Although Dustin Poirier suffered a first-round knockout loss to Conor McGregor in their first meeting in 2014, “The Diamond’s” longtime head coach Mike Brown feels much has changed ahead of the pair’s rematch, which is scheduled for UFC 257 on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi.
“A lot has changed,” Brown told MMAJunkie. “So much has changed. They’re really different people at this point. Six years of development in a sport, you’re almost a completely different athlete. I would say besides all the technique and technical improvements, it’s mostly about the mindset – the ability to relax in certain situations and suppress emotion and things of this nature. I think this is really where the biggest changes are made, are major technical changes that we don’t want to get into too much.”
It’s easy to see where Brown is coming from, as one of the major storylines surrounding the first fight was Poirier’s inability to deal with McGregor’s relentless trash talk. Many believed that Poirier let the Irishman get the best of him before the fight had even started, leading to his poor performance on fight night.
As UFC 257 approaches, the story of the fight is much different, as both fighters have matured quite a bit. There has been little trash talk this time around, and more mutual respect, leading many to focus more on the physical improvements both Poirier and McGregor have made in the time since UFC 178.
It’s clear that neither is the same fighter he was back in 2014, but “The Diamond,” specifically, has been a bit more active than McGregor and has put together quite an impressive run in recent years.
Since the first fight, Poirier has gone 9-2-1 and has earned victories over notable names like Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, and Dan Hooker. Meanwhile, McGregor has gone 6-2, earning victories over Jose Aldo, Nate Diaz, Alvarez, and Donald Cerrone.
Over the course of that time, both fighters have developed and improved, and Brown has played a large role in Poirier’s growth. On Saturday night, he feels his pupil will be able to exploit “technical holes” in McGregor’s game and right a wrong in the process.
“It’s a rematch of a blemish – he doesn’t have many of them – that he’d like to erase,” Brown said. “(McGregor) always comes with something new and something fresh and something different. Honestly, we see some technical holes in the game. But most importantly, we see a lot of what everybody sees: He definitely has a weakness in conditioning. That’s something we’d be smart to exploit if possible.
“(Poirier is) a guy that’s great conditioning, a volume puncher with big power in both hands and both legs, and it doesn’t go away. He can knock you out with either hand or either leg in Round 1 or Round 5, and it doesn’t go away. That’s what makes him the world-class monster that he is.”
Long Island-based sports writer covering MMA, Boxing, and the New York Jets.