Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 2: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
UFC superstar Conor McGregor returns to the Octagon at UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi on January 23 after just over a year away from action for a highly anticipated rematch against ex-interim champ Dustin Poirier.
McGregor stopped Poirier in less than two minutes in a featherweight contest in 2014, but both The Notorious and The Diamond have enjoyed stellar runs in the company since their first encounter.
It's only the first UFC pay-per-view event of the year, but it's sure to be one of the best-selling and most important fights of the next 12 months.
Bleacher Report has you covered with a complete head-to-toe breakdown of the main event as well as our early prediction for how the fight goes down.
Both McGregor and Poirier rely heavily on their striking skills, and that boxing-based focus has helped both fighters capture UFC gold.
McGregor is one of only seven two-division champions in UFC history, and the Irishman was also the first-ever UFC champ to simultaneously hold titles in two different divisions at the same time.
While Poirier has also enjoyed a stellar run in the UFC, the American never quite reached those heights. Still, the former interim lightweight champion enters UFC 257 with some excellent wins on his record, and he has his striking to thank for many of them.
Both fighters carry the same type of numbers across the strikes bracket over at UFC Stats. McGregor's 5.43 strikes landed per minute, 50 percent accuracy, 4.18 strikes absorbed per minute, and 54 percent defense are similar to Porier's 5.57, 49 percent, 4.40, and 55 percent marks in the same categories.
The main difference is that McGregor is the better athlete who carries better knockout power in all his limbs. Across all MMA promotions, McGregor's 19 knockouts make up 86 percent of his 22 wins. That's much higher than Poirier's 12 knockouts making up 46 percent of his 26 wins.
While both fighters rely on their striking skills, McGregor and Poirier have put in considerable work over the years honing their grappling games, too.
McGregor's fast rise from obscurity to being the first UFC "champ champ" in history meant he probably had less reason to think about such things until he ran into the likes of Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov. But the 32-year-old found out in those fights that the constant work to improve is important even for the best fighters in the sport.
Meanwhile, there have been more iterations and reinventions of The Diamond over his years in the sport, perhaps at least partially due to the simple fact that the American suffered more losses. Still, Poirier has gone through a serious evolution since his early days, and now the 31-year-old is a violent and well-disciplined fighter who can outslug and out-grapple his opponents.
According to UFC Stats, McGregor's 70 percent takedown defense is 10 percent higher than Poirier's, and the Irishman's takedown accuracy is also better, 62 percent to 35 percent.
Still, Poirier bests McGregor in the number of takedowns averaged per 15 minutes as well as the number of submissions attempted over that same timeframe. That means the American will have the edge in grappling exchanges.
While McGregor has worked hard at becoming a more proficient submission artist over the years, he hasn't done enough yet to catch up to Poirier. Or, if he has, he hasn't had the chance to prove it in real fights.
Poirier is a strong jiu-jitsu fighter, and he has displayed more credible submission skills inside the cage than McGregor, with seven of his 26 wins coming via that method. That accounts for 27 percent of his total victories.
Meanwhile, McGregor only has one submission win on his record, and that came all the way back in 2012 before his UFC days. Moreover, all of four of McGregor's losses came by submission, so there's no doubt he'll try to stay on his feet on fight night.
McGregor's X-Factor: Forgetting What Happened in 2014
McGregor knocked out Poirier in less than two minutes of a featherweight contest in 2014. While that probably gives McGregor tons of confidence about his chances in the rematch, it also could play with his head in the near-inevitable circumstance that the same thing doesn't happen. McGregor will need to enter his rematch against Poirier not thinking about what happened in their first fight. Poirier is a way better and way different fighter this time around.
Poirier's X-Factor: Keeping His Emotions In Check
Poirier has expressed how he let his emotions get the better of him in the first fight and that he wouldn't do the same thing in the rematch. Indeed, Poirier has matured into a much less emotional fighter over the years, but he'll still need to keep his mind on the right things on fight night. It's one thing to know emotions ruled the day last time out; it's quite another to actually keep it from happening again. A cool-headed Poirier has the best chance to pull the upset over McGregor, so he needs to have his feelings in check if he hopes to have his best chance to win at UFC 257.
With apologies to UFC superstar Jon Jones, who told me for Heavy that the same thing would happen to Poirier the second time around as the first, I don't expect McGregor to run right through Poirier in the rematch.
Still, McGregor by stoppage remains the most likely outcome in the fight. While Poirier has become a more complete fighter over the past half-decade, McGregor's fast-twitch talent and ability to perform best when the lights are brightest will put him in the win column again.
Poirier vs. McGregor 2 will be a fun striking battle early, but one that sees McGregor take over to stop Poirier midway through the third round.
Prediction: McGregor, TKO, Rd. 3
Kelsey McCarson covers MMA and boxing for Bleacher Report and Heavy. Watch "Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel" on YouTube.