Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJuly 6, 2021

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will settle their score in the main event of UFC 264 this Saturday in Las Vegas.

    Heading into this blockbuster pay-per-view headliner, the pair are tied 1-1. Former two-division champ McGregor won their first fight, a 2014 featherweight bout, by first-round knockout. Poirier, the current No. 1 contender at lightweight and a fixture of B/R's pound-for-pound rankings, came out on top in their second meeting, a lightweight contest in January of this year, with a second-round knockout.

    As the rubber match draws ever closer, DraftKings has the fight pegged as a near pick 'em—an indication of just how evenly matched these two lightweight talents are on paper. An in-depth look at their respective games, however, does reveal some interesting insights and even sheds light on who's more likely to come out on top.

    Keep scrolling to see how McGregor and Poirier match up on paper ahead of their anticipated UFC 264 tiebreaker.


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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    In our head-to-toe breakdown for Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor's last fight, at UFC 257 in January, we confidently gave the Irishman the edge in the striking department. It's admittedly tempting to do so again this time around—despite his recent loss to Poirier—but we're going to refrain.

    Once viewed as one of the sport's most lethal strikers, McGregor has undeniably regressed in this department. While he was formerly as likely to throw kicks as he was punches—particularly to measure distance and draw out reactions—he's recently favored a boxing-heavy approach, and even that part of his game has gotten pretty predictable. His rivals have even caught onto his trademark left hand—easily his best weapon—as he seemingly only ever sets it up by drawing out the right hand, slipping outside and firing.

    Skeptics will point to the fact that McGregor had some great success in the first round of his recent fight with Poirier. However, all it took for Poirier to turn the tables on McGregor was the calf kick: a move that, despite becoming incredibly common over the last few years, seemed to catch the Irishman completely off guard

    The stats also favor Poirier—if only slightly. The American lands 5.59 significant strikes per minute compared to McGregor's 5.32 and has a 50 percent striking accuracy rate compared to McGregor's 49 percent, per Poirier also takes less punishment than McGregor—which is likely to surprise some readers—absorbing 4.17 significant strikers per minute compared to the Irishman's 4.54. Granted, McGregor has won more fights by knockout, at 19, but Poirier isn't far behind him at 14—and that deficit is probably partly because he's got the chops to win by submission too.

    We are not for a moment suggesting the McGregor isn't an incredible striker, or that he's incapable of putting forth a career-best striking display in this trilogy fight with Poirier. In fact, historically speaking, he's definitely the more accomplished striker of the two.

    In the year 2021, however, he seems to be a little less versatile and a little more predictable. That's bad news against a guy like Poirier, who seems to add new weapons to his arsenal each time he steps into the cage.

    Edge: Poirier


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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Wrestling has always been one of the keys to beating Conor McGregor, but the Irishman is better in this department than most people recognize—at least statistically speaking.

    He boasts a decent takedown accuracy rate of 55 percent, and denies takedowns at a 67 percent clip—a particularly commendable rate given that pretty much everybody he's ever fought has been hellbent on taking him down to avoid his striking. Poirier, on the other hand, has a takedown accuracy rate of 36 percent, and a defense rate of 61. 

    While some stats favor McGregor, however, Poirier completes far more takedowns overall, landing an average of 1.47 per 15-minute fight compared to McGregor's 0.7. The tape also speaks for itself: Poirier has completed takedowns against many solid foes, most recently the likes of Dan Hooker, Max Holloway and, of course, McGregor. For those with short memories, the American had the Irishman on his back in the first minute of their most recent fight.

    Neither guy is a wrestling savant, but the edge has to go to Poirier.

    Edge: Poirier


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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    This one is a no-brainer.

    McGregor is likely far better at grappling than any of us know, but we've seen almost nothing of this side of his game. He's only won one fight by submission—a 2012 rear-naked choke against Dave Hill under the Cage Warriors banner—and has never even attempted a submission in the UFC. 

    Poirier, on the other hand, has flaunted this side of his game on many occasions. He's won six fights by submission, including triumphs over Pablo Garza, Jonathan Brookins and a very young Max Holloway. His success in this department is partly because, unlike McGregor, he's often hunting for submissions, attempting an average of 1.3 per 15-minute contest. He even locked up a guillotine choke on the great Khabib Nurmagomedov—though the Russian legend ultimately escaped.

    Again, it would be a gross overstatement to say Poirier is on the level of somebody like Charles Oliveira on the mat, but he certainly has the edge over McGregor.

    Edge: Poirier


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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

    Poirier's X-Factor: Don't Get Overconfident

    The first time Poirier and McGregor fought, Poirier was thrown off by McGregor's mind games—something he has admitted multiple times. The second time they fought, he was in a much better headspace, and the result spoke for itself. 

    Heading into their third fight, Poirier seems to be overflowing with confidence—potentially to a point of diminishing returns. Even though he beat McGregor in their last fight, even if he's favored to do so again in their imminent rubber match, he must remember that he's fighting a man who is capable of capitalizing on even the smallest openings, a fighter who has built a career on doing the unfathomable inside the Octagon. 

    He mustn't get overconfident. 


    McGregor's X-Factor: Mix the Martial Arts 

    The prevailing opinion after McGregor lost to Poirier at UFC 257 earlier this year was that he focused too heavily on his boxing—neglecting the other parts of the MMA arsenal as a result—and ultimately paid the price.

    McGregor can't make that mistake again. That doesn't just mean being ready for Poirier's kicks, it means firing plenty of his own.

    If he can get back to mixing his martial arts at UFC 264, Poirier could be in real trouble.


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    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Image

    It's impossible to pick against Conor McGregor confidently. Even when he was pitted against Khabib Nurmagomedov in an absolute nightmare of a matchup, many fans believed he could win, and their confidence was not misplaced. McGregor can never, ever be counted out, and if he sparks Poirier at UFC 264 this Saturday, nobody should be surprised.

    That being said, the most recent information available suggests that a Poirier win is the more likely option. The finish likely won't come as quickly as it did last time—if it does at all—but he has all the tools to leave Sin City with his hand raised. 

    Prediction: Dustin Poirier by decision


    Statistics courtesy of


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