UFC 257: The Aftermath

Dustin Poirier improved to 11-2 in the lightweight division with his UFC 257 knockout win over Conor McGregor.

Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier avenged his first-round knockout loss to Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor at UFC 178 this past Saturday night in the UFC 257 headliner from ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi, dusting the former double champ by second-round KO as an underdog in the +250 neighborhood.

Poirier wisely landed a takedown in the early stages of Round 1, attempting to make McGregor expend some energy wrestling before finding a groove with his striking. Although the Irish superstar worked his way back to his feet relatively soon, Poirier then engaged in some clinch work against the fence.

Like he did in his last fight a year ago against Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, McGregor landed some shoulder strikes to Poirier’s face, only for Poirier to counter with a couple of his own. As they separated out of the clinch, McGregor connected with a nice elbow.

Both fighters landed plenty of strikes in the first round, including a nice right hand from McGregor that briefly staggered Poirier. However, it was around a half-dozen inside low kicks from Poirier to McGregor’s lead leg that made their mark. In fact, for the first time in McGregor’s career, he didn’t want to sit on the stool between rounds (in hopes of keeping his damaged leg loose).

I looked around at the friends I was watching the fight with and had zero clue who won the opening frame. Things seemed to be even for the most part in the first two minutes of the second stanza, too. Although UFC analyst Daniel Cormier continued to point out that McGregor wasn’t checking the low kicks, Conor was wearing a solid poker face and didn’t seem to be struggling too much until the closing sequence of the scrap.

Poirier landed another stinging kick, followed by another several moments later. Shortly after Cormier exclaimed, “That leg’s beat up bad,” McGregor seemed off balance and favoring the right leg.

Then both fighters started trading punches. Poirier caught McGregor with a big left that backed him up against the cage. With McGregor returning fire but appearing off balance a bit, Poirier floored him with a solid right. ‘The Diamond’ followed up with one more bomb to the face, McGregor covered up and referee Herb Dean intervened to wave the bout off.

The stoppage came at 2:32 of Round 2, allowing gamblers on ‘over’ 1.5 rounds to fortunately cash tickets in the -145 range by two seconds.

Bettors backing Poirier on various prop bets cashed big tickets. The Lafayette, LA., product won by KO/TKO at odds that ranged from +450 to +705, in addition to cashing the prop for him to win inside the distance for a +400 to +475 payout and the prop to win in Round 2 for a return anywhere from 14/1 (5Dimes) to 20/1 at William Hill.

In the co-main event, former three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler turned in one of the most spectacular Octagon debuts in UFC history. Chandler needed only 150 seconds to destroy Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker via first-round KO as a +140 underdog.

In doing so, Chandler might have earned himself a title shot against Poirier, who is a given to fight for the lightweight strap his next time out. Chandler cashed prop bets to win by KO/TKO for a return in the +500 to +600 range. The Chandler props to win in Round 1 (+650) and inside the distance (+350) also garnered generous payouts.

At his post-fight media scrum, UFC President Dana White said that he called reigning 155-pound champion Khabib’ The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, the undefeated sambo wrestler from Dagastan, to get his reaction to the fights. Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after submitting Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje this past October.

However, White hasn’t officially vacated Nurmagomedov’s strap in hopes of talking him into returning for one more title defense. White said that he was told by Khabib, “Dana, be honest with yourself. I am so many levels above all of these guys.”

In September of 2019 in Abu Dhabi with Nurmagomedov’s father in his corner for the first time in his UFC career (visa issues had never allowed him to join his son in America), Khabib defeated Poirier by third-round submission.

At this point, it appears as if Nurmagomedov is going to stay in retirement. He has said that he would never “hold up the division.” Therefore, unless something changes in the next week or so, we can expect the promotion to announce that Nurmagomedov is no longer the lightweight kingpin.

On that note, BetOnline has released odds for several potential bouts involving Poirier. The offshore betting shop has Poirier installed as a +385 underdog vs. Nurmagomedov, who is a -500 ‘chalk.’ Poirier is also listed as an underdog to McGregor if a trilogy bout materializes.

BetOnline has McGregor listed as a -140 favorite, with Poirier at +120 on the comeback. However, Poirier is a -200 favorite vs. Chandler (+170) and a -150 ‘chalk’ vs. Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira, who is priced at +130. Oliveira is off a dominant win over Tony Ferguson to extend his winning streak to eight fights.

When asked if Poirier would face Chandler for the belt if Nurmagomedov remains retired during his post-UFC 257 media scrum, White replied, “Yeah, probably.”

But when that was presented to Poirier at his post-fight presser, he said, “That doesn’t excite me. I’ll just sell hot sauce if that’s the case.” Poirier went on to explain that he wasn’t being disrespectful to Chandler, but felt he needed to prove himself more before receiving a shot at UFC gold.

When asked what matchups would excite him, Poirier expressed interest in a McGregor trilogy and added, “I’ve always wanted to kick Nate Diaz‘s ass. He likes to talk a lot of shit on social media.”

Several months ago before the McGregor rematch was booked, Poirier said, “I’m a prize fighter and the prize has to be right if I’m going to fight.” The 32-year-old veteran, who improved his record to 11-2 with one no-contest since moving up to 155 after his UFC 178 loss to McGregor in a featherweight contest, showed his negotiating savvy with these late Saturday night remarks.

You see, Dustin knows that McGregor and Diaz aren’t in any position to fight for the lightweight belt. McGregor is 1-2 in three career fights at 155 pounds, while Nate hasn’t competed at lightweight since winning via unanimous decision over Michael Johnson in a Fight of the Night in Orlando (that I was at in-person) in December of 2015. But Dustin also knows that scraps with Diaz and McGregor will make him much more money than title fights with Chandler or Oliveira.

We should note that Poirier did concede that a fight with Oliveira would make more sense to him than facing Chandler, noting Oliveira’s win streak and his work (like his) in different weight classes and bouncing back from losses and building his resume back up.

BetOnline released the following prop odds for Poirier’s next 2021 opponent:

Chandler +150
Oliveira +250
McGregor +450
Nurmagomedov +600
Diaz +800
Gaethje 14/1 or +1400
Ferguson 14/1

The offshore book released similar numbers for McGregor’s next foe:

Diaz +200
Poirier +300 (obviously, if you like this, take McGregor +450 to face Dustin from above odds instead)
Gaethje +400
Ferguson +600
Jorge Masvidal +800
Chandler 10/1
Oliveira 12/1

Finally, one last prop from BetOnline had odds on who the lightweight champ will be at the end of 2021:

Poirier +200
Chandler +300
Oliveira +400
Nurmagomedov +450
McGregor +800
Gaethje 12/1
Ferguson 14/1

For those wondering where Gaethje is in this mix, remember that Poirier already owns a fourth-round KO win over ‘The Highlight’ in April of 2018. Granted, Gaethje bounced back with three straight wins by first-round KO and then ran right through Ferguson to end his 12-fight winning streak with a fifth-round KO at UFC 249.

Before UFC 257, White teased that he was working on a potential fight for Diaz that he felt fans would be thrilled with of its gets booked. My guess was that would be Nate-Gaethje. With McGregor losing to Poirier, though, many feel it’s the right time to make Diaz-McGregor III, although McGregor’s coach told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani yesterday that Conor wants to complete his trilogy with Dustin in May.

I’m not here to piss on McGregor’s party, especially since he still possesses the promotion’s largest drawing power. That was on display again this past Saturday when the show reportedly generated 1.6 million pay-per-view buys, the second-most in UFC history. With that said, McGregor insisting on a trilogy bout with Poirier would do exactly what Nurmagomedov refuses to do — hold up the division.

Now am I implying Dana will reject Conor’s wishes? No, not necessarily. He could book Oliveira-Chandler on the same night and/or Diaz-Gaethje, and then say the two of the three winners meet for the strap. But that scenario prevents us from getting a new lightweight champ until late in 2021.

After UFC 257, Diaz was active on Twitter throwing shade at McGregor, Poirier and Nurmagomedov. Diaz famously handed McGregor his first UFC loss by second-round submission at UFC 196 after taking the fight on 11 days of notice. McGregor won the rematch via majority decision at UFC 202, but many pundits felt Nate also won that bout.

Diaz and Poirier were booked to fight a couple of years ago, only for Poirier to pull out of the fight due to an injury. Diaz and Nurmagomedov have never met in the Octagon, but there was an incident at an MMA event in which Diaz claimed he slapped Nurmagomoedov’s face.

In that final tweet, Diaz is referencing how Nurmagomedov submitted both Poirier and McGregor.

Diaz has only been finished three times in his 32-fight career, and he disputes two of those stoppages. Back in 2006 when Nate was only 21, he was submitted at WEC 24 by Hermes Franca. His only two TKO losses were to Josh Thomson (referee stoppage, Nate wasn’t out after a headkick and punches) and in his last fight vs. Masvidal at UFC 244 (when the doctor called the fight due to a cut after Round 3, although Nate was ready to go in the fourth).

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