How Poirier Beat The Odds And Knocked Conor McGregor Out
We said that it could happen, and it did. Dustin Poirier beat Conor McGregor. It wasn’t just remarkable because Poirier was the underdog. (Among UFC underdogs, his odds of winning were high.) The most striking thing about this match is how differently both men fought compared to their 2014 match.
Conor McGregor did not rely on kicks throughout the round and a half he fought. He also didn’t create openings by lunging back to create space between him and Poirier.
Dustin Poirier also allowed little space to form between him and Conor McGregor. He remained close and we didn’t see him chase McGregor like we predicted. Instead, he chipped away at McGregor’s right leg with calf kicks.
Both men obviously learned from 2014 and adjusted their strategies accordingly. McGregor closed the distance between them early and remained close for the seven and a half minutes they fought. Poirier initiated a takedown early into round one – early enough for him to go low but retain control. Poirier’s endurance also improved dramatically since the first fight.
That endurance was one of the ways Poirier overtook McGregor.
How Round One Foreshadowed Poirier’s Win
A few key moves in round one gave us a glimpse of what was in store for round two.
24 seconds into the fight, both men had already traded blows to the face. But Poirier stunned the crowd by diving into McGregor and going for a takedown. For almost two minutes, both men were pinned against the Octagon grate, trading inaccurate blows, and struggling to get back into the ring. But those two minutes wore both men down. The physical cost of straining against each other and the mental cost of exploiting and blocking openings would’ve been significant. If Poirier’s strategy was to tire McGregor out, this helped accomplish that goal.
But round one’s highlight came 3:44 into the round. Shortly after escaping Poirier’s takedown attempt, McGregor got a killer combination in. McGregor nailed Poirier’s jaw with a right strike, then landed a blow with his infamous left hand.
And Poirier took it.
Poirier took McGregor’s hardest hit and kept going. When we say Poirier’s endurance improved since 2014, this is what we mean. He would go on to take more hits like that and retain his hitting accuracy. It was the moment we knew this wouldn’t be a repeat of 2014.
Both men continued to trade blows throughout the rest of the round. Poirier threw the first of many calf kicks with 54 seconds to go. McGregor threw his first kick of the match with about 23 seconds to go. As if he was remembering 2014, he didn’t let Poirier’s block knock him off balance, either. By the end of round one, they both looked evenly matched.
How Poirier Secured His Win In Five Seconds
In 2:32, UFC 257 would end with a win from Poirier. But the match-deciding hit came at second five of round two.
At the beginning of the round, Poirier threw a calf kick that staggered McGregor. From then on, McGregor was off-balance, affecting his ability to dodge, parry, and strike. It also secured Poirier’s win.
But McGregor put up a fight before going down. 35 seconds in, McGregor caught Poirier’s third calf kick, pushed him against the grating, and punched Poirier in the face.
Poirier took it.
At 55 seconds, Poirier landed another calf kick on McGregor’s injured leg. At this point, the commentators can see McGregor keeping weight off that leg. Even novice spectators can see McGregor’s unsteady stance at 1:09.
McGregor seemed to rally at 1:20. He caught another of Poirier’s calf kicks, pushed him back into the grating, and landed another face shot. But Poirier took it. McGregor caught another kick and went for an uppercut combo. Not only did it miss, but Poirier landed a right hook in McGregor’s face. Shortly after moving back into the middle of the Octagon, Poirier landed several more face shots. They were light, but they would’ve felt harder at that point.
That’s when McGregor began missing punches. From 1:38 on, he either punched short or got sidestepped when he charged at Poirier. By 2:04, McGregor was punching slower while Poirier retained his speed.
The Beginning Of The End
The end of round two began 2:17 into the match – 15 seconds before McGregor went down. Both fighters exchanged blows, then went into an all-out frenzy. Poirier wailed on McGregor in a furious series of strikes. McGregor’s strikes dodged as fast as Poirier’s frenzied strikes, but Poirier landed most of the blows.
One right hook from Poirier staggered McGregor, who stumbled right, trying to maintain his guard. Poirier followed with a slow, deliberate series of hooks, one right after the other. McGregor was backed against the grate and had nowhere to go.
Finally, at 2:30, McGregor stumbled back and fell. Poirier descended on him and threw strikes reminiscent of their 2014 bout. McGregor was knocked out in a 15-second blaze of glory. The ref called the fight 2:32 into round two, and Poirier won.
How Our Predictions Panned Out
We predicted some of what happened in Poirier and McGregor’s second fight. We didn’t predict how they would change their fighting styles from their last match. However, we suspected McGregor would be able to take more hits than Poirier. All else equal, that’s still probably true. But we didn’t anticipate Poirier to land a crippling blow at the beginning of round two.
We did anticipate Poirier’s strategy being the key to his win. Although both men clearly strategized, Poirier’s was the winner. His goal was to tire McGregor out and shatter his endurance. To that end, the two-minute grapples and the decisive calf kick were his most instrumental moves.
Now that they’re 1-1, they may have to schedule a rematch. But based on an off-mic moment in the post-fight interview, Conor McGregor owes Dustin Poirier a whiskey first.