Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight strikers Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson clash TONIGHT (Sept. 17, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 94 on FOX Sports 1 inside State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas. In a match up of dangerous kickboxers, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let's break it down.
Poirier’s work at 155 lbs. has been something to be hold, as he’s performed great acts of violence upon each of his opponents. "The Diamond" has a ton of momentum on his side, and this could be a big moment for his career. Meanwhile, Johnson’s attempt at a title run fell apart due to consecutive decision losses in his last two appearances. Nonetheless, Johnson is one of the finest Lightweights on Earth, and his kickboxing is a threat to anyone in the division.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Joseph Duffy (UFC 195), Bobby Green (UFC 199), Carlos Diego Ferrira (UFC Fight Night 63), Erick Koch (UFC 164)
Key Losses: Connor McGregor (UFC 178), Cub Swanson (UFC on FUEL TV 7), Chan Sung Jung (UFC on FUEL TV 3)
Keys to Victory: Though he's been plastering his opponents with his fists lately, Poirier is a rather well-rounded fighter. He's got a suffocating top game and some dangerous submissions, which could really come in handy here.
To be completely honest, I don't expect Poirier to be able to take Johnson down, at least not while he's fresh. That said, Poirier absolutely should be mixing double leg takedowns into his offense from the start of the bout. Regardless of whether Johnson comes into this fight with the game plan of pressure or disciplined range striking, he's not a fighter that backs away from exchanges. Poirier is built form a similar mold, but Poirier has to make sure he's the one capitalizing on this shared trait.
If Poirier is able to duck under Johnson's swings, he'll force his opponent work defending the shot. It may not be successful, but it will make his opponent wary, a bit more hesitant, and fatigued. Over time, that should allow Poirier to connect more frequently with his power punches and potentially land future takedowns. Either way, Poirier is primed to add another finish to his record.
Key Wins: Tony Ferguson (UFC on FOX 3), Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 61), Gleison Tibau (UFC 168)
Key Losses: Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 17), Myles Jury (UFC 155)
Keys to Victory: Like Poirier, Johnson comes from a wrestling background — though his at a higher level — but greatly prefers to strike. Under the tutelage, Johnson has developed his own fairly unique, aggressive style of striking. In this match up, Johnson has two real options. On the whole, he largely prefers to pressure opponents, but he's also shown in the past that he's able to maintain his distance and catch fighters coming in.
Frankly, both options have their pros and cons, so let's focus on more specific technique.
In this match up of Southpaws, Johnson's jab will be quite important. Poirier has one mode, and that's coming forward slinging heavy punches. Outside of the occasional jab-cross, Poirier doesn't much use the strike to establish his range, and Johnson must take advantage. Additionally, I'd like Johnson to focus on low kick and body punches. This is a five round bout, and both men tend to lose a bit of speed over time. That's not to say either has poor conditioning, but whichever man focuses on breaking down his foe early will reap the benefits if it goes into the deeper rounds.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be fantastic. There’s the potential for a first round knockout from either fighter, or it could be a five round war.
Poirier has looked his absolute best technically, and he’s been melting opponents that are known for being durable. Johnson has never been knocked out, so adding another stoppage to his record could really provide that last bit of push Poirier needs to earn a title eliminator match up.
That said, Lightweight is a shark tank. If Poirier comes up short, it’s a definite setback, and he’ll need to put together a few wins before trying to reach the top five again.
This may be a big fight for Poirier, but it’s a must-win for Johnson. While he may hold two victories over top five contenders, a three fight losing streak will push him out of the Top 10. On the other hand, victory would be big. Poirier has been smashing people, so ending his current streak could kick start a new title run for "The Menace."
TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 94, Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson will throw down in the main event. Which fighter will remain standing when the dust settles?