In September of last year, 155-pounders Michael Johnson and Dustin Poirier faced off in the main event of UFC Fight Night 94 in Hidalgo, Texas.
Poirier, the favourite, rode a significant wave of momentum into the bout. It was momentum that he had built with four straight victories, including one over highly-touted Irishman Joseph Duffy, since making the ascent to lightweight from featherweight in 2015.
Johnson was approaching the fight on a very different run of form. Ten months had passed since ‘The Menace’ last competed inside the octagon, partly due to a shoulder injury on which he required surgery. Prior to that spell of inactivity, Johnson had suffered back-to-back defeats to Beneil Dariush and Nate Diaz.
On the night, though, form counted for nothing, as Johnson obliterated Poirier in just 95 seconds.
It looked like a devastating setback for ‘The Diamond’, one that had swiftly undone much good work.
However, in March of 2017, that violent defeat seems like a distant memory. Poirier is coming off of a solid win over Jim Miller in a cracking scrap and he is preparing to fight recently dethroned former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in May.
If anything, the Louisiana native is in a better position than he was before the loss.
Poirier himself certainly seems to view things this way, as during a recent appearance on MMAJunkie Radio, the 28-year-old said that he feels two wins away from a shot at the gold.
“A win over Eddie Alvarez would put me right there fighting for the title,” said Poirier, who currently sits in ninth spot in the UFC’s official lightweight rankings.
“That would put me at 6-1 in the lightweight division with a win over the former champ. It’s not like I’m a guy who just stumbled into the top 10. I’ve been in the top 10 in two weight classes, that just doesn’t happen by accident. I’ve been in title eliminator fights before at featherweight, with the ‘Korean Zombie’ [Chan Sung Jung]. I’m not a new guy to the block, I’ve been around a long time and I’ve been putting in work.”
“This guy was just a champion. If I go out there and put a stamp on Eddie Alvarez, I think I’m one win away.”
It’s a rather optimistic assessment from Poirier, as things are very complicated at the top of the division at present, thanks to champion Conor McGregor’s hiatus, uncertainty about the Irish fighter’s future, and the recent collapse of an interim title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. Not to mention the fact that Nate Diaz still looms large as the most marketable challenger for McGregor’s belt.
Poirier, of course, has a history with McGregor, as the pair met down at featherweight in September of 2014. That fight ended inside two minutes, with ‘The Notorious’ one earning a TKO victory.
Poirier vs Alvarez takes place on May 13th in Dallas, Texas as part of the stacked UFC 211 card, which is headlined by a heavyweight title showdown between Stipe Mioic(c) and Junior dos Santos.