This weekend, Conor McGregor is set to face long-time rival Dustin Poirier at UFC 264.
The rubber match comes just 6 months after Poirier’s stunning second-round knockout of the Irishman at UFC 257, and is set to be the most-watched MMA bout of the year.
During the build-up to the fight, much has been said about the need for McGregor to change his tactical and technical approach for the contest in order to win.
Here are 5 mistakes McGregor must learn from if he is to defeat Poirier this weekend, and regain his status among the UFC’s very best fighters.
Defend the leg kicks
McGregor’s knockout loss earlier this year came after a closely contested first-round which the Irishman arguably won.
However, Poirier’s early investment in leg kicks paid off as McGregor slowed down mid-way through the second round and was knocked out in brutal fashion.
According to McGregor’s close friend and teammate Artem Lobov, the former two-weight UFC world champion was looking beyond Poirier towards a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao.
“He was already mentally and physically getting ready for a boxing fight so he wasn’t thinking leg kicks… No MMA. He just thought it was going to be the same way as the first fight.”
If McGregor is to defeat Poirier, arguably one of the UFC’s best fighters right now, he must be diligent in defending against the American’s leg attacks and countering them with offense of his own.
Do you think Conor McGregor will defeat Dustin Poirier this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.
Don’t search for the knockout
McGregor found fame in the UFC after producing a number of spectacular early-round knockouts against the likes of Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, and Poirier himself.
However, the Irishman has a tendency to search for the knockout early and run out of energy later on.
To defeat Poirier, one of the most durable, resilient, and battle-tested fighters on the UFC’s roster, McGregor cannot afford to hunt for the knockout and wear himself out.
He must be patient, disciplined, and pick his shots far more carefully than in their bout 6 months ago.
Otherwise, McGregor will likely run out of stamina quickly and will be on the wrong side of yet another vicious knockout.
Be prepared to grapple
During the build-up to the contest, McGregor tweeted that the “first one to shoot [for a takedown] is a dusty b***h.”
In a recent interview, Poirier responded to the Irishman’s tweet claiming: “This is mixed martial arts. Put it all together. It reeks of insecurity to me.”
If McGregor is to stand a chance in the upcoming fight, attempts at mental warfare are not enough. He must be prepared to wrestle with Poirier and utilise his underrated submission grappling against the Diamond.
McGregor survived against the legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov a round longer than Poirier and certainly had more success against the Russian (although he did break numerous rules while doing so).
The Irishman is a more than capable wrestler and to defeat Poirier, he may have to prove this.
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Impose his advantages
During his time in the UFC’s featherweight division, McGregor made a living imposing his physical and technical advantages over his opponents.
He used his long reach to keep opponents at bay, fired brutal kicks to deter fighters from entering his range, and used his length, size, and stature to pressure his opponents before finding perfect counter shots.
Against Poirier, McGregor still boasts a 2’’ reach advantage. While he cannot afford to over-extend and provide the American with opportunities to counter, he is more than capable of using his famed left hand as a means of keeping Poirier at bay and finding his own range.
We didn’t see much of McGregor’s kicking game in their clash earlier this year, but during his rise at featherweight, he was a brilliant, creative kicker. While it’s unlikely that we will see McGregor firing flying, spinning kicks against Poirier, the occasional kick to the American’s leg, body or head would be useful.
Finally, while McGregor is not bigger than Poirier, he is probably the more powerful puncher. If he can gain the Diamond's respect early and land some good shots in the first round, he will be in an excellent position.
Forget the boxing stance…and the karate stance as well
Following McGregor’s loss, fans of the Notorious called for him to return to his old, karate-based stance and forget his new, more closed, ‘boxing stance’.
While both have their merits, they both come with clear issues. McGregor’s new stance saw his lead leg get kicked to shreds by Poirier. Electing to continue using that is perhaps not the best idea.
However, if McGregor returns to his old, far wider stance, he might be able to check kicks more easily, but he will also be dangling his lead leg in front of Poirier and asking for it to be kicked. Again, not the best idea.
McGregor’s stance on fight night should be somewhere between the two. Close to the boxing-heavy stance so he can land his best punches, and close to the karate stance so he is able to defend against kicks and fire some of his own.
It’s clearly a difficult balancing act, but this is the highest level of MMA. What did you expect?
UFC 264 takes place on July 10 at the T-Mobile Arena in Nevada and is shaping up to be a brilliant night of fights.
Alongside McGregor vs. Poirier III, a welterweight clash between Gilbert Burns and Stephen Wonderboy Thompson is slated to feature in the co-main event slot.
Sean O’Malley and jiu-jitsu star Ryan Hall are also expected to make their highly anticipated returns, facing Kris Moutinho and Ilia Topuria respectively.
Disgraced former NFL player Greg Hardy will make his ninth walk to the UFC octagon against fan favourite Tai Tuivasa in a heavyweight showdown.
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