By: S. Davis
The main event of the evening has two fighters oozing with potential so of course one of them has to lose tonight. Dustin Poirier (20-4) is on a four fight winning streak since returning to the lightweight division with three finishes in that span. Opposite from him, Michael Johnson (16-10) is staring at the first three fight skid of his career. In his defense the split decision loss to Beneil Dariush was just bad judging, frankly, and the loss to Nate Diaz happened because the stars were aligning for a bigger moment in the sport.
Johnson’s stock continues on an upward slope. He’s still respected and regarded as a future contender in the division but a loss to Poirier would be a setback. A win for Poirier automatically puts him on the list of title contenders in the most ruthless division in the UFC. This gem of a fight hasn’t been promoted much but I’m happy it got its very own headlining slot so that the athletes get five rounds to decide a victor.
Poirier wins if he remains patient and doesn’t get into a firefight. He excels in that area but he should use all of his skills available to him. He has more tools in which to control (and end) the fight so he should avoid a striking brawl if he can. If he shows the same form he’s put on display during this win streak he should be able to dictate the terms of engagement. If he stays on track, it’s going to be hard for anyone to turn him back. A balance of technical, efficient, striking paired with some timely wrestling will tip the scales in his favor.
While being an exciting fighter, Poirier is excellent when grappling as well and he should employ it against his opponent. Johnson has solid takedown defense but his weakness has been on the mat and the fact that he has six submission losses is an area in which Poirier should look to exploit. It’s an obvious vulnerability.
Johnson wins if he keeps the battle in his preferred boxing range. He will have the speed advantage (by a small margin) and he’ll try to implement his strikes because of the quickness of his hands. Lateral movement is another plus but once the fight is out of boxing range, he can struggle. He’s athletic, strong, and is explosive with his hips; a huge reason why he boasts a takedown defensive percentage of 81.
If he can keep the fight where he wants it and denies the takedown, he’s talented enough to slip punches and score some of his own on the way to a decision. Cardio is a trait that both men have for days so unless there’s a flash stoppage, I don’t see why this fight won’t enter the championship rounds. I wish Johnson was fed a more favorable matchup because I don’t want either guy to have a loss later this evening, honestly.
I doubt I watch the rest of the card. The co-main is fine but I fully expect to read post-fight analysis of how Uriah Hall was timid and ran out of time while Derek Brunson kept his foot on the gas to earn a win.
Picks: I’ll make this quick and take Poirier and Brunson.