Dustin Poirier was a name familiar to MMA fans as early as 2014 when he fought a certain Irishman rising to fame. Whilst that loss stuck with the Diamond for a while, his bump up to Lightweight has shown the more casual fan that it’s a different Dustin now. Whilst always carrying natural power, there was more recklessness to Dustin’s style than now. He was a brawler, with a good BJJ game. This style, along with his down to earth nature, earned him a rapidly growing, loyal fanbase. Since making his UFC debut in January of 2011, Poirier already had multiple fights under his name at WEC. Almost 10 years on from his UFC debut, it feels like Dustin is just getting started.
Upbringing and WEC days
Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier is amazingly only a 31-year-old mixed martial artist. Born in Lafayette, Louisiana, Dustin reigns supreme over a small town with another famous UFC star. Daniel Cormier is also a Lafayette native, however, even the top 5 GOAT, DC, can admit that Lafayette is Dustin’s town.
This comes from the generosity of The Diamond. Whilst remaining respectful and always giving back to his fans, Dustin has founded a charity, The Good Fight Foundation. This is a local charity, run by Dustin and his wife, to help the deprived areas of his community. As well as being one of the most incredible fighters to watch, putting on fights of the year contenders almost every time, he is also one of the best people in the UFC.
Poirier hopped around the regional circuit before losing his WEC debut against Danny Castillo, now a coach at Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male. He bounced back in his second and last WEC fight against Zack Micklewright, winning by TKO. This is one of the first fights where we got to see the relentless hooks that Dustin is so well known for. Whilst not nearly as polished as he is now, the sheer volume and power was enough to pretty much delete his opponent’s offense within seconds.
Early UFC Tenure
Poirier started his UFC run against Josh Grispi, Jason Young, and Pablo Garza. 2 decisions and submission against the later. For a 21-year-old, a 3-fight win streak in the UFC was a phenomenal start.
Next up was future featherweight king, Max Holloway. Poirier and Max faced off for the first time at UFC 143. Both men were very new and young to MMA. Max didn’t even have a striking coach at this point and Dustin was still training with Gladiators Academy under Tim Credeur. The fight started chaotically, with Max throwing flying knees and jumping kicks until Poirier got it to the ground. From there, Poirier got an armbar sunk in relatively deep.
He quickly transitions to a triangle choke from the bottom and flips Holloway so that it turns to a mounted Triangle Armbar. After a scream from Holloway, he quickly tapped. Little did these two know, they were going to have a legendary rematch down the road.
Featherweight run/jump to Lightweight
Next up for the Diamond was the second loss of his career. Facing Chan Sung Jung (The Korean Zombie), it was Poirier’s first fight to go longer than 3 rounds. This fight was absolutely insane and further testament as to why Poirier’s fan base was expanding. So typical of Poirier, its often forgotten about, due to the nature of his fights. This one was back and forth on the grappling front to the striking. A brawl between two beautiful technical brawlers. The fight ended in a Brabo choke victory for TKZ, and Poirier would face his toughest time of it to come (in terms of results). After his impressive opening in his UFC tenure, Poirier went 4-3 in the next 7 (including the loss to TKZ).
After his loss to Chan Sung Jung, Poirier moved to ATT and subsequently made the jump to Lightweight. Next, after defeating Bobby Green and Joe Duffy, a shock loss to surging prospect Michael Johnson would come via TKO. Whilst it looked to have been a major setback in the eyes of the fans, it set Poirier off on one of the most iconic UFC runs in the history of our sport.
Poirier’s Run to the Title.
After losing to Michael Johnson, Poirier embarked on one of the most legendary runs in Lightweight division history. First up, Jim Miller. Probably the least prestigious out of the next few contenders, and that’s impressive. Jim Miller is the UFC record holder for most fights, with 36. Solid on the feet with good power, Miller has fantastic BJJ and can tie an opponent up like a pretzel in seconds. Poirier picked him apart, showing a calmer, more patient, and technical side to his boxing.
Up next, Eddie Alvarez. The self-proclaimed, most violent man in the UFC. As well as that amazing accolade, he also has been a champion in every other major organization there was at the time, including being an ex UFC champ. Poirier and Alvarez had a very evenly matched first fight, before Alvarez was DQ’d for an illegal knee. The bout was ruled a NC.
After facing the first former champion in his run, he went up against another former lightweight king, and Featherweight interim title contender in Anthony Pettis. Pettis and Poirier went at it for 3 beautiful rounds of chaos, however, after securing a body triangle, Pettis tried to squirm out and cracked a rib, sadly having to tap.
Fight of the Year Contender?
After having 2 somewhat anti-climactic endings against ex-champions, the UFC made a fight that was guaranteed violence. Step forward, Justin Gaethje. Poirier put on one of the highest-level boxing displays the UFC has seen. Whilst having to deal with the power of Gaethje and relentless leg kicks, Poirier took his time, set up his shots, and used his footwork to advantage.
Defensively his footwork was a beauty to watch. From his circling out from being pressed against the cage, always with a strike then move, to his delicate feints to cause a wild shot from Gaethje.
Here he switches to orthodox, pops the jab and loads up on the right, doesn’t throw it, instead slipping the right, stepping back with his hind leg and shifting his head out of the danger zone and exiting the area with ease.
The fight ended with Dustin countering off of a leg kick. In the first round, he waits for the leg kick and throws a sickening straight left right down the middle
This next gif is in the 4th round, basically identical.
After the Gaethje fight of the year contender, Dustin’s next bout was a rematch against Eddie Alvarez. Similarly to the first, it was closely contested. Both men securing takedowns and both men landing big, heavy powerful blows, however, it was the precision and persistence of Poirier. After another illegal knee, this time only worthy of a warning, Poirier landed a knee up the middle with a straight left behind it and followed up with a fight-ending flurry of punches and a very awkward looking head kick.
Shot at Interim Gold.
After almost a decade in the UFC and top 10 most fights in the promotion’s history, Poirier was long over-due his shot. Usually, interim titles carry little to no significance, as they’re often last-minute hype-hobs, however, this one felt different. It wasn’t short notice, nor was it a hype-job. It was between the #1 contender and the featherweight king. Both men had come leaps and bounds since their last encounter, and this time it was at a different weight class, with a belt on the line.
On this occasion, it was fought exclusively on the feet. Dustin pretty much steamrolled through Max. From his brilliant jab and cross to his scary flurry of hooks that come so ferociously. Both are things Max was on the receiving end of many. In the first round, Dustin caught Max with a perfect 1-2 after switching to orthodox.
Then the footwork aspect, always making sure his lead leg is outside of Holloways to stay ahead of the movement and continue cutting the cage of whilst he flurries. Brilliant.
This all resulting in a very dominant performance to secure a 49-46 on all 3 judges’ scorecards and securing the lightweight Interim world title. In his run-up to the title-shot, Poirier faced 2 former champions in Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis, one current champion in Max Holloway, and a future interim champion in Justin Gaethje. You would go a long way to find a run quite like that anywhere in combat sports.
Unified title shot
Next up was a crushing defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov, to unify the Interim and Lightweight title. Fighting as far out as Abu Dhabi, it was an experience for Poirier that was so close yet so far. It was the typical Khabib smashing, with a rare glimmer of hope however for Dustin. In the 3rd round, whilst defending a takedown, Dustin sunk in a guillotine choke. Whilst it was tight, it wasn’t 100% in. Dustin sat in half guard with the choke, and whilst you can finish it from there, a simple re-adjustment of wrapping that leg round in full guard would have been the difference between victory and defeat. As he does to everyone, however, Khabib survived and ground out a rear-naked choke.
After the Khabib loss, Dustin took 9 months out. Per the UFC, he was welcomed back by Dan Hooker. The New Zealander has been impressive for a while and had put together a good run together. Whilst it was always a really tough fight for Hooker stylistically, he had some early success. Even seemingly flash KO’ing Dustin right at the end of the second. Poirier recovered and rallied back with a punishing last 2 rounds, landing 71% and 75% of significant strikes thrown in the final 2 rounds. It’s this precision accuracy and thudding power that has lifted Poirier to the top of the division.
Dustin’s boxing is definitely his best asset. From crisp sharp combinations to one-punch power, he has it all. Whilst not a KO artist, Dustin has a few shots that seem to land every time.
His jab is fantastic, as you’d expect from him, however, he almost uses it better from orthodox, to set up his left hook. If the left hook lands, the right is soon to follow. This usually calls for a switch of stances, back to his favored Southpaw. From orthodox, Dustin can use his left hook quicker and sneakier. Whilst stepping in with the jab, he usually steps out of the danger area as he throws his hook from orthodox. A bit of a winging hook, but as Poirier calls it, the Pistol-Whip, can be incredibly effective. It doesn’t stun or wobble opponents, but it sets up the right hook, then his stance switch. This is often thrown when he has an opponent up against the cage, or backing up into danger.
In southpaw, it is the 1-2 that you need to watch. Sometimes just throwing the left straight, it’s not a power shot as such like Conor’s, it’s a counter. Usually countering hooks, Poirier used it expertly vs Gaethje.
So, How Good is Dustin Poirier?
In terms of current standings, I have Poirier as the clear second-best in the division. Conor McGregor poses a threat to that question, as does Tony Ferguson, however, neither guys have the resume of Poirier at lightweight. Ferguson has an impressive streak, and no disrespect to Kevin Lee and Lando Vanatta, but it isn’t the same caliber as the streak Poirier went on. Admittedly there was an Anthony Pettis win, and RDA, however both men are/were at the time of fighting on the beginning of a downward slope. RDA recovered briefly at welterweight however he’s failed to hit the same heights as before. Same can be said for Pettis.
In all-time rankings, it gets a bit blurry. I would have Dustin inside the top 10 of all time at Lightweight, and I think the top 5 is in touching distance, however, I feel like there’s a few wins needed to get him there.
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