Record: 12-2 overall, 4-1 in the UFC
How he got here: Dustin Poirier, a disciple of UFC and Ultimate Fighter veteran Tim Credeur, has come a long way despite just being 22 years old. He got off to a very promising 7-0 start to his career on the regional circuit with no fights even going to the third round. He caught the attention of the WEC, who gave him a shot against veteran lightweight Danny Castillo in his promotional debut in August of 2010.
Poirier would come up short against Castillo, who used his wrestling to secure a unanimous decision victory but he would get right back on track less than three months later with a first minute knockout of Miletich Fighting System's Zack Micklewright.
After his victory, he informed Zuffa that he was dropping down to featherweight and to keep him on notice if any fights became available. He probably wasn't expecting to get a bout against the number one contender in the featherweight division for his 145 pound debut, but that's what happened when Jose Aldo got hurt and his opponent, Josh Grispi, still wanted to fight at UFC 125.
Poirier would go on to dominate Grispi with unrelenting physical pressure and would unanimously earn a decision victory which was a tremendous upset at the time. He followed it up by defeating UFC newcomer Jason Young later last summer with another decision.
"Diamond" continued his assault on the featherweight divisions with a pair of submission victories over Pablo Garza and Max Hollaway to earn a main event bout against Chan Sung Jung. Unfortunately for the Louisiana native, he would come up short, losing via fourth round submission in one of the year's most entertaining fights.
Now, after joining up with American Top Team, Poirier is hoping to get back on track against a gritty TUF winner.
How he gets it done: Poirier is a very well-rounded fighter. His biggest strength is his offensive aggression and the pressure he puts on his opponents. He's got knockout power and is well versed in the art of submission while training under Tim Credeur in the beginning of his career.
Poirier pushes a tremendous pace in his fights. That's what forced Grispi to wilt at UFC 125 and his aggression forces his opponents fight more defensively.
Don't be surprised at all if Poirier tries to swarm Brookins early with strikes, getting in his face and throwing short combinations. He also wouldn't mind to get in the clinch or working for takedowns, as long as he can avoid getting swept and having to play defense.
The likely best plan of attack for Poirier would be to put the TUF season 12 winner against the fence and really grind on him, wear him down and dirty box. If Brookins lets his guard down, he needs to unload with combinations. While Brookins has a solid top game, his defensive abilities off his back aren't nearly as effective and Poirier can potentially take advantage in that department. .
Record: 13-5 overall, 2-2 in the UFC
How he got here: After winning a state championship in high school wrestling, Jonathan Brookins would eventually get his start in MMA after meeting Charles Bennett, a fighter many fans would recognize as "Krazy Horse."
Brookins primarily used his wrestling and submission skills, working his way up the ladder and scoring some impressive victories along the way including submissions of Yves Jabouin and current M-1 lightweight champion Jose Figueroa.
He would earn a fight in the WEC against a then-unknown Brazilian named Jose Aldo and it wouldn't end well. Brookins was beat up thoroughly for two straight rounds before finally succumbing to a TKO in round three.
The long-haired grappler got back on track with a first round submission at the inaugural Bellator event and followed it up by defeating veteran featherweight Luis Palomino. He would earn a spot on the twelfth season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and quickly became the favorite to win the show after running through both Armenian judo fighters in the first round in consecutive fights.
Brookins would defeat Kyle Watson via decision to earn a spot against Michael Johnson in the show's finale and after recovering from getting rocked standing in the first round, would go on to outwrestle the wrestler and become the winner of TUF 12.
His UFC debut was delayed multiple times via injury, but after dropping back down to featherweight, he would lose a decision to top contender Erik Koch. He has not been able to put a streak together, defeating Vagner Rocha and then getting submitted in his last fight by Charles Oliveira.
He'll be trying to avoid that first two fight losing streak when he steps into the cage against Poirier..
How he gets it done: Brookins isn't the best striker so he should only try to stand and trade long enough to create an opening and try to put Poirier on his back.
If he can't take the heat on the feet, he can definitely send this fight to the clinch as long as he's taking the inside position along the fence. The clinch is where Brookins can put pressure on his opponent and work for takedowns. He did that to Erik Koch and nearly neutralized the dangerous striker.
The Gracie Barra fighter is very skilled on the ground, and while his opponent is also very capable in that realm, Brookins prefers to be in top position and that usually means you're winning. Even if he can't submit Poirier, don't be surprised to see Brookins try to ride this fight out from above with his wrestling and control. Brookins also possesses improving ground and pound as evidenced by his violent knockout of Vagner Rocha.
Wrestling is his biggest advantage here and he needs to capitalize on it.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this bout is most likely Poirier's huge shift in environment. After spending nearly his entire career training out of Tim Credeur's Gladiator Gym in Louisiana, he uprooted himself and moved to American Top Team following the first loss of his UFC career earlier this year. There's no telling what he's been specifically working on or how the dramatic change in training is affecting him either positively or negatively.
For some fighters, it's a bit of a feeling out process learning new things and they look a bit lost in their first fight after switching camps (ex: Melvin Guillard). Others immediately see massively positive results (ex: Rick Hawn). How Poirier responds to the new direction in his training and new partners to work with will be a huge factor in his performance on Saturday night.
Bottom Line: This is a solid match-up and will go a long way in deciding how quickly Poirier can return to facing the elite featherweights in the division. Brookins is right around the middle of the UFC's loaded featherweight division skill-wise and Poirier needs to really showcase something if he wants to return to contender status. Stylistically, this fight actually has more potential on the ground as both Brookins and Poirier have pretty solid jiu-jitsu skills and this could result in some fun scrambles and submission attempts as they feel each other out, although it's pretty likely that it'll go to a decision.
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