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UFC 257 Poirier vs McGregor | Game Plan

Hello again Buzz fans, yes another UFC 257 article has arrived, this time I want to bring to attention a couple of key factors that could be detrimental to the betting underdog, Dustin Poirier. Essentially I want to point out a couple of small technical factors which I noticed while doing some research for my official predictions article coming later this week.

While to the casual MMA fan this may seem like a fight made to make Conor McGregor look good it is important to remember how elite the opponent he is fighting this weekend is. Any method of victory no matter how tough or easy will reflect very well on Conor McGregor. As the true MMA fans will know Dustin Poirier, since moving to 155 (Michael Johnson loss aside), has looked a million times more improved than his Featherweight stint. Poirer now displays better boxing, improved entries to open up his combinations, and of course seemingly has a better chin than before. However, upon watching footage of both fighters there were a couple of punching sequences that to me are extremely troubling for Dustin Poirier and potentially either one could be the finishing sequence should the fight be won by Conor McGregor.

The first of these two sequences is a particular punch combination by Conor and in particular something he does against southpaws. I want to take you back to the second fight with Nate Diaz, in the beginning of the second round at about the 4 minutes and 37 second mark Conor Mcgregor drops Diaz with a double hook combination against Diaz with both of course in the southpaw stance. Conor essentially throws a right hook looking for a specific reaction and that is for Diaz to parry away the right hook thus leaving an opening for the left hook, Conor lands said left hook as Diaz parry’s away the right hand forcing Diaz to become vulnerable to the left, the shot lands and Diaz goes crashing down to the mat. See video below:

So, what significance does this have to Dustin Poirier? Well in their first bout years before the Diaz fight, Conor McGregor finished Dustin Poirier with this exact combination. This is not a coincidence; this is a pre-planned combination that Conor has prepared especially for when he faces off against a fellow southpaw, a criteria Dustin Poirier meets. Naturally this could lead one to assume if Conor is to win this fight perhaps this combination could again play a factor.

The other sequence however which could lead to Poirier losing is actually to do with something Poirier uses which has improved his game. First, I want to introduce the importance of this combination in Dustin Poirier’s game, basically the striking of Poirier is at its best when he is throwing combinations, Poirier is one of the best combination boxers in all of MMA and easily the best at 155. It was this that allowed him to beat Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez. With combination punching often the fighter throwing requires an entry, meaning the fighter must find a way to safely get close enough to the opponent in order to let the combos loose. Early in his career this was a major issue for Poirier as he had no solid entries and would often resort to winging out his punches which often got him caught. Now in terms of the striking element of their fight when Poirier is close to Conor and letting off his combinations is his best opportunity as Conor in the Nate Diaz fight showed a slight vulnerability when not given space and being forced to fight in the pocket. The problem Poirier is going to have is that despite improving his style of entries his main method of entering in range may still get him into trouble against Conor. 

The entry which Poirier now uses in all of his fights is a shift punching combination which essentially is a method of entry in which the fighter moves forward aggressively whilst switching their stances. This can be used in a number of different ways but in the case of Dustin Poirer he uses it to get gradually closer to the opponent to land a big punch which forces them back to the cage allowing for Poirier to unleash his brutal combinations. The most dangerous part of this combination is that Dustin can cover the distance with little effort and it offers no room for his opponents to avoid the right overhand which ends the shift punch combo. So while in general this has proven to be very effective for Poirier the problem he faces is that this method of range finding is an act of aggression that plays directly into the hand of Conor McGregor.

If you look at the majority of Conor’s best finishes you will find that the direct cause is usually down to the opponent being aggressive and moving in on Conor. Eddie Alvarez and Aldo are the two best examples whose failure was their aggression and trying to enter past the long range of Conor McGregor. Conor has a longer reach than Poirier which would dictate Poirer has to use this entry but he will regardless as it is his main method of trapping his opponent and while generally it is effective both Max Holloway and recently Dan Hooker managed to catch Poirier in the midst of his shift punch combo. When using this combo Poirer is often not defending his head very effectively and Conor is a highly effective counter striker and has likely already taken note of the window to catch Poirier during this exchange. Now I do believe Poirier has a solid chin and is tough as hell but in almost all of his fights he gets wobbled at some point and Conor is the absolute worst person to get wobbled against due to the mix of his accurate and powerful punching. Below see Hooker catch Dustin coming in:

Perhaps these factors will not play a big role in the fight but I just wanted to demonstrate a couple of factors in Poirier’s style that make Conor a tough matchup for him. At the same time Poirier does have a number of ways to win. He can utilize the leg kicks which not many have done to Conor, he has good take downs when getting his opponent to the cage, and as said before if he enters range successfully his combinations will be a problem for Conor especially as the fight goes on. All this is to say, Poirier is going to have to put on display of his developed maturity as a fighter and try to mix things up to keep Conor guessing. While a big task, Poirier is highly capable of coming up with a successful game plan but from the opening bell the patterns I have wrote about here could play a major role should Conor get the win. 

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