Calf kicks played a huge factor in the UFC 257 main event clash between former champions Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor on Jan. 23, and the Irishman himself recognized the importance of the attacks shortly after their fight in Abu Dhabi.
“The kicks accumulated, for sure,” McGregor said at the post-fight press conference, saying it left his lead leg “completely dead” and looking like an American football. “I knew when I saw he had Thiago Alves in his corner.”
A former UFC welterweight title contender, “Pitbull” Alves, who returns to Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship on March 12, has made kicks and knees his specialty throughout his 14-year run in the UFC. Attacking McGregor’s calf was a crucial piece of Poirier’s game plan on Fight Island, he said.
“That kick is very effective against anyone,” Alves said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “No matter who you are, when those kicks start to land hard, you can’t move well and you have no strength in your punches because you have no base.
“The way Conor McGregor fights, his stance is a bit of karate and taekwondo… He has wonderful boxing, but his legs are wide open, his knee is a bit inside, so Mike Brown, Dyah [Davis] and I noticed that the calf kicks would be a very effective weapon in this fight.”
McGregor said after the fight he was able to hear Alves congratulate Poirier from the corner after one of the calf kicks landed. He thought to himself, “You bastard, that was a good one.”
“If you’ve never been kicked in the calf in a fight, man, it sucks,” Alves said. “It debilitates you, and [the pain] won’t leave for a week or two. You have no strength if you can’t use your legs, and we knew it would be one of the strategies against Conor McGregor.”
Alves says the first time he saw calf kicks being used in a MMA contest was almost a decade ago, when American Top Team striking coaches Katel Kubis and Luciano Macarrao trained Wilson Gouveia for one of his first post-UFC bouts.
Poirier has only lost once in his past nine bouts since 2017, an impressive list that features Dan Hooker, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, Anthony Pettis and Jim Miller. “Pitbull” calls him “the uncrowned lightweight champion,” and he won’t select a name he thinks would be fair for a possible fight for the vacant throne.
Alves will, however, suggest a match to determine the ideal foe.
“For now, I think they should make Charles ‘do Bronx’ [Oliveira] and Michael Chandler fight,” he said. “Poirier beat the guy that Michael Chandler just beat. Guys are not the same after they fight Dustin. I could be wrong, but I think Dan Hooker’s chin wasn’t the same after fighting Dustin. Let’s have these guys prove themselves a bit more.
“If you look at Dustin’s record, brother, he’s running through the best in the world. He lost to Khabib [Nurmagomedov], of course, Khabib is a different guy. Aside for that, man, it’s all Dustin Poirier. Let’s see what happens. But that’s on Dustin Poirier. Whatever he decides, I’ll be there to help him prepare.”