I had the priviledge of listening to Jessie on Fire earlier today. He referenced a video by the weasel concerning the Dustin v Conor 3 fight and I couldn’t help but think that we are doing this all over again.
Before the Dustin v Conor 2 fight, many an analyst came up with different superlatives about why Conor would win and Dustin had no chance. Then when Dustin won, instead of acknowledging their disservice to the MMACommunity with their bias and one-sided commentary, they simply listened to Conor’s post-fight press conference, chose one of his reasons and now that’s what they are running with.
So "does Conor still want it?" "what version of Conor are we going to see?" "will Conor go back to the karate stance?" "has Conor learned how to deal with calf kicks?" are the questions reputable MMAHeads are discussing as if Dustin cannot come up with a different strategy. I think it’s in poor taste. But I do have a list of my own; a list of Questions that I think people have not asked (or asked enough).
Here are three questions that could define the Diamond and Notorious Trilogy.
1. What part will crowd noise play?
This point was brought up by Jessie on Fire. The crowd in Abu Dhabi was less than half of the capacity. And let’s be honest, they are not going to be as rabid as this one in two weeks. Dustin even admitted that he somewhat enjoyed the serenity of the lessened crowds for his last two fights. But Conor feeds off this energy.
Before the Weili v Namajunas fight, Weili was riding the confidence of having a crowd-pleasing war with Joanna Champion. She did not imagine that an American crowd would boo her name when Bruce announced her. Go back and watch, it put her off for a bit. And there’s something to be said for that.
Dustin has fought against a pro-Alvarez crowd, against a pro-Gaethje crowd and against a pro-Khabib crowd. So maybe this will not affect him. But none of these guys will stoop to Conor’s level to gain the upper hand. If Dustin comes in to a hostile reception it will play a part… for better or worse.
2. This is already a windfall, what does that mean for Dustin?
Before the first fight, everyone said Conor was ready. When he lost they said he could not be ready because he had made too much money. Well, Dustin Poirier is guaranteed to make his biggest payday since his Khabib fight. When the bell rings to start that fight, Dustin will already have millions to his name from one fight. Does that mean he has ‘already won?’
This is not new. Remember Nate Diaz, the guy who just ‘wanted a good scrap’? The moment he tasted Conor-Money, he changed that to ‘let’s do the Money fight.’ Remember Jorge Masvidal who sold himself as ‘gamebred’, he’s now ‘business-bred’… Ask Leon Edwards. The point is, when an athlete, especially in fight sports, tastes big time money, there is always a question of hunger. We asked it of Conor the last time; now it’s time to ask Poirier.
Is he already smiling as to having secured his retirement with this fight? Is he already dreaming of the great things his foundation can do with his cheque? Is he over the moon that he is finally being ‘paid in full’? If that is the case, we may be getting a distracted Dustin Poirier. And a second’s distraction is too much time for a Conor knockout shot to land.
3. What happens when we enter Main Event Rounds?
Here is where I state the obvious. I want Dustin Poirier to win. I love the Diamond. And despite my dislike for McGregor, I have always admitted that I subscribe to Jon Anik’s sentiment when he said "…the sport is better with [Conor] in it." It really is. The attention, the money, the excitement from Conor’s fights is next-level. But how would I not love Poirier?
In the Poirier v Holloway 2, the Poirier v Gaethje and the Poirier v Hooker fights, Poirier did something consistently crazy. In round 2, he pushed the pace to such a speed that he ended the rounds crouched with his hands on his knees catching his breath. But it was a trick, all three times; what he was really doing was taking his opponent to a place where he believed he would shine. And it worked all three times. When the third rounds started, Dustin’s volume cranked up and his opponents were crowded with shots upon shots.
There is an overwhelming feeling that both fighters will want to avoid getting knocked out in this third fight. And I feel it may lead to some distance fighting from Conor (like he did in Diaz 2) and some flash wrestling from Poirier (like he did with Gaethje). But if both fighters make it to the corners after round 3, I will immediately give the fight to Dustin.
Think back fight fans. Remember the visual of Dustin Poirier taking the centre and pointing to Max Holloway that he should meet him in the middle at the start of round 5? And Max ’Legendary’ Holloway, with a shrug and deep breath answered the call as if saying "…sure man. Let’s do this." I sincerely do not think Conor can fight in that space.
In truth, we have seen Conor and Dustin do legendary things in their UFC Careers. Conor has images that will line up a gallery. Dustin has wars that will cover documentaries. They are both world class. And in this kind of fight, where there is so little to separate them, we as fight fans have to look for intangibles to hold on to. That’s why I think these questions are so important. For me, I’ve got Dustin ‘blood diamond’ Poirier by 4th Round Stoppage. What do you think?