Mapping out plans for Poirier’s victory over McGregor

On Saturday at UFC 257, Dustin Poirier has a monumental task in front of him in Conor McGregor. The Louisiana native became an interim lightweight champion, and one of the best 155-pound fighters in the world with a striking style that bested former Ultimate Fighting Championship kings Max Holloway, Justin Gaethje, and Eddie Alvarez. But, it’s not hyperbole when saying that McGregor is a bad man and on a different level than those former Poirier foes.

This will be a rematch of the pair’s 2014 featherweight clash that lasted all of 106-seconds. Both have racked up accolades and UFC gold since their first encounter. And many within the industry feel “The Diamond” is a far different fighter from the one we saw at UFC 178. However, to overcome his previous failure, while playing in the “Notorious” one’s element, the 32-year-old will have to bring a game plan that plays to his strengths, and away from McGregor’s.

That is why I sought out the opinions of some of the best coaches in the sport. To see how they would strategize victory over the former two-division champion. In the hopes of gleaning possible tactics we may see from Poirier’s coach Mike Brown on January 23.

Marc Montoya – Head coach and owner of Factory X MMA

“[In McGregor’s] first couple of rounds, he’s always going to have dynamite in his left hand. He’s dynamic, and he’s able to kick well. The strategy there is to eliminate that left hand,” Montoya told MixedMartialArts.com. “How do you do that? A couple ways. [First], Poirier can throw strikes. For example, a right kick at that left hand, to keep that hand occupied. The other thing is, we don’t want to stay at range for a long time. I think hooking McGregor on the cage and putting him on the mat—whether he’s getting up or not—that get up has shown in the past to wear out McGregor. He loses power, and eventually becomes susceptible to being taken down.”

“I think the biggest thing is you can’t go out there and make a fancy fight with McGregor. Especially in those first couple rounds. I’m not saying Poirier can’t strike with him. You have to look at that fight in different [segments]. Look at the first two rounds [separately] because of McGregor’s history. Then you’ve got to look at three, four, and five. Three is an assessment on what happens in one and two. And then in four and five, he should really be able to run away with that fight given McGregor’s past. It’s not going to be the same strategy for all five rounds, potentially.”

Tyson Chartier – Head coach at New England Cartel MMA

“Dustin has to avoid the left hand. Try to control the cage and lead the dance. When possible, force the clinch and try to wear Conor down. Take him into the later rounds and then press more,” told MixedMartialArts.com. “If takedowns present themselves, go for it to make him work.”

James Krause – UFC welterweight and head coach at Glory MMA & Fitness

“Technique for technique, there’s just not a lot of guys that’ll be able to stand in front of Conor. I think Dustin needs to put pressure on him, and you’ve got to make [Conor] fight you. Not box. You have to make him fight. Get close and make it a 50-50 exchange. One of the things Dustin does extremely well, he’s going to make you fight him,” Krause told MixedMartialArts.com. “He plays in that dirty and intimate range that is close and personal. Conor is a master at controlling range, range deception, and trickery. He’s incredible at running people into that counter-two. He’s got real power and he’s a sniper. He’s very sharp with his punches.”

“Dustin’s got to get on the inside and make this a dog fight early. He’s got to make it nasty at least in the first round to get Conor settled into the fight. Because he is most dangerous early. Once you get him settled in, you see some chinks in the armor. If I’m Dustin, my only goal is to get out of the first round. Once I get out of the first round, I feel like he’s going to be able to get some stuff going, because Conor’s not going to be as twitchy.”

Can Poirier earn redemption?

The statistics show a concerning trend. In Poirier’s scraps with Dan Hooker, Holloway, Alvarez [the rematch], and Gaethje, 477 significant strikes were landed on him over 16 rounds. And they landed with a 47% success rate when opponents are using heavy artillery. This means Poirier’s not hard to find with a good shot, and those aforementioned peddlers of violence are not as efficient as “The Notorious.” During McGregor’s last four fights, he scored on 58% of his significant strikes and only needed 12 rounds to go 3-1 in those bouts. Further, McGregor’s only loss was to a man that has never lost, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Getting hit often, and significantly, by a stone-cold killer like McGregor is a recipe for defeat, even with the steely chin that Poirier has.

That all comes on top of the fact that McGregor won their first scrap, which could give an added psychological edge. However, by following the blueprint laid out by these coaches, Poirier would certainly have a chance. He is too talented not to. That said, I expect the Irishman to go two-for-two in fights against the American.

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