Dustin Poirier explained what it was like to share the octagon with the UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and where he felt he misstepped.
All things considered, the fight that occurred between the two in Abu Dhabi wasn’t overly close.
Poirier briefly had two great moments, of course, one in the second round and another in the third but overall, it was the display of complete and utter grappling excellence from the champ.
Speaking to the media directly after the fight, The Diamond gave props to Nurmagomedov while simultaneously expressing his regret over some of his own decision-making in there.
“The guy’s good man. He’s a world champ. Maybe I could have done more, you know hindsight is 20/20 and I was very prepared for this fight – to fight twenty-five minutes. He did exactly what I thought he was going to do.
“Of course I’m going to beat myself up and I’m the only one who has to deal with this – me and my family. I’m just wondering if up against the fence when I got underhooks if I could have tried a little harder to get off the fence maybe.
“These are the questions I’m going to have to live with for the rest of my life.
“His balance and weight-distribution against the fence and when he’s on top, it’s so strong. Physically he didn’t feel overwhelming – I’ve fought guys who are stronger than him, but skills-wise and balance-wise he felt really good.”
The heat on Yas Island was something that saw a lot of fighters’ cardio dampened, a factor that Dustin insists had nothing to do with his eventual defeat.
On top of that, he seemed to see his route to victory in the fight’s later rounds – where the heat and high-pace of the matchup would begin to take its toll on the Russian.
“I thought for sure he was winning the rounds, obviously, taking me down and dominating but I thought he was squeezing hard and we were getting slicker, I felt like he was getting a little weaker.
“I thought coming into this fight that later in the third, fourth, and fifth were going to be my rounds. Not that I was planning on giving up the first two. I knew they were going to be tough.
“Coming back to the stool after those first two I wasn’t getting damaged a whole lot, he cut me, but I thought the deeper we got into the fight the more slick I was going to be able to be. But you know, that’s fighting man. It’s tough.”
The entire landscape of mixed martial arts could have been flipped on its head had Poirier managed to finish his attempt at a guillotine choke just prior to the fight’s eventual ending.
Those who know Khabib and his pedigree will be surprised to hear that even he was forced to admit that it was close and in reflecting on that sequence and his opponent’s overall awkwardness, there seemed to be some serious regret in Dustin for the manner in which he approached the fight – something that was in part due to his own perceived shortcomings and The Eagle’s unique skillset.
“The gullotine was really deep, but for the rest of my life I’m going to look back and wonder why I didn’t jump to full guard with it. I just threw one leg over so he couldn’t pass, to take the choke off. I should have jumped full-guard. I shouldn’t have crossed the stomach with the right-leg or butterfly’d with it. I should have gone full-guard so he couldn’t roll out and relieve the pressure.
“I feel like I couldn’t get anything going with my stand-up. He’s very awkward. He dips his head and throws uppercuts. We never got into an orthodox kickboxing exchange, it was all one punch at a time or him dipping and throwing a knee or him dipping and throwing an uppercut.
“I didn’t get a rhythm. The way he was pulling back, it was hard to me to set up my combinations and get into a rhythm. I know I sound like I have a lot of excuses but I was just so prepared for tonight and this one really hurts.”
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