Last night (Sat., Dec. 28, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweights Dustin Poirier and Diego Brandao went to war on the main card of UFC 168 from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Brandao came it overweight at 153 pounds, angering Poirier at Friday's weigh-ins. "Diamond" was motivated to send a message to his opponent. Despite a close fight early, he did just that with an impressive striking stoppage. The win puts "Diamond" on a pivotal two-fight win streak in a very tough UFC featherweight division.
Let's take a look back at Poirier's big win from Las Vegas.
The fight began with Poirier looking sharp on the feet, pushing Brandao back with his punches. Brandao fought back with some crisp strikes of his own, missing on a couple big punches but landing some leg kicks. Poirier did a good job of staying just out of Brandao's reach, following him with a good mixture of combinations. Brandao dropped "Diamond" with an overhand right and scored a good trip takedown.
Poirier recovered and the fighters traded shots. Brandao scored his second takedown but once again couldn't capitalize. Poirier went to work against the cage, unleashing blows to the body and head. Brandao was in big trouble on the ground, eating massive ground and pound. He stopped defending himself and the ref stepped in to stop the fight with only six seconds left in the first round.
It's a huge win for Poirier, who builds on the momentum of his previous win over Erik Koch at UFC 164 this August. Poirier fought his way onto UFC highlight reels with his mounted triangle choke win over Max Holloway at UFC 143, but he's been making waves with his striking in his last two bouts. Brandao was praised for his thunderous knockout power but Poirier showed absolutely no hesitation in taking the fight to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 winner.
No. 6-ranked "Diamond" may move up a spot with the win over Brandao, but it also wouldn't be a surprise to see him stay where he's at. The injured Chan Sung Jung, who submitted Poirier in a "Fight of the Year"-winning bout at UFC on Fuel TV 4 in 2012, occupies the No. 5 spot.
He won't be talked about as one of the division's true elite until he fights one of the top-ranked fighters. Poirier should get his chance his next time out. A rematch against a returning Cub Swanson is probably the best route for him. Swanson edged "Diamond" via decision at March's UFC on Fuel TV 7. With featherweight champ Jose Aldo set to defend the belt against Ricardo Lamas at February's UFC 169, the winner of that bout would be tantalizingly close to a coveted title shot.
For Brandao, it was the worst showing of his young UFC career. He had a golden opportunity to capitalize on his TUF contract but he apparently didn't take the job seriously by coming in overweight by a large margin. To make matters worse, he got knocked out by a fighter who showed up in much better shape. Brandao will likely receive an opponent who is towards the bottom of the featherweight top 20, and if he loses that fight, he might be cut. Failing to make weight never bodes well with UFC brass.
Brandao has failed to live up to his potential as a dynamic finisher. Something had to go wrong during his training camp. He'll be on thin ice until he can re-prove himself in the Octagon.
Dustin Poirier had a ton of pent-up aggression towards Diego Brandao. He unleashed it on the TUF winner with a knockout victory at UFC 168. Is Brandao near the end of his UFC rope after failing to make weight and losing decisively?