In the UFC 264 main event this past Saturday night, Poirier dominated the opening round against McGregor after blasting the former two-division champion with some vicious ground and pound that led to a pair of 10-8 scores from judges Derek Cleary and Junichiro Kamijo.
Sadly just before first round ended, McGregor stepped backwards on his foot and his leg completely gave out from under him. Replays showed that McGregor has broken his leg and the fight with obviously stopped with Poirier earning the win by TKO.
As unfortunate as it was to see McGregor’s night end by injury, Mike Brown believes that the situation would have only gotten worse for the Irish superstar if he was forced to continue against Poirier into round 2 and beyond.
“On the scorecards, two judges had it 10-8,” Brown told MMA Fighting on Monday. “This was from Dustin being on top dropping those elbows and showing his dominance, imposing his will. That’s what that was all about.
“If you look at the history of both of these guys, one of them gets stronger as the fight goes and one of them doesn’t. Conor was going to be most dangerous in the first [round], and I felt like as the fight went, it was only going to get easier.”
When it comes to the broken leg, Brown can’t exactly pinpoint when McGregor may have been initially injured, although he tends to believe Poirier when he mentioned a particular moment in the fight when he checked a kick that could have caused an initial fracture.
That eventually led to the moment when McGregor stepped back to plant his foot and his leg just snapped while collapsing under him.
“I’m assuming when he kicked the knee,” Brown explained. “When Dustin pointed at him, he was pointing at him for a reason. It’s like he felt something happening. He felt like ‘oh that was rough on the leg.’ He knew something was up with that. I’m assuming it’s then but I’m not certain.”
Regardless of the injury occurring when it did, Brown felt like the fight was playing out just as they had intended with Poirier avoiding any initial flurry from McGregor in the opening moments of the fight and then just taking over from there.
In many ways, the fight actually went better than expected because outside of a few leg kicks and a failed guillotine choke attempt, Poirier was able to take over and put a lot of damage on McGregor before the first round was even finished.
“Make him work, make him tired, make him strain, make him stress and finish him later on,” Brown said about the initial game plan for UFC 264. “Finish him later in the fight. Protect yourself early, don’t get into a crazy fire fight and brawl, which he’s got a handle on. It’s something he used to do when he was younger but I think those days are gone. He has good control of his emotions and he keeps it locked up. If he keeps himself safe early, I don’t think anybody beats him.”
Once Poirier started to let his hands go, McGregor was already on his heels and that’s what eventually led to the grappling exchange against the cage.
From there after escaping McGregor’s submission attempt, Poirier started blasting away with punches and elbows that could have potentially led to a stoppage on the ground.
“I’m not surprised,” Brown said about the way the fight ultimately played out. “D.P.’s boxing is super tight, super sharp and he cracks. He can hit hard. He’s really dangerous with both hands so if he puts his gloves on you, you’re going to feel it. I thought that Conor was blasting those legs, he looked like he was throwing them hard and it concerned me a little bit cause he was throwing them so hard but the placement wasn’t very good. He was landing around the knee area, which is real dangerous for him.
“Dustin threw a nice calf kick and it landed solid on the muscle. You land a couple of those and he’s not walking. It looked like the ones that Conor was throwing was kind of smashing around the knee, which is probably what gave him the problems. Dustin kind of lifted his leg a little bit so the small part of Conor’s ankle is hitting against that big, strong, bony part of the knee, which is not good for Conor.”
While a clean knockout would have answered any and all questions about the rivalry, Brown still has no problem with Poirier celebrating his victory and feeling justified with the win over McGregor at UFC 264.
Following a loss to McGregor back in 2014, Poirier made vast improvements since moving to the lightweight division and he’s vanquished every opponent he’s faced in the past four years outside of a loss to former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
As much as it might sting McGregor to hear it, Poirier has seemingly just surpassed him based upon his performances in their last two encounters. Brown believes that’s just further proof of the growth that Poirier has shown while becoming one of the best fighters on the planet.
“Every time he’s hit a stumbling block, he’s come back stronger,” Brown said about Poirier. “Any time he’s tasted defeated, he’s reassessed things and made some major changes, whether it’s how he approaches the fight or technically and come back much stronger. It’s happened every time and he looks like completely different guy each time in there.
“He improves so much and skill-wise and technically just his genetics, the guy’s not normal. The guy has crazy power in both hands. Crazy power in his legs and crazy endurance. You don’t see that package of all that put together plus he’s been doing it a very long time at a very high level. He has all the technique and skill to take anybody out. You put a guy in front of him, he has all the tools to beat anybody.”
Just hours after having surgery to repair his broken leg, McGregor was already buzzing about revisiting the fight with Poirier once he’s healthy again.
For Brown’s part, he’s not so certain that a fourth fight between Poirier and McGregor is really that necessary given the way their last two bouts ended but he also knows the former two-division UFC champion has a long road to travel before he can even think about competing again.
By the time McGregor is actually ready to fight, Brown can’t even begin to speculate what the lightweight division will look like much less where Poirier will be in his own career.
“I don’t think [a fourth fight is necessary] but who knows where they’ll be when Conor gets healthy and is back in there,” Brown said. “We’ll see where he goes. He’s got a journey ahead of him. Maybe he needs to fight somebody else and get a win or two to get back up there but he’s also the biggest star in the sport.
“He’s changed the game, done so much for the sport. He’s the biggest star the sport has ever seen. He brings a lot of eyeballs. He’s done a lot of great things but I think skill wise, we’ve got the superior fighter with Dustin.”