Colby Covington vs. Dustin Poirier: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Moments after winning a highly publicized grudge match with former training partner Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272, Colby Covington set himself up for another animosity-infused scrap.
"You said it's on sight," he growled in his post-fight interview with commentator Joe Rogan, locking his crosshairs on former American Top Team stablemate Dustin Poirier. "Name the site, Dustin."
Covington fights a weight class above Poirier, but his callout actually makes some sense. He has twice lost to reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and likely recognizes it's going to take some doing to earn a third shot. Poirier is in a similar situation at lightweight, having been submitted in both of his bids for the division's top prize. Throw in the fact that they seem to harbor some legitimate disdain for one another, and the list of reasons to make the fight starts looking longer than the list of reasons not to.
It remains to be seen whether it ends up happening. UFC President Dana White seemed noncommittal post-fight.
But if it does go down, who would win? As is so often the case when we're talking about world-class fighters, it's difficult to make a prediction confidently, but a closer look at Covington's and Poirier's games reveals some interesting insights.
Keep scrolling to see how they match up on paper.
Dustin Poirier is obviously a more polished, more powerful striker than Colby Covington. He has just shy of eight times more knockout victories than his welterweight counterpart: 15 to two. He also lands significantly more significant strikes per minute: 5.61 compared to Covington's 4.14. Despite a size disadvantage, he would probably handle his former training partner in a boxing or kickboxing match.
But that's not to say Covington's striking isn't effective in MMA.
The wrestling specialist's boxing is ugly and riddled with defensive holes, but he applies it with such suffocating pressure that it doesn't matter. He also throws such high volume that it negates his apparent deficit in the power department—think death by a thousand paper cuts. It's unlikely that we'll see him score any knockout of the year contenders, but he can beat the hell out of people on the feet. Just ask welterweight champ Kamaru Usman, who absorbed 250 significant strikes from Covington over the course of their two fights.
It's a closer call than one might think, but Poirier's proven slickness and power give him the advantage.
We don't need to spend a ton of time on this one. Poirier is good wrestler, capable of securing takedowns and defending them, but Covington is on another level in this department. He is easily one of the most effective wrestlers in all of MMA.
Covington, who wrestled at Oregon State University, is always pursuing a takedown and doesn't relent until he gets it. Once he has his opponent on the mat, he drowns him with a ceaseless torrent of ground strikes. It's like being waterboarded. There is no room for air and very few opportunities for escape.
The stats reflect this reality. Covington lands a dizzying 4.10 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon for a success rate of 47 percent. And after UFC 272, he is ranked No. 8 for most takedowns completed by a UFC fighter.
Throw in the fact that Poirier has wilted against wrestlers like Covington before—we're talking about Khabib Nurmagomedov here—and it's a no-brainer.
Neither Poirier nor Covington is known for his submissions. As you've hopefully gleaned from what you've read so far, Poirier prefers to do his fighting on the feet, while Covington favors a suffocating wrestling attack.
It's hard to say who is better at jiujitsu. Poirier is a black belt under Tim Credeur and attempts significantly more submissions per 15 minutes than Covington: 1.19 to 0.13. That implies Poirier is the better submission fighter, but things aren't always as they seem.
Both men have six submission victories on their resume, but Poirier has nearly twice as many fights as Covington. He's also shown a vulnerability to rear-naked chokes, losing both of his previous bids at the lightweight title in this way. Covington's jiujitsu is also supercharged by his world-class wrestling.
It's a close one, but we'll give it to the guy with the higher submission rate.
Covington's X-Factor: Durability
Colby Covington is a tremendous fighter, but he has a bad habit of taking a ton of punishment in both victory and defeat. In his last four fights, he's absorbed 399 significant strikes, been knocked down four times—five if you count Masvidal's fourth-round stinger at UFC 272—and stopped once. That is bound to take a toll at some point, and given that Covington is already 34, it could be soon.
You've also got to consider Poirier's power. At featherweight, he could crack. At lightweight, he might be the hardest puncher in the division. At welterweight, he would probably be even more dangerous. A fight with Poirier would be a bad time for Covington to show even a hint of waning durability.
Poirier's X-Factor: Cardio
Dustin Poirier has good cardio at lightweight, but we have seen him get tired before. At welterweight, where he'd be carrying at least 15 pounds more body weight, he'd be at far greater risk of burning out. This is especially concerning given Covington's style. The unrelenting wrestler leaves everyone he fights gasping like a fish on a hot dock.
If Poirier were to take this fight, his cardio would need to be better than it's ever been before. The big question is whether he can take his gas tank to the next level at 33, with retirement seemingly right around the corner.
Dustin Poirier is one of the best fighters of this generation, but as the old adage says, styles make fights. And Covington's style looks like a nightmare for him. The welterweight star's wrestling, high-volume striking and pressure can give anybody fits, and in this matchup, he'd be helped by a size and strength advantage.
Poirier's power and experience give him a fighting chance in any matchup, but this one would most likely look a lot like his 2019 submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov—probably just a little more drawn-out, which would only make it more agonizing.
Prediction: Covington by decision.