Dustin Poirier avenged his loss to Conor McGregor and won by far the biggest victory of his career.
The eternal UFC lightweight contender shocked McGregor, defeating him via TKO after swarming him with punches at 2:32 of the second round on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi.
Poirier first injured McGregor in the right leg with calf kicks. With McGregor’s leg compromised, Poirier pulled off a series of hard punch combinations. The final blow was a right hand shovel that dropped McGregor. Poirier followed from the field and referee Herb Dean stepped in to call him, marking the first KO or TKO loss in McGregor’s 13-year career.
“We’re 1-1,” said Poirier, who entered the fight as a +275 underdog. “Maybe we have to do it again.”
Current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has made it clear that he intends to retire, and it seems a question of whether, not when, Nurmagomedov will drop the belt. Poirier has now taken control for a title shot.
“I think it’s a title fight,” Poirier said. “I am the champion.”
ESPN had Poirier ranked No. 3 and McGregor No. 10 in the world at 155 pounds. McGregor and Poirier have fought before, with McGregor winning a featherweight fight by TKO in the first round at UFC 178 in 2014.
“That low kick was very good,” McGregor said. “That leg was dead, man… Dustin is a fighter.
“I have to dust it off and come back. And what am I going to do.”
McGregor had a solid first round. He landed several hard left hands and a nice spade right hook that snapped Poirier’s head back. Poirier took down McGregor, but McGregor got back on his feet with relative ease.
The two fought in the clinch with McGregor in shoulder strikes, like the ones he injured Cerrone with. Poirier lost the round, but he landed some hard calf kicks, which came into play later.
In the second round, McGregor pulled off some tough combos, but struggled to verify Poirier’s calf kick. McGregor began to catch Poirier’s kicks and punches. But the damage was done nonetheless.
In the final streak, Poirier landed a hard kick to McGregor’s right calf that clearly injured him. Poirier put McGregor against the cage and went wild with a tough combination that rocked McGregor. And then another, culminating in a nice right hand that dropped McGregor.
Poirier beat McGregor 48-29 in important strikes, including 18 to the leg, according to UFC stats. He’s got seven UFC lightweight knockouts, tied for the most in division history with Edson Barboza and Melvin Guillard.
It was McGregor’s first fight since a 40-second knockout to Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 in January 2020 and his first time at lightweight since a 2018 loss to Nurmagomedov. McGregor has only fought in the UFC three times since 2016, but has vowed to stay active this year, saying this week he wants to fight seven times in the next 18 months.
UFC 257 took place in front of a limited number of fans at Etihad Arena with COVID-19 protocols in place. It was the first UFC pay-per-view event with fans provided with tickets since last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Poirier (27-6, 1 NC), the former interim UFC lightweight champion, has only one loss in his last nine fights, against Nurmagomedov. The Louisiana native, who trains from the US Top Team in Florida, had just claimed a unanimous decision victory over Dan Hooker last June. Poirier, 32, is 11-2 (1 NC) since that loss to McGregor in 2014 and has always been a contender for lightweight.
McGregor (22-5) had won three of his last four games, with the only loss during that time against Nurmagomedov in a title fight. The Irish native was the first simultaneous two-time champion in UFC history, winning the lightweight belt while also being featherweight champion against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. McGregor, 32 , is the biggest silver producer in UFC history and even transcended MMA in 2017, switching to boxing in a match against Floyd Mayweather. McGregor is 10-2 in UFC fights.