McGregor vs Poirier 2: the Road to the Rematch

18 Jan , 2021,

When Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier met in the Octagon for the first time in September 2014, the two fighters were at a very different point in their careers compared to where they’re at now. McGregor has gone on to become the biggest star in the UFC history, to hold championship titles in featherweight and lightweight division, and to have a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. Poirier has also gone up in weight, held the interim lightweight title, and faced many of the same opponents as Conor. Both fighters lost twice since their first encounter. Both have had their ups and downs in the cage and outside of it. So now here we are 6 years and 21 combined MMA bouts later – with McGregor and Poirier scheduled for a rematch on January 23rd 2020 in Abu Dhabi. Let’s take a look at 10 moments along the way that brought us here:

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1. McGregor v Mendes – 11 July 2015

McGregor was originally scheduled to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title at UFC 189. After Aldo suffered an injury, Chad Mendes was brought in as a late-notice replacement, and an interim belt was put on the line in lieu of Aldo’s title. This was a big test for Conor, as Mendes was the best wrestler he had faced to date. After being taken down in the early going, McGregor was able to survive on the ground and knocked Mendes out in the second, capturing his first UFC belt.

2. Aldo v McGregor – 12 December 2015

The interim belt was a good start, but had to be unified with the real deal for McGregor to be considered a true champion. The bout with Jose Aldo was rescheduled for UFC 194, where Conor shocked the world by handing Aldo his first loss in a decade with a thunderous first-round knockout. This match unofficially marked the end of Aldo’s prime, and the first step for McGregor on his way to becoming a champion in multiple weight classes.

3. Mayweather v McGregor – 26 August 2017

McGregor did not stick around to defend his featherweight title. Instead he went all the way up to 170lbs where he split a couple of fights with Nate Diaz, then on to win the UFC lightweight title in a second-round stoppage of Eddie Alvarez. But the MMA world was apparently too small for Conor – for his next fight took place in a boxing ring, against arguably the greatest boxer of all time. The bout with Mayweather went mostly as expected, with credit to McGregor for making it somewhat competitive in the early rounds. No credit to gullible MMA fans who thought that Conor actually had a chance of beating Floyd.

4. Poirier v Pettis – 11 November 2017

While McGregor was chasing multiple titles and dabbling in other combat sports, Dustin Poirier was grinding away in the lightweight division to which he returned after the loss to Conor. His Fight of the Night worthy performance against the former champion Anthony Pettis made fans take notice of Poirier as a divisional contender.

5. Poirier v Gaethje – 14 April 2018

In his very next fight, Dustin earned another FOTN performance when he took on Justin Gaethje. This fight turned out to be a wild brawl, with Poirier coming away victorious via fourth-round knockout.  The win over the former WSOF champion further cemented Poirier’s status in the division.

6. Poirier v Alvarez – 28 July 2018

Next, Poirier took on another former champion Eddie Alvarez in a rematch. The first meeting between the two fighters ended in a No-Contest after Alvarez landed a fight-ending knee to the head of downed Dustin. The rematch left nothing to doubt, as Poirier stopped Alvarez with punches in the second round, earning a Performance of the Night this time around.

7. Nurmagomedov v McGregor – 6 October 2018

Conor McGregor took some time off after the Mayweather bout, but eventually returned to MMA – and was rewarded with an immediate title shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov. There was a lot of bad blood between the two fighters leading up to this bout, culminating in the infamous bus incident at UFC 223. In the Octagon, Nurmagomedov dominated McGregor in an impressive fashion before making him tap in the fourth round. After the fight more shenanigans followed, with a scuffle involving both fighters and their corners.

8. Holloway v Poirier – 13 April 2019

At UFC 236, Dustin Poirier finally got his first taste of the UFC gold when he thoroughly outworked Max Holloway for five rounds in an interim lightweight title bout. This marked the second time that Poirier defeated Holloway, having previously stopped him with a submission in a featherweight bout at UFC 143. Yet another FOTN for Dustin.

9. Nurmagomedov v Poirier – 7 September 2019

Like McGregor did with Jose Aldo, Poirier got his chance to unify the interim title with the real champion. And also similar to McGregor, Dustin was submitted by Khabib in their matchup. Poirier had Nurmagomedov in some trouble with a guillotine choke attempt – perhaps the most trouble that Khabib has been in his entire MMA career

10. McGregor v Cerrone – 18 January 2020

After another brief hiatus, McGregor made his return to UFC as a welterweight, smashing the veteran Donald Cerrone in the first round. While many expected McGregor to once again be fast-tracked to a title, this time around he has to face a legitimate challenge from one of the top contenders in the division before earning another shot. Will this fight go down the same as their first meeting? Which man has improved more since 2014? These questions will be answered in the UFC 257 main event Saturday.

Thanks to the folks at Betway for the handy infographic.