Dustin Poirier stopped Conor McGregor with a barrage of punches midway through the second round on Sunday (24 January) morning to earn himself a knockout victory at UFC 257.
The rematch between the two came after McGregor defeated Poirier nearly 6 1/2 years ago. Since they last fought, Poirier has gone on a 10-2 run with victories over four former champions. Although he was the No. 2-ranked lightweight, he was still the underdog entering the fight.
Poirier caught McGregor with a series of shots to the head before sending him to the canvas with a short right hand, setting off stunned excitement among the few thousand screaming fans allowed inside the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi and millions watching around the world.
“I’m happy but I’m not surprised,” Poirier said in an interview with Jon Anik after the fight. “I put in the work. “The goal was to be technical and to pick my shots,” he said.
Poirier remained composed throughout the fight, not allowing it to turn into a brawl. And while McGregor had his moments, Poirier slowed down the pace with devastating leg kicks that ultimately played a factor in McGregor’s defeat.
“That lower calf kick was very good,” said McGregor. I wasn’t comfortable as I needed to be. I have to dust it off and come back. I need activity. You don’t get away with being inactive in this business. I’m going to regroup.”
The victory marks Poirier’s fifth over former champions and puts him in a position to challenge for the title that a seemingly retired Khabib Nurmagomedov still holds.
UFC president Dana White met with Nurmagomedov earlier in the week in an attempt to convince the undefeated champion to come out of retirement and dangled a rematch with McGregor in front of him. Poirier had other plans.
In fact, Poirier believes the UFC lightweight title belongs to him, regardless of whether Nurmagomedov comes out of retirement.
“I feel like this was the title fight,” Poirier said. “If Khabib’s not coming back, I feel like me and Conor are the two best guys. I’m the champion.”