McGregor's first words to Poirier after defeat show where the damage was done
And just like that, Conor McGregor is back in the lightweight pack
Heading into UFC 257, John Kavanagh declared that the latest McGregor masterpiece was done. The main event in Abu Dhabi would merely be the unveiling.
There was a masterpiece as an exciting fight card rounded out to a reduced and socially distanced crowd, but it was delivered by Dustin Poirier and his punishing leg kicks.
'The Diamond' earned a big underdog win over McGregor, who had defeated him at UFC 178 in 2014, when he stopped the Dubliner dead on his feet and then finished him off with an unrelenting series of punches.
McGregor was knocked backwards, crumpled down against the fence and was unable to defend himself as Poirier went in for the kill. While McGregor now moves to 22-5, having lost three of his last six UFC fights, Poirier has put himself at the top of the queue for a crack at the title vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The take-down and leg-kick tactics deployed by Poirier worked perfectly. McGregor did not see the first round take-down coming, and although he was able to successfully work his way out of it, a seed of doubt had been planted.
The former feather- and lightweight champion had wanted to stand up and trade with the American, but in leaning on his boxing skills he left himself open to leg kicks that he did not even attempt to check until it was too late. Even though he landed some good punches, the kicks from Poirier eventually hobbled 'The Notorious'.
After his knock-out win over McGregor, Poirier went to celebrate with his wife Jolie before calling on UFC president Dana White for a crack at that UFC lightweight title. He knew exactly where he wanted to celebrate victory, back in America, as he bellowed out "We're going to Kincaid's!" [a reference to a steak house in Lafayette, California.
He then went to check on his beaten opponent. McGregor's first words to Poirier showed how his tactic had worked. Referring to his right leg, McGregor said: "It's dead."
The leg kicks had essentially left McGregor as a sitting duck and Poirier was able to tee off before referee Herb Dean stepped in.
During his post-fight chat with John Anik, the Dubliner again spoke of his severely damaged leg.
"His leg kicks were good, my leg was dead and I wasn't as comfortable as I needed to be. I have to dust it off and come back and that's what I'll do.
"I'm gutted, it's a tough one to swallow, I just want to go back to the hotel and chill with my kids and regroup."
Both men did speak of a potential trilogy fight as their duels are now tied at 1-1. Rest assured, McGregor will be working on a strategy to defend against those nasty kicks if there is a rematch for the rematch.