grapplers, able to get the fight to the ground or keep it on the feet, depending on the fight.
Against Cub Swanson, Poirier was able to score two takedowns while also stuffing seven out of nine attempts.
McGregor was able to stop both takedown attempts from Diego Brandao in his most recent fight. Meanwhile, he scored one of his own.
Against Max Holloway, McGregor scored on four of five attempts.
Poirier's experience may help him here, but expect them to be evenly matched in the grappling department.
Submissions are where Poirier might have a real edge.
He is a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has six of his 16 wins by way of submission. Of those six, three have come during his UFC tenure. His submission game is unique, too. A pair of those victories were by D'Arce choke, which is among his favorite moves.
McGregor is a purple belt in BJJ, so Poirier has a clear advantage on paper. In addition, McGregor has only one win by submission, which came in 2012.
McGregor's issue here is that he has lost both of his two defeats by submission. Granted, they were in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Nevertheless, he has shown he is susceptible to submissions.
Poirier has also been submitted once, but it was in the fourth round of what had been an epic, grueling war against Chan Sung Jung.
While there may not inherently be more pressure on McGregor than usual, this will be his first appearance on a UFC pay-per-view. Until now, his biggest fight was a main event against Diego Brandao on a UFC Fight Night card shown on Fight Pass.
McGregor doesn't seem like the type to have any issue with a pressure situation, but your first UFC PPV is a big deal. He needs to be sure to go in with a level head and ready to fight his fight.
Poirier will have to lean on his experience in this fight. At 26, he is one year younger than McGregor, but he has had 10 UFC fights compared to McGregor's three.
Poirier has been in the cage with two of the top fighters in the division in Jung and Swanson, and he will have to rely on things he has learned from those fights to get the edge in this one.
He needs to be able to adapt and change his game plan come fight night and look to take advantage of any opening McGregor might give him. His grappling could also prove to be the edge in this fight.
When it comes down to it, Conor McGregor looks poised to make a run at the top of the division. A fight against Poirier gives him a chance to face someone in the Top Five of the weight class and prove that he is ready for that level of competition.
Diego Brandao had been ranked No. 15 going into his fight with McGregor, and Conor finished him in impressive fashion in just four minutes.
This fight with Poirier will be a huge test, and if McGregor passes, he will truly announce himself as a top contender in the division.
Prediction: Conor McGregor def. Dustin Poirier via unanimous decision.