Dustin Poirier pulled off the upset in the UFC 257 main event with a second-round TKO win over Conor McGregor at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Saturday.
McGregor had the edge in a back-and-fourth Round 1 before Poirier came back strong in the second round and stunned him with the knockout win.
McGregor immediately went on the attack as Herb Dean actually had to send him back to his corner before officially starting the bout. However, Poirier surprised the former champion with a takedown.
The Irish fighter was able to work to his feet quickly, but that set up clinch fighting against the cage for much of the first round. When the two got some separation McGregor landed a few punches that seemingly affected Poirier but nothing to end the fight.
The second round saw the role reversal that would end the fight. Poirier eschewed any grappling and engaged McGregor in a more pure kickboxing match. His calf kicks set up the boxing combinations, and once he started to land flush against the former champion he unleashed the combinations that concluded the stunning upset.
After the bout, Poirier seemed open to a third fight with his friendly rival. The series is now tied at one apiece after two bouts.
The win is a perfect example of the evolution Poirier has experienced. The Diamond fought McGregor for the first time in 2014 when the two were both featherweights on the way up.
McGregor knocked him out in under two minutes that night. Fast-forward six years and Poirier got his rematch at lightweight—and took care of business the second time around.
After the loss to McGregor, Poirier moved up to lightweight and has only dropped two fights since. That run includes an interim title and, although he lost his bid to win the undisputed championship against Khabib Nurmagomedov, it's likely he'll get another opportunity.
Who that opportunity will be against is an interesting question.
Nurmagomedov retired after beating Justin Gaethje in his last bout, but UFC President Dana White recently ignited hope for a comeback for The Eagle. "If these guys can do something special, Khabib will fight them," White said on the UFC on ABC 1 broadcast before the lightweight doubleheader at UFC 257.
While the first fight with Nurmagomedov wasn't all that competitive, this win shows Poirier will be a problem for anyone other than the current champion. If Khabib really is walking away from the sport, The Diamond should have a winnable matchup when he fights for the title.
As for McGregor, this puts him in interesting territory. The sport's biggest draw has been involved in the five highest-selling pay-per-views in UFC history, according to Tapology.
That appeal has survived losses to Nate Diaz and Nurmagomedov. The question is if a loss to Poirier—which gives him a loss in two of his last three fights—will do any damage to his fight reputation and star power.
For his part, he has already demonstrated some interest in a former foe at featherweight in Max Holloway.
"He's definitely in the pipeline for the belt against me for sure," McGregor said in an interview with Oscar Willis of TheMacLife. "I would happily rematch Max. And after a performance like that [to beat Calvin Kattar], he's put himself right up there."
While he came up short in his bid to return at lightweight, it wouldn't be shocking to see him run it back with Holloway, Poirier or Diaz.