The Diamond Might Have a Belt Around His Waist But the Real Challenge is Still Waiting for Him… After Defeating Max Holloway He Must Now Face the Apparently Invincible Khabib Nurmagamedov…
Dustin Poirier was one of two interim champions crowned in Atlanta, alongside New Zealand’s Israel Adesanya. Highly popular amongst MMA fans, ‘The Diamond’ beat a whole line of killers to claim the disputed lightweight title, after beating Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and finally Max Holloway.
Before taking on Holloway, Poirier had the second most UFC fights in history, behind Michael Bisping, without fighting for a title. That just goes to show how unforgiving an MMA career is, and just how much work it takes to get to the top. But for Poirier, that work will mean nothing if he doesn’t beat Khabib Nurmagamedov.
Is that possible though? Khabib is probably the most feared fighter on the roster right now, with an incredible unbeaten record of 27-0. How can Poirier beat a man that has literally only lost one round in his entire UFC career – and that’s because he wanted to catch his breath?
On the surface, Poirier looks doomed. Khabib has crushed three elite strikers during his UFC run in Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza and Conor McGregor. Admittedly the last two are more respected than Johnson – but ‘The Menace’ has a knockout win over Poirier at lightweight, so he is worth mentioning.
The thing about Khabib is that he doesn’t allow anybody to get their game going. Barboza is incredibly dynamic with sublime kicks and strikes. However, he found himself on his back getting brutalized until the fight was stopped. The same thing happened to Conor McGregor before Khabib got a submission in the fourth. Sure, McGregor arguably won the third round, but ‘The Eagle’ definitely just took the foot off the gas pedal to go flat out in the championship rounds.
There are only two moments in recent UFC history that can give Poirier hope. First of all is the fact that Khabib does hold his chin high, meaning there is the potential for him to get caught. We saw that against Johnson when he was momentarily stunned. It didn’t stop him from raining down mercilessly on the St. Louis native for the rest of the fight though.
It’s probably more important for Poirier to look at how Al Iaquinta dealt with Khabib during their last-minute match-up. While Khabib was the convincing winner, it wasn’t a total shutout, and ‘Ragin’ Al had notable success in stuffing the takedowns. If Poirier can replicate this and force Khabib into dirty boxing then he has somewhat of a chance.
We’re clutching here, but the difference between Poirier and the likes of Barboza and McGregor is that he is a gritty pressure fighter. McGregor is a counterstriker, while Barboza is dynamic and flash but one-dimensional. The problem with Khabib is that he makes it so difficult to implement your own game. Remember when he actually dropped McGregor with a filthy overhand after making the Irishman so worried about the takedown?
Poirier has to fight on his terms and turn this into a nasty brawl. If he can hurt Khabib early by throwing those heavy bombs then he has a fighting chance. If not, it could be a long night for the Louisiana native. There’s a reason ‘The Eagle’ is a strong favourite for this fight which is likely to go down in Dubai in September.