Dustin Poirier (+215) vs. Conor McGregor (-260)
Weight Class: Lightweight (155 lbs)
We are now less than three weeks away from Conor McGregor’s long awaited return to the Octagon and the much anticipated rematch between the Irish superstar and Dustin Poirier. A lifetime has gone by in MMA since the two first clashed back in 2014. A featherweight bout, McGregor was able to secure a first round knockout courtesy of his signature left. The win over Poirier was #12 in a row for McGregor, who would finish the streak at 15. Following a loss to Nate Diaz in one of the most iconic UFC fights of all time, McGregor of course won the rematch and went on to become the first simultaneous double champ in UFC history.
On the flip side, McGregor has only fought twice since 2018. One appearance was a first round demolition of Cowboy Cerrone last January, while the other was a round four submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229. The bout with Khabib was the highest grossing in MMA history, but it was tainted by McGregor’s criminal behavior during the build-up.
As a result, ring rust was a question mark during McGregor’s last fight and with such a dramatic raise in opponent quality, it could loom even larger here.
As for Poirier, he has gone 8-2 since the McGregor loss with wins over some of the UFC’s best. This includes hard fought decision wins over Max Holloway and Jim Miller, as well as knockout victories over Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis. Poirier has also been in the lightweight division a-lot longer than Conor McGregor, as the latter has just two appearances (both of them title fights).
In my opinion, the opponent quality Poirier has been able to overcome (and stop) at lightweight puts him in the top 15 all time. That goes for the entire history of the UFC, not just the lightweight division. Though he has never been an undisputed UFC champion, Poirier has held the interim belt and fought for a title against Khabib. A second round submission loss to Khabib last October is Poirier’s only loss since 2016.
Most recently, Poirier earned a hard fought decision victory against Dan Hooker. There was plenty of offense generated on each side, but Poirier was able to weather an early onslaught and take control of the fight down the stretch.
The bout with Hooker was a crash course on the highlights (and vulnerabilities) to Poirier’s game. He can be a slow starter at times, but he has a chin and is an excellent brawler. He has great hooks, heavy leg kicks and can walk through fire in order to land the heavier shots. He’s not a Khabib on the ground, but he holds his own and could very well have an edge over McGregor there. Dustin Poirier is also very solid out of the clinch and can generate great offense against the cage via hooks and upper-cuts.
As for McGregor, he secures most of his victories via knockout with a straight left. Conor McGregor has some of the best distance management in combat sports and it is one of the key attributes that has made him an all time great. He is very good at convincing his opponent that he’s closer than he actually is. He does this by keeping his chin rather high, which is something striking coaches have heart attacks about, but his feet remain forward. As a result, fighters tend to press in thinking they have more room than they actually have. When that happens, McGregor dips back and lands the left.
While Conor McGregor has a dynamic and unorthodox striking arsenal, it is his stalking left that does all the damage. It’s always been a bold strategy for McGregor, but he has the confidence and head movement to pull it off.
He’ll also keep his right hand in his opponent’s face from start to finish. This serves more or less of a range finder, but he will also use a quick double jab to set up heavier strikes.
Now despite all the improvements Dustin Poirier has made since 2014, I see this fight going the exact same way. For Poirier to have success, he will have to be navigating the minefield to get in close with McGregor. I mean if he can pull it off, Poirier is a better close range fighter. But nobody has really been able to pull this off. On top of that, Poirier is quite hittable, especially in the early rounds. Conor McGregor isn’t the type of fighter who will overwhelm his opponent with volume, he’s just looking for that one shot.
I see this fight going similarly to Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker. Poirier will have to be making similar entries on the feet and once he gets clipped, it’s all down hill. Sure, McGregor leaves himself open to getting cracked, but he has a chin and is tough to land looping shots on.
Poirier’s best chance for success might be to clinch with McGregor early. If he can wear on him, he can perhaps sap some speed from McGregor’s left and help with distance management. McGregor is very strong in the clinch, however. Poirier is definitley the better offensive clinch fighter, but McGregor was ripping out of any clinch attempts Alvarez had while Khabib had to work hard for his take downs.
This is all a product of the one factor we haven’t really discussed too much: the move to lightweight. While Poirier has more experience at 155, McGregor seems to be unstoppable at this weight class. Not only will he have more power than when the two clashed in 2014, his cardio also appears untouchable at this weight class. He had plenty of energy against Khabib as of round four and looked as if he could go 20 rounds against Alvarez. Small sample size sure, but lightweight seems to be McGregor’s most effective weight class. If he KO’d Poirier at featherweight, I don’t see how the result will be any different here.
Gambling wise, the line on McGregor isn’t worth a whole lot. If the fight goes past round two, that’s where it might be time to live bet Poirier. He is much better equipped for a decision win and gets better as the fight goes on. So McGregor by KO is the play here, though even that has already gotten a bit pricey. I put 1u on it straight up and will also be doing a bit of round betting.
In addition to the straight bet, I currently have Conor McGregor by first round TKO parlayed with a Nik Lentz moneyline victory. The Lentz fight will be going down a week before at UFC Fight Island 9. You can read the full breakdown for that one here. I will almost certainly do another round bet or parlay with a McGregor KO straight up and when that happens, I will update.
It’s probably a good idea to get on McGregor KO early, because there is a good chance it ends up closing close to (-200).