Dustin Poirier is not the only fighter who has a lightweight title shot hanging in the balance later tonight at UFC 269 later this evening (Sat., Dec. 11, 2021) live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to MMA analyst Chael Sonnen, former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor has a huge stake in tonight’s title fight between “Diamond” and current 155-pound king Charles Oliveira. That’s because a win for Poirier may mean McGregor never gets a crack at the UFC lightweight title again.
That’s because McGregor is coming off back-to-back TKO losses to Poirier earlier this year and is quickly falling out of contention in the stacked lightweight division. If “Diamond” wins the title it’s going to be very hard for McGregor to lobby for a fourth fight against Poirier when he’s the champ.
“No, I don’t think so – I really don’t,” said Sonnen during recent appearance on the MMA Hour when asked if McGregor will ever fight for another UFC title. “Look, if you ever have a No. 1 guy, and he slides down to No. 4, he slides down to No. 5, he’s never getting his spot back. And that’s across the board in sport. Now Conor has already done — much like Jon Jones, in fairness — he’s already done a lot of things that no other man can do. So I’m very open to the idea. I just know that Conor lost a level of discipline, it appeared, when he got to a different position in life, to a different status. It looked like he lost some discipline from where I was sitting.
“Now it’s not a choice. It was a choice to go to the gym and train hard back when he was healthy, and he didn’t do enough of it. Now, it’s not a choice. And I can tell you no human being can get better at something by not doing it. I think that Conor is still wonderful. I think he’s got a very special place. It’s not only within the sport, which is at the very top, but also within the rankings, this a damn good fighter. But you’re talking about a ‘55-pounder, which is the hardest and deepest division this sport has ever seen. Not just the organization, the industry as a whole — 155 is the deepest that it comes.
“Conor’s pretty set on fighting Dustin Poirier,” Sonnen continued. “If Poirier beats Oliveira, as the oddsmakers think he’s going to do, I don’t think there’s a scenario where Conor comes back, even for a grudge match, into a title fight. That’s a tough sell.”
McGregor, who snapped his leg in his most recent loss to Poirier at UFC 264 this past July, is making good progress in his recovery. “Notorious” is expected to return to sparring this coming April and is already targeting an immediate title shot upon his return. It’s unknown if that’s something UFC is willing to grant its biggest star, but a Poirier loss at UFC 269 this weekend would only help McGregor’s chances of returning to UFC gold.
As for Poirier’s fight with Oliveira later tonight, Sonnen believes “Diamond” will have enough to offer the champion to steal his belt away. That’s if Poirier can stay off his back and stop Oliveira from using his world-class grappling.
“I am picking Dustin,” Sonnen said. “I’m not bullish on that. He’s going to lose a lot of this fight. He’s going to lose exchanges if Dustin gets taken down, and Oliveira did show us a brand new skill set in his fight with Tony Ferguson, which was to walk him to the cage, get to that double [leg] — never missed. He saw five shots in that fight, he got five takedowns. That’s meaningful, because I didn’t know the wrestling of Oliveira was quite that good.
“If he does get on top of Poirier or anybody else, they are likely to stay for the duration of the round and lose said round. So Poirier really needs to get it done on his feet, and that’s not just with the kicks and the knees and the elbows. It’s specifically with left and right hands. And I think Oliveira’s a lot better than people give him credit. He’s inconsistent, at least compared to Poirier. This fight could go either way. You’re asking me, I’m putting the [Sonnen picks] curse on Poirier. But boy, it’s a lot harder fight than people know.”
What say you, Maniacs? Do you think McGregor ever gets another UFC title shot, especially if Poirier wins the belt?
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 269 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN2/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.