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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC on FOX 30’s Dustin Poirier

Violent knockout artist, Dustin Poirier, will seek revenge opposite long-time Lightweight great, Eddie Alvarez, this Saturday night (July 28, 2018) at UFC on FOX 30 inside Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Alongside Middleweight champ Robert Whittaker, Poirier has to be the best example of a successful move up in weight class. At 145 pounds, Poirier was very good, but the best in the division were consistently getting the better of him. Add 10 pounds and fast forward a few years, and the story has changed. Poirier has built up an impressive record at Lightweight and won most of his bouts via knockout, earning himself a title eliminator match up here.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:

Striking

Poirier had solid power at Featherweight, but the additional 10 pounds seems to have been directly added to his knuckles. “Diamond” hits like a truck, and each of his heavy blows have a clear impact on opponents.

Poirier’s boxing game revolves around power. He’ll mix some jabs into his combinations, but there’s no doubt that Poirier is looking to step into the pocket and fire off combinations of potentially fight-ending shots.

For the most part, Poirier fights out of the Southpaw stance. Occupying his opponent’s lead hand with his own (assuming he’s facing a right-handed opponent), the leftie will shoot out a sharp cross into his opponent’s chin. While he can throw the punch from a measured stance, he’ll also step deeper into the punch, allowing him to more easily follow up with a crushing right hook (GIF).

That may not be a tactic for more defensive fighters, but mixed martial arts (MMA) is all about risk and reward. When Poirier connects, the reward is usual a knockout.

One of the more interesting things about Poirier’s boxing is his recent addition of shifting punches and striking from Orthodox. Poirier may have absolutely massive power in his left hand (GIF), but he can crack from Orthodox as well.

In an example of shifting punches, Poirier will sometimes follow up his deep left hand by stepping into Orthodox rather than attacking with his usual right hook. This creates a new angle, and he’ll often fire off the jab from his new stance, a great tactic opposite opponents looking to back away from his punches.

Against Bobby Green, Poirier’s shifting tactics paid off in a big way. Green gets a fair amount of shit for dropping his hands and showboating, but he rolls with punches pretty damn well considering the 4-ounce gloves. Both men were landing some shots early, but Poirier dramatically shifted the flow of the bout by stepping into Orthodox with a left hand. Green deflected the first three punches, but when Poirier doubled up on the left (with the second coming as an Orthodox left hook), Green moved directly into the punch and went down (GIF).

In Poirier’s bout with Joe Duffy, he was forced to use his new comfort in the Orthodox stance in another way. Since he couldn’t afford to box with the Irishman, Poirier switched it up and made the fight ugly as possible, thriving in close exchanges. A couple times, Poirier would lunge with his left cross and use it to latch onto a single collar-tie with that same hand. From there, he would attack with right hooks and uppercuts.

In addition, the aforementioned left hand roll into Orthodox and jabs helped him back Duffy into the fence.

It’s become a bit less of a focus, but Poirier is a solid kicker as well. Against Duffy’s long frame and jab, Poirier made great use of low kicks. Attacking both inside and outside of his opponent’s leg, Poirier slowed him down and was able to land quality follow up punches. In other bouts, Poirier has been more reliant on the standard left roundhouse to the body. Since his left hand is such a threat, the left kick is a great weapon that often slips through his opponent’s defenses and lands clean (GIF).

Lastly, Poirier was known early in his UFC career for his dangerous front kick. He doesn’t rely on it so often anymore, but Poirier found great success in walking his opponent down and pushing them into the fence with a punt to the chest (GIF).

In the first bout with Alvarez and his recent fight with Gaethje, Poirier’s focus has been less about fighting his way into the pocket. Instead, Poirier works from the edge of his boxing range, doing his best to snipe opponents with the left and slam the body with his left leg. Against Alvarez, Poirier did a great job of landing with his long jabs and crosses, keep Alvarez out of his own boxing range. When Alvarez got desperate and tried to jump forward, the counter was waiting.

Similarly, Poirier did an excellent job of remaining composed and technical opposite Gaethje. Despite fatigue, his opponent’s relentless pressure, and brutal low kicks, Poirier continued to work the outside and throw in combination. He also targeted the body well with his left hand. Eventually, Poirier was again able to connect with a left hand counter (GIF) that ended the fight.

Defensively, Poirier has improved quite a bit but will always be hittable due to his pressure-in-the-pocket style. He does a better job of not walking into punches or shelling up and taking shots, but he’s pretty happy to eat a shot in order to land one.

Wrestling

Early in his career, Poirier was not really known as a knockout artist. Instead, the former high school wrestler would physically overpower his opponents and submit them on the mat.

Poirier does much of his best wrestling in the clinch, as he definitely leans on strength more than speed. Once he commits to taking the fight to the mat, Poirier does a very nice job mixing together different trips and foot sweeps. Locking his hands from either the over-under or double underhook position to create a tight body lock, Poirier will look to land an outside trip. If that fails and his opponent is off-balance, Poirier will attempt to spin him with a quick foot sweep.

In addition, Poirier always has the option to pressure into the body lock and force his foe to the mat.

Poirier also looks to level change into the double leg takedown fairly often. There’s nothing to complicated here, as Poirier will either look to blast his opponent off his feet with a reactive shot or wait until his foe’s back is to the fence. Either way, Poirier’s shot and finish are powerful enough to get most men to the mat, and his punches do a nice job of keeping his foe distracted. Opposite Duffy, Poirier repeatedly ducked into the shot following his cross, which allowed him to get in on his opponent’s hips well. This worked well opposite Pettis too, as Poirier was able to get in on his hips fairly often with the double leg.

Defensively, Poirier has historically been a very solid. He has a strong sprawl and defends himself particularly well when pressed into the fence, using underhooks and collar ties to force his opponent’s posture up. Once he’s able to work back into the clinch, he’s usually safe from takedowns.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Poirier began his career training under Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Tim Credeur and moved to another submission-heavy camp in American Top Team a few years back. Currently, Poirier holds a brown belt and has finished six of his opponents via submission.

Poirier is best known for his d’arce choke — he’s in second place for the most in UFC history — which make full use of his long arms.

There are two main positions from which the d’arce can commonly be hit and Poirier has successfully used both of them. Back in 2012, Poirier finished off Jonathon Brookins after sprawling on his opponent’s double leg. With Brookins’ arms extended and reaching for his legs, Poirier had plenty of space to slip his outside arm around Brookin’s head and neck.

Once the hold was locked in, Poirier sat his hips out and circled toward Brookins (GIF). This put even more pressure on the choke, which works the same way as a triangle choke, cutting off both sides of the carotid artery.

Just a few fights earlier, Poirier locked in the d’arce choke from top position in half guard. The d’arce is an excellent counter to the underhook, and using the underhook to stand up from half guard is one of the most common techniques in the sport. Opposite Pablo Garza, Poirier quickly locked in the d’arce from half guard. This time, he didn’t bother sitting out, choosing to flatten out, lay his weight on Garza, and squeeze (GIF).

Furthermore, Poirier is known to hunt for the arm bar from top position. In Max Holloway’s debut, Poirier nearly disarmed the young Hawaiian. However, the “Blessed” fighter toughed it out and rolled into top position, forcing Poirier to change his attack. Rather than abandon the arm bar entirely, Poirier transitioned into a triangle choke, rolled Holloway over, and cranked on his arm once more (GIF).

In his bout with Pettis, Poirier was not able to finish the fight via submission, but he nonetheless showed off his solid top game. He braved Pettis’ genuinely dangerous guard and dropped big punches, and he used Pettis’ offense against him to gain dominant positions. Whenever “Showtime” opened up his guard to attack, Poirier would immediately look to throw the legs by. Once aided by sweat and blood, Poirier was able to more consistently pass and secure the back mount, which eventually finished the former champion.

He nearly got triangled in the process of all this top position work, but he was able to escape multiple times thanks to good posture, the aforementioned slipperiness in play, and the round clock running out at one point.

Conclusion

Poirier has taken his natural gifts — namely huge punching power and toughness — and converted that into a highly successful and entertaining career. What he’s yet to do, though, is fight for the title. Lightweight is a jammed up at the top, so even with a win his immediate future is uncertain, but there can no question that Poirier will have earned a showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.