Conor McGregor was knocked out for the first time in his career by Dustin Poirier in a huge upset win that puts a spoke in the wheel of his journey back to the UFC’s lightweight title.
McGregor seemed to be cruising in the second round when he was caught by a right hand that allowed Poirier, who lost to McGregor in 2014, to get his back off the cage. Poirier poured on the punches, and referee Herb Dean waved the fight off with the Irishman groggy on the ground.
It all seemed so different just a minute previously as McGregor looked to be picking his shot to win.
He connected several times with his right hand, wobbling Poirier late in the first and early in the second, but he couldn’t seem to land his thunderous left hand.
The early exchanges were cagey, the two reversing positions against the fence without landing much damage, but the kicks Poirier landed to the calf of McGregor’s lead leg were to prove crucial.
Poirier threw them when he had a chance, with the result that McGregor’s mobility was limited, and when Poirier burst off the fence in the middle of the second round, all of a sudden McGregor was lacking the fluid movement that would have taken him out of range.
Instead, Poirier pounced, throwing a flurry of punches as McGregor staggered backward before landing a right hand that turned McGregor’s lights out and ended the fight.
”The leg was dead, I just wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be,” a rueful McGregor said in his post-fight interview, blaming inactivity for his lack of sharpness. The win puts Pirier in pole position for a lightweight title fight against Michael Chandler, who blitzed New Zealander Dan Hooker in the co-main event to win by first-round knockout.
McGregor still has a path back to the lightweight title, especially if Poirier were to beat Chandler to set up a trilogy fight, but the path back to the top just got a little bit longer.
Poirier said in the octagon afterwards: “I’m happy but I’m not surprised, I put in the work. Conor took this result very professionally and nothing but respect. We’re 1-1, maybe we have to do it again.
“The goal was to be technical, pick my shots, not brawl at all. I felt like I was boxing pretty well with Conor, he hit with some good counters.
“I felt like this was a title fight. If Khabib’s not coming back then me and Conor are the two best guys. I’m the champion.”
A gracious McGregor said: “That low calf kick was very good, my leg was dead and then I wasn’t just as comfortable as I needed to be. It’s inactivity and that’s it. Dustin’s some fighter.
“If you put in the time in here, you’re going to get cosy in here and I just have to dust it off and come back and that’s what I will do. I need activity, you don’t get away with being inactive in this business.
“I’ll take my licks. I’m gutted and I put so much work in. Well done Dustin: 1-1, good man. It’s a tough one to swallow, I put in a lot of work, I’m proud of my work. We’ll get to go again and that’s it.”