Conor McGregor is a red-hot favourite to pull off a repeat of his 2014 defeat of Dustin Poirier. ‘Mystic Mac’ is predicting another Round 1 KO. But four key factors in ‘Diamond’s’ favour suggest the UFC 257 headliner is anything but a foregone conclusion. 

UFC ring rust factor

Since Conor McGregor’s emphatic first-round knockout when the pair first met in 2014, he has fought at lightweight just twice. He beat Eddie Alvarez for the UFC Lightweight Championship by second-round TKO in 2016, and lost a title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov by submission in his next fight almost two years later. He embarked on an overhyped boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather in between those lightweight forays.

‘The Notorious’’ only fight of any form since losing to Khabib saw him return up to welterweight, accounting for Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone by Round 1 TKO.

Poirier’s UFC 178 fight with McGregor was his last as a featherweight – and he’s stayed in the lightweight division ever since, going 10-2. ‘Diamond’, the $3.42 outsider here, is rated one of the division’s most durable performers, with his only loss from his past eight bouts coming against the undefeated Nurmagomedov in 2019.

Can Conor go the distance?

‘Mystic Mac’ has boldly predicted another quick finish to his second encounter with Poirier. But what if the first-round knockout plan doesn’t eventuate?

There has to be a question mark over $1.32 favourite McGregor’s motor, having been past the second round just twice in the past seven years. He beat Nate Diaz by majority decision in 2016, while he ran out of steam before tapping out in the fourth round against Nurmagomedov.

That’s all before taking into account he has spent just 40 seconds in the octagon in the past 27 months.

Poirier has been far more active – fighting 11 times to McGregor’s five in the past five years – and has been involved in a high proportion of lengthy bouts. Only two of ‘Diamond’s’ last eight fights failed to go beyond the second round: when Alvarev was DQ’d for illegal knees, and when Poirier stopped Alvarev in the rematch a year later.

Poirier’s wins over Max Holloway and Dan Hooker either side of the Khabib loss were both by unanimous decision after going the five-round distance.

There’s no substitute for competitive ring-time, which makes $8 for a Poirier win on points a tantalising option.

Bigger Diamond is Poirier punters’ best friend

McGregor will confront a bigger, more resilient and more dangerous Poirier than he faced back in 2014.

Poirier’s four years in the 145-pound featherweight division netted just two KO/TKO victories from 11 fights. But the 31-year-old boasts 10 knockouts in 15 lightweight fights. He memorably stopped Justin Gaethje and Alvarez in the space of four months in 2018.

Aside from his early defeat to McGregor, Poirier has been knocked out just one other time – by Michael Johnson in 2016. There’s few fighters getting around the division who are tougher or gritter than ‘Diamond’.

Though McGregor is yet to be knocked out in his career (all four of his losses were by submission), the $7 on offer for a Poirier KO/TKO victory will tempt some punters.

Determined Dustin to block out ‘Mystic Mac’s’ mind games

There’s no question Poirier was sucked into McGregor’s histrionics last time around. He has admitted he allowed himself to be drawn into the Irishman’s infamous trash-talking and mind games. The resultant mental disintegration led to a TKO loss inside two minutes.

Poirier has been around the block a couple of times since then, however. He’s more mature with a hardened resolve – not to mention a more skilled, technical and patient fighter.

‘Mystic Mac’ prophesising about a knockout by the 60-second mark won’t worry Poirier. In fact, McGregor’s trademark vitriol usually aimed at his opponents has been remarkably subdued in comparison.

On the score of desire, Poirier also holds an edge. This could be a career-defining moment for ‘Diamond’.

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