By Milo Clay and Leon Blackman
In a night where the Irish superstar was expected to take the next step towards a UFC title bout, Dustin Poirier proved bookmakers wrong and became the first man to knock out Conor McGregor in a stunning second-round victory.
Connor came out in his trademark fashion, with a fast pace and looking to land punches on Poirier, who was put on the back foot early by the Irishman.
Despite knocking Poirier back with a couple of significant punch combos, Dustin stayed true to his game plan, focusing on punishing McGregor’s legs with heavy calf kicks proving to be the catalyst for victory.
Approaching the half-way mark in the second round, Poirier broke Conor’s guard with a strong left followed by a combo that would see McGregor fall to the deck and be handed the first knockout defeat of his career.
Post-fight, the damage dealt to McGregor’s left leg was bare for the world to see as he hobbled back to the changing room, helped by his coaching team.
A frustrating performance for the former champion did not prevent him from giving Poirier the credit he deserved for a victory which balances out their 2014 bout, when McGregor knocked out Poirier.
This was an unexpected defeat for McGregor, who was looking to set up a rematch with UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov with a victory at UFC 257.
Where does this defeat leave Conor? We look at what potential routes he could explore after defeat on Saturday night:
Rematch with Dustin Poirier
Retribution and victory for the American now leaves these two fighters with an equal record with 1 win, 1 loss after McGregor handed a defeat to Poirier with a first-round knockout win at UFC 178 in 2014. Dustin said he is a “different man” to the one in 2014 and now the series seems set for a trilogy at some point this year. Both fighters teased the idea of a rematch in their post-fight interviews and a bout between the two later this year looks the most likely outcome.
Rematch with Nate Diaz
In a similar fashion to Dustin Poirier, McGregor also has an equal record in his two fights with Nate Diaz. In their first fight at UFC 196, the American shocked the world as he submitted the Irishman in the second round, after McGregor started fast then quickly blew out of steam. But McGregor got vengeance in the rematch, knocking Diaz down three times on the way to gaining a split decision victory in what was a 2016 Fight of the Year candidate. With a fierce rivalry between the pair, it seems inevitable that at some point they will complete the trilogy.
A step back into Boxing against Jake Paul
YouTube star Jake Paul has made it evidently clear in the last few months that he wants to fight McGregor in an exhibition bout, often taunting the UFC star about his personal life. Paul has boxed twice, winning both fights by knockout but it remains unclear whether the Irishman will focus on MMA, as he stated in the post-match press conference on Sunday: “There’s none of them leg kicks in boxing anyway, but I did always want to focus on my MMA career, then again I’m also open.”
In the post-fight press conference, Dana White told reporters that “when you are stepping off a 350-foot yacht it’s hard to be a savage.” This suggests that Connor’s mindframe may have changed from the broke, hungry Irishman who was knocking out everyone who stepped in front of him. Connor says he still wants to focus on his MMA career, so when he has recovered from UFC 257 we will hear what his next moves will be.