It was a battle of two of the most exciting young featherweights in the UFC today. Both men sported spotless 2-0 records in their brief UFC careers thus far. One would become a contender while the other went back to the drawing board last night (November 12, 2011).
Welcome to contender status, Dustin Poirier.
The 22 year old showcased some terrific timely aggression in systematically picking apart the opportunistic Pablo Garza in front of a rabid Anaheim crowd on the UFC on FOX preliminary card.
Garza, at 6'1 had previously given every one of his opponents fits with his awkward attacks and his lanky frame.
So how did Poirier solve "The Scarecrow's" puzzle last night? And where do both young featherweights go from here?
Garza, the North Dakota native, tried to utilize his range early with some front and leg kicks, but he couldn't keep Poirier on the end of his strikes enough to keep him at a distance. The second he wound up for another push kick, he was swarmed by the Louisiana fighter with a flurry of punches.
This was a process that would be repeated throughout the fight.
Notice here how Garza simply couldn't use a jab to keep Poirier from getting inside with hooks and uppercuts.
Once inside, "Diamond" just eats a kick because it's thrown so close that it's not going to have nearly enough torque to do any real damage and he keeps pressing forward with strikes.
Garza tries to drop down for a takedown but there's no set-up for it and not only doe she get stuffed, but he's forced to drop to his back to defend a guillotine choke attempt.
"The Scarecrow" had no answer for Poirier's strength advantage. He commonly found himself dropped to his back simply from being overpowered in clinch attacks or getting pushed backwards during striking exchanges.
Round two was more of the same and when Garza again got stuffed during a takedown attempt, he settled for pulling guard.
Poirier, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt under UFC middleweight Tim Credeur, welcomed this. He advanced to half guard and began dropping some big punches. He softened Garza up with a huge elbow and the second Garza went for an underhook to try to sweep him, Poirier simply slipped his arm under "The Scarecrow's" chin and locked in a D'Aarce choke.
This was a pure strength move because Garza wasn't powerful enough to sweep Poirier, which would have made it much more difficult to get the finish. Instead, it was Poirier who rolled Garza and forced the his opponent to submit.
For Pablo Garza, this wasn't exactly a surprising result. Dustin Poirier is one of the brightest young featherweights in the division and he beat then-number one contender Josh Grispi in his 145 pound debut. While losing here was nothing to be ashamed of, there are definitely a few things the "The Scarecrow" can take from his loss. First off, he needs to work on utilizing his range better. Perhaps take some lessons from fellow 6'1 fighter George Roop. The other lesson is to get stronger. Much of the result of this fight was caused by the fact that Poirier was able to dominate him physically.
Interesting potential fights for Garza could be Josh Grispi, Rani Yahya or perhaps someone further down the food chain like Jason Young. He's still got a lot of room for improvement and there is potential yet to be harnessed.
For Dustin Poirier, this was a spot-on performance. He pretty much fought a perfect fight, never finding himself in any danger other than a brief leg lock attack that he quickly slipped out of. His striking was crisp and efficient and he didn't waste any movements in his submission attacks. His mentor, Tim Credeur, was likely enthralled.
With the victory, Poirier now has some serious momentum in the division. Possible options for upcoming opponents would be the winner of the Manny Gamburyan vs. Diego Nunes fight, Bart Palaszewski or perhaps Michihiro Omigawa. It all depends on how quickly the promotion wants to build him as he's still very young. Either way, he's got a very bright future.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did Poirier put on a good enough show for you to elevate him to featherweight contender status? Who do you think he should fight next?
For complete UFC on FOX 1: "Velasquez vs. dos Santos" results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire pay-per-view (PPV) event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.
All gifs by Zombie Prophet via IronForgesIron.com.