Conor McGregor’s night ended at UFC 264 with a broken leg but that came after he endured a rough opening round where Dustin Poirier was blasting away at him with punches and elbows on the ground.
While McGregor did manage a guillotine choke attempt along with some upkicks off his back, Poirier largely dominated the five-minute session with two judges ultimately giving him a 10-8 round had the fight been allowed to continue.
Despite the lopsided nature of the first round, McGregor’s longtime head coach John Kavanagh was actually pleased by the way things were going as he anticipated a massive comeback as the fight moved forward.
“I wasn’t concerned at all, I was actually really, really happy,” Kavanagh said during a chat with Laura Sanko after UFC 264 ended. “And I knew what I was going to be saying between rounds. I was just going to tell him to keep doing what he was doing with the kicks and try to close a bit heavier this time. So we’d be looking to, rather than exchange punches, to slide back and left hand like he did on Aldo. Look for those kinds of techniques. Slide back left cross, slide back left uppercut, and kind of let Dustin fall into that kind of open space.
“At the 4:30 mark, everything’s gravy. Energy looked good, technique looked good. A few adjustments between rounds and I thought we were on track to getting a finish there or at least keep going, keep the rhythm going for the rest of the fight.”
As much as Kavanagh might want to spin how the fight was playing out in McGregor’s favor, Poirier’s head coach Mike Brown can’t really see how anyone thought the first round was a positive sign of things to come.
Part of a coach’s duty involves an honest assessment of what’s happening during the fight as Brown has been forced to tell his athletes many times between rounds.
Of course, Brown recognizes that anything can happen in a fight but he just doesn’t understand how anybody could feel good about how things were going for McGregor after the fist round with Poirier at UFC 264.
“It’s not just somebody’s opinion, we’re talking about the judges’ scorecards,” Brown told MMA Fighting. “We had two of the judges had a 10-8 round. So I don’t know how anyone would consider that going well.”
McGregor also seemed to think the fight would have dramatically changed if not for the injury he suffered after saying “the second round would have shown all.”
Those comments were following McGregor’s surgery to repair the damage done from the broken leg but even as he was laying down in the octagon with medical personnel tending to him, he was still shouting obscenities and threats towards Poirier and his family.
None of that sat well with Poirier, who admonished McGregor for the constant death threats he made before and after their fight and out of everything the Irish superstar said, that was the only part that truly bothered him.
As a retired fighter and former WEC champion, Brown endured plenty of trash talk from opponents during his career and even he would likely compliment McGregor on some of the mental warfare he’s unleashed over the years.
That said, Brown feels like McGregor was clutching at straws ahead of the trilogy because he just didn’t have much material to actually use against Poirier after he was knocked out in their previous meeting back in January.
“I’m not sure what it is but he did see much sharper with his tongue in the past,” Brown said about McGregor’s trash talk. “Maybe he’s in a tough spot, I don’t know what it is but it also appears he has no lines anymore. Where he used to have some lines, some are ethnical but more lines. But those seem to have gone away.
“He doesn’t seem to be quite the same fighter both in the ring and with his promotion wise, too. Not sure what it is but something seems different.”
By all accounts, Poirier is moving on from the McGregor rivalry to begin focusing on a different challenge against reigning UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.
A fourth fight between Poirier and McGregor could happen at some point down the road but Brown understands it’s way too premature to even speculate about that right now.
“At this point, I imagine [Charles] Oliveira will be next,” Brown said. “And who knows what the landscape looks like at the time [McGregor returns].”