On January 23rd, we see the anticipated rematch between Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor. The first fight of course went to Conor but the second fight will see them in completely different stages of their careers and improved versions of themselves. Both men have a list of fantastic wins and here I am going to look at the fights that best display the high level of skill both men possess. The list is my own subjective view and some placements will be debatable but I will do my best to justify my reasoning for each entry.
Seems as though he is receiving top billing, so we will look at the 5 best performances of the diamond to start. Dustin Poirier arguably has the best resume at 155, Khabib and Tony have had longer wins streaks but overall, I would say Poirier has the best names on his record. This list will only contain his 155 fights as I truly believe Dustin Poirier after the Michael Johnson loss is a completely different fighter and it was after that devastating loss he truly became an elite fighter.
Number 5- Dan Hooker
Arguably the best fight of 2020. Dustin Poirier gutted out a 25-minute war and used his experience and superior cardio to gain a decision win over the hangman. Poirier was coming from his loss to Khabib and a long layoff due to surgery. The UFC really did Poirier no favors by putting him in with a rising contender who possessed a skill set that stylistically posed a number of threats to the striking game of Poirier due to Hooker’s long-range accurate striking and relentlessly brutal calf kicks. The first two rounds of this fight were absolutely beautiful, brutal violence in particular the second round which is an all-time great of MMA rounds. Poirier was close to being finished in the second round after an amazing exchange but he showed his heart and fight IQ by taking the fight down to the ground and came close to submitting the hangman a couple of times. Even on the feet, Poirier began to take over and was successful in draining the cardio of Hooker while Poirier managed to remain reasonably fresh. It was messy and it was brutal but bouncing back from a devastating loss, Poirier reminded the fans of how great he is by beating a top contender and giving the fans a fight to remember in the process.
Number 4- Antony Pettis
This was the win that saw the beginning of the epic 4-fight winning streak which led Poirier to his title shot against Khabib. After a couple of tough fights coming off of the Johnson loss, Poirier dominated the former UFC champion in a typically bloody fashion. Poirier instantly was going about the perfect way to beat Pettis by pressuring and giving no room for any of the former champ’s flashy striking. Pettis was holding his own but once the fight was taken to the ground Poirier fully took over, opening a nasty cut on his opponent. Poirier showed his improved fight IQ and went straight back to the ground in the 3rd and was chasing some submissions before latching a nice body lock on Pettis. To his credit, Pettis was always working to try and escape but Poirier was too good on the ground thwarting Pettis’ attempts. Poirier made a nice transition to mount while keeping his legs locked around Pettis. This immense pressure on the torso of Pettis caused a rib injury forcing the tap. Simply put, Poirier took away every tool of Pettis and dominated everywhere the fight went in a true masterclass of pressure fighting. There was clearly no pathway for Pettis to win this fight.
Number 3- Eddie Alvarez 2
The first fight was the root of much controversy as Dustin was mostly dominating the fight but in the second after having some success Eddie Alvarez was disqualified through the use of illegal knees. This time around the feud was much more bitter as Poirier defended Alvarez after the fight only for Alvarez to label Poirier a quitter which naturally he took exception to. The first round was all Poirier who again showed to be a significantly better striker although Alvarez was landing some solid leg kicks at the same time. In the second round, Alvarez got the takedown but initially was doing very little, while Poirier was attempting to utilize his trademark cage walking only for Alvarez to utilize the illegal 12 to 6 elbow techniques causing the ref to stand the fighters up. Immediately Poirier wobbled Alvarez and put on immense pressure stopping the fight leaving little doubt as to who the better fighter was.
Number 2- Max Holloway
While it seems strange now, Dustin Poirier was a fairly big underdog coming into this fight as this was right at the high point of Max Holloway’s incredible championship run and coming right after his incredible display against Bryan Ortega. It was clear the UFC were banking on Max to win with the hopes of setting up a super fight with Khabib. Poirier had other plans and beat Max by the virtue of pure power. Poirier at this point had been at 155 for a long time and made use of his strength, in a sense big brothering Max, and upsetting the rhythm of the featherweight champ. Every time Max tried to get into his trademark volume striking rhythm Poirier would simply just use powerful combinations to keep Max honest and at times even wobble the champ. To his credit and cardio, Max found some late success but Poirer in the 5th round just did more and proved to the world he is a truly elite fighter in the process. He became the interim champion which was truly a feel good moment. While not the true championship, Poirier had still beaten an elite level champion and was finally receiving the recognition he deserved for his years of hard work.
Number 1- Justin Gaethje
So first off, this fight was between two men who are essentially two of my favorite fighters of all time and was guaranteed to be an absolute war which is exactly what it was and arguably one of the greatest fights of all time. Many would categorize both these fighters as brawlers but in this fight, Dustin Poirier used his technical superiority to take less damage and land countless combinations on Gaethje. One of the most impressive things was the fact that Poirier was still able to walk by the third round as Justin Gaethje was blasting leg kicks and landing from the very beginning. Poirier, again showing his veteran fight IQ, was eventually able to perfectly time the small window in Gaethje’s leg kicks to land his combinations and catch Gaethje off balance on a few occasions. In some ways, it was reminiscent of the way Arturo Gatti would fight against Mickey Ward using his slight technical edge to avoid the more harmful shots while still being exciting in an all-out war. After a highly competitive third round, Poirier came out in the fourth like a banshee and launched a brutal combination against Gaethje which badly wobbled the highlight and caused the stoppage. While this was not the most dominant win on the list it still acts as the best example of who Dustin Poirier is as a fighter and why he is one of the most entertaining fighters in all of MMA.
Again, you can argue for a number of different orders to these performances but regardless Poirier has had some amazing fights which have led to some truly elite level wins in his career. Arguably he has the best wins overall in the lightweight division. Dustin Poirier is one of my favorite fighters in MMA of all time – do I think he’s the best ever? No, of course not. He is one of my favorite MMA fighters for the same reason Arturo Gatti is my favorite boxer of all time. He’s a technical fighter who often will bite down and go into war mode against his better judgment. He has been on such an underdog journey going from a first-round loss to Michael Johnson to beating the top of the division. All of this is great enough but outside the octagon, Poirier has shown so much class that he is a hard guy to root against. He and his wife dedicate so much of their time to their own founded charity, the good fight foundation and he is always graceful in both victory and defeat. Poirier is clearly someone who loves to fight and cares about providing excitement for the fans. Initially, Poirier could not balance this he had sloppy footwork and constantly looped his punches, and had very leaky defense at best.
One of the best attributes a fighter can show is the ability to change their style and Poirier has done this so much to the point where the fighter you see now is far beyond the one he used to be. Even if he doesn’t win a championship he has carved a career of entertaining fights and fantastic performances against some of the best fighters of his generation all while often being the underdog. He is a championship material fighter and one that fans should be grateful to have around in the sport.