This weekend’s UFC 257 headliner features a rematch six and a half years in the making. A lot has changed since Conor McGregor quickly took out Dustin Poirier during their featherweight bout at UFC 178. Although the two fighters have taken a vastly different route to get to this point, they each find themselves in one another’s crosshairs once again. There are specific key moments that led everyone to McGregor vs Poirier 2, and they deserve a closer look.
This infographic provided by BetWay.
Key Moments Leading to McGregor vs Poirier 2
Poirier vs. Ferreira
Immediately following his loss to McGregor, Poirier made the jump to 155 pounds, facing Carlos Diego Ferreira in April 2015. Poirier looked a lot healthier cutting ten less pounds, and his performance showed as much when he knocked out Ferreira in the first round. While this fight did not necessarily signify him as a contender in the new division, it did make him a fighter to watch out for.
Poirier vs. Pettis
By November 2017, Poirier’s move to lightweight had proven successful, going 6-1 with one no-contest. This run had proven Poirier to be a contender, and was set to face former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. “The Diamond” was dominant, eventually forcing “Showtime” to succumb to a body triangle submission in the third round. The win signified to the lightweight division that Poirier is a bonafide threat to any lightweight on the planet.
Poirier vs. Gaethje
His next fight came against Justin Gaethje, who was looking to rebound from his first career loss against Eddie Alvarez in his previous fight. The fight nonetheless had serious title implications, and was promised to be nothing less than a barnburner. For just over four rounds, the fight lived up to the hype. However, a Poirier flurry of punches was able to take out “The Highlight” at 33 seconds into the fourth, solidifying his place as one of the division’s top contenders worthy of title consideration.
Poirier vs. Holloway
At UFC 236, Poirier finally realized that title shot, albeit an interim one against then-featherweight champion Max Holloway. After the Gaethje win, Poirier defeated former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez by TKO to earn the title shot. Although he was a 2-to-1 underdog, Poirier defeated “Blessed” Holloway in a back-and-forth fight to win a unanimous decision. The win sealed Poirier’s place in UFC history as one of the all-time greats.
Even though he lost the title unification bout to Khabib Nurmagomedov in the following fight, he then recovered to defeat Dan Hooker. With Nurmagomedov now presumably retired, Poirier is once again on the cusp of a title shot, with a win over McGregor the only thing standing in his way.
McGregor vs. Mendes
Even with his dominant performance over Poirier, there was still a lot of doubt surrounding McGregor. Namely, questions remained regarding his grappling abilities. Nonetheless, a subsequent win in January 2015 over Dennis Siver earned him a title shot against Jose Aldo. When Aldo had to withdraw due to injury, Chad Mendes stepped in to face McGregor for an interim title. Many fans suspected Mendes to be the ultimate foil for “The Notorious”, given the credentialed wrestling background of Mendes. The first round of the fight seemed to give the doubters credence, but McGregor came back in the second round to TKO a gassed Mendes. The win significantly helped prove that he is not just “all talk”.
McGregor vs. Aldo
The win over Mendes kept the Aldo match intact, setting up one of the biggest fights in UFC history. Aldo looked to be nearly unstoppable at the time, but McGregor was an entirely new breed that Aldo had never faced. McGregor got in Aldo’s head early and often in the build-up to the fight, and it showed as they walked out to the Octagon. An aggressive Aldo came out swinging, only to be stopped dead in his tracks by a McGregor left hand, just thirteen seconds into the match. The win shot McGregor into superstardom, making him the clear biggest name in the UFC and a bonafide shot-caller in the organization.
McGregor vs. Alvarez
McGregor quickly made it clear that he intended to move up to lightweight to challenge for that division’s title. Although an injury to then-champion Rafael dos Anjos put a halt to that bout, Nate Diaz stepped in his place. One of the greatest rivalries in UFC history ensued, with the two splitting bouts. Once McGregor gained revenge on Diaz in August, he was quickly scheduled to help the UFC make their maiden voyage to New York at UFC 205 in November, and was booked to fight Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship. Alvarez defeated dos Anjos for the championship while the McGregor-Diaz rivalry was taking place.
McGregor became the first champion to hold belts in two divisions simultaneously when he defeated Alvarez by second-round TKO. The fight was the culmination of a six fight stretch in two years, and his stock was never higher.
McGregor vs. Cerrone
Since then, McGregor has only fought twice in MMA, both following a foray into boxing in 2017 to face the legendary Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather defeated the Irishman by TKO. Over a year later, McGregor finally returned to MMA to try to earn back the lightweight title he was stripped of. In what was one of the most intense rivalries in sports history, the aforementioned champion Nurmagomedov choked out McGregor.
McGregor would sit out for over a year again, returning in January 2020 to face fan favorite Donald Cerrone. The return featured none of his patented animosity towards his opponent, seemingly turning over a new leaf and rededication towards fighting. He would then handily defeat “Cowboy” Cerrone, reintroducing himself to the lightweight division. Given his star power, McGregor will always be near a title shot if he wants it, but a win over Poirier could earn that for him regardless.
McGregor vs. Poirier 2 is the re-converging point for the two vastly different paths that the two fighters have taken. Both fighters are entirely different fighters and people compared to 2014, and it will be interesting to see how the fight plays out. The build up has been very respectful, a far cry from the toxicity of their last fight. Here’s hoping the fight itself fully showcases their improved skills as well.
Main image credit:
Embed from Getty Images