Dustin Poirier handed Conor McGregor the first knockout loss of his career at UFC 257, stopping the former two-division UFC champion in round two of their lightweight contest in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Six years after their first match, one pivotal part of his strategy was attacking the legs.
“The Diamond” spoke with the media after his big win on Fight Island and explained that his game plan was “not to be heavy on my feet and throw power shots and box early,” mixing it up with kicks, wrestling and boxing.
“Mike Brown was real big on me throwing calf kicks in this fight,” Poirier said at the post-fight press conference. “Really big on it, and it worked. We compromised his leg and he was in bad position early, just from the repeated leg kicks.
“Even when he started checking, he wasn’t contacting with the shin, like a small rotation more, I would’ve been paying for those kicks, but I was still getting the muscle of his leg and that part of your leg and muscle is so small and thin that you can’t take many shots there. After the second leg kick, I knew he was hurting.”
McGregor weighed in on the effect of the strikes during his post-fight interview, saying his leg was “completely dead” and “badly compromised,” like “an American football in my shoe at the minute.”
“I just know from experience how bad those things hurt,” Poirier said. “And I knew it was a five-round fight so it would only get worse. He started catching it and trying to counter it with his left hand towards the end, but I knew they were still landing. He was catching it after they were making contact. I knew that was still hurting him.”
Not being afraid of takedowns made Poirier more confident on the feet, also.
“And if he did catch it and take me down, then I was gonna – it’s a five-round fight,” he said. “Of course you never wanna give up a round, but I’d to throw some submissions up and see what happens, you know? I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu and I’m very confident in my jiu-jitsu, but I knew the leg kicks would be a problem because Jim Miller tore my leg up and that was a three-round fight, and I just know how painful it is.”
The UFC has yet to determine where Poirier goes from here. On a two-fight winning streak since his attempt to unify the UFC lightweight titles against Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019, “The Diamond” is likely the next in line for the undisputed gold, whether it is against “The Eagle” himself or for a vacant throne.