UFC Fight Night – Poirier vs. Johnson: Analysis. Picks. Betting Tip

dustinpoirier178

The magical city of Hidalgo, Texas is the next stop for the world’s premier fighting organisation this Saturday night as the UFC hosts its 94th fight night event at the State Farm Arena.

With it comes a pretty mediocre event for the occasion with names like the Montaño brothers and José Alberto Quiñonez filling out most of the 11-fight card.

Thankfully, the main event gives us a little more by the way of quality as two of the world’s best lightweights – Michael Johnson and Dustin Poirier – face-off over five rounds.

Hailing from Lafayette, Louisiana and now training with American Top Team in Florida, Dustin Poirier has been in constant development throughout his career. That all started back in 2009 as he kicked off his time in the professional ranks with seven consecutive finishes.

That run saw Poirier signed by the now-defunct WEC where he went 1-1 before moving over to the UFC a year later. There he found himself moving down to featherweight which, initially, went pretty well. Wins over the likes of Josh Grispi and Max Holloway had him on the fasttrack to a title but losses to Chan Sung Jung and Cub Swanson put that on hold.

To his credit, Poirier went on another winning run after that but a devastating loss to Ireland’s Conor McGregor saw him transition back to lightweight for a fresh start. And that’s exactly what he has gotten over the last year with four tremendous wins in a row against messrs Ferreira, Medeiros, Duffy and Green.

Michael Johnson though, will arguably be his toughest 155 lbs test to date.

Like Poirier, Johnson has made his fighting home in Florida and now trains with Rashad Evans’ Blackzilian team having bounced around to different locations in his early days.

One of those locations was the Ultimate Fighter gym which Johnson entered as a raw 8-4 fighter. And although he lost the finale and a subsequent fight to Paul Sass, it was clear progression was beginning to come.

Over the next two and a half years Johnson amassed a very impressive 7-2 run with names like Tony Ferguson, Melvin Guillard, Danny Castillo and Edson Barboza all coming up short against him. That quality streak had Johnson on the verge of a title shot very recently but losses to Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush, in a hotly contested decision, have set him back in that journey.

Looking at that more closely, this one is a meeting of two guys with very similar careers who, coincidentally, also have pretty similar fighting abilities.

Both men are athletic, hard-hitting southpaws who like to take fights by the scruff of the neck.

Johnson especially does his best work when he is on the front foot. He has a tremendous ability to cut off the cage with strong footwork which makes everything else a little easier for him. His feints, leg kicks, jab and backhand are all used with care while precision is something that has become very much prevalent in his game.

Poirier on the other hand might not be as precise but he makes up for it with output. Like Johnson, he is most comfortable when he backs opponents up, throws his left hand down the pipe and gets on the attack. Leg kicks, body work and combinations follow that and are all thrown with power and regularity.

On the ground and in the grappling you’d have to give Poirier the edge in this one. In the past, Johnson’s defensive wrestling has been shown up to be his Achilles heel and although it has drastically improved so has Poirier’s offensive wrestling (See Johnson vs. Madadi, Poirier vs. Duffy.) When it hits the floor, Poirier has a fantastic submission game and should have an even bigger advantage against Johnson who is improved but does have six submission losses on his record.

Michael Johnson

When looking at how this one plays out I think the fight for the centre of the Octagon will be absolutely huge. Whoever gets that, and ends up on the front foot will probably win.

In the past, especially against Nate Diaz, Johnson has wilted somewhat when pushed back while Poirier has also shown that if you get him out of his rhythm his chin is easily found. That makes this fight very appealing for both men as a path to victory is clearly available.

In that case, you have to pick the more well-rounded fighter. That is clearly Dustin Poirier. Even if he loses the striking battle, which I think he probably won’t in fact, he has the wrestling and jiu-jitsu advantages to fall back on. Over his last few fights Poirier has shown an ability to mix it up which he may not have done in that past. If he can produce that again on Saturday night, I think he will win.

Outside of that you have a couple of good fights like Chas Skelly vs. Maximo Blanco, Roan Carneiro vs. Kenny Robertson and Islam Makhachev vs. Chris Wade but the stand-out undercard attraction is Derek Brunson vs. Uriah Hall.

As we all know, Uriah Hall is one of the most physically gifted fighters to ever happen upon mixed martial arts but the jury is still out on whether he can back it at this very top level. This fight, against a man with a 6-1 record since entering the UFC as a Strikeforce veteran in 2012, should be another big test.

In the past, Hall has struggled against people who will be patient and pick their shots well which makes Brunson, who does that naturally anyway, a very tough task. Along with that patience comes very good wrestling, big power and a kill switch which comes on quickly once he knows his opponent is hurt.

Uriah hall

For Hall, his fights almost always come down to whether he has improved enough, if can pull the trigger and if he can land that one big shot which most people can’t take. That makes him a live threat in every fight. For that reason, I think this, for a fight between two knockout artists, could be a little tentavive. And if it is, Derek Brunson will almost certainly win.

FIGHT PICKS

Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Johnson – Close fight won by Poirier‘s grappling
Uriah Hall vs. Derek Brunson – Brunson is the more patient man
Evan Dunham vs. Rick Glenn – Dunham via guile
Roan Carneiro vs. Kenny Robertson – Hopefully it hits the ground, taking Carneiro
Chris Wade vs. Islam Makhachev – Pick ’em fight, Wade just
Chas Skelly vs. Maximo Blanco – Skelly via wrestling

Gabriel Benítez vs. Sam Sicilia – Sam
Augusto Montaño vs. Belal Muhammad – Belal
Antônio Carlos Júnior vs. Leonardo Augusto Guimarães – ACJ
José Alberto Quiñonez vs. Joey Gomez – Gomez

Erick Montaño vs. Randy Brown – Brown
Alejandro Pérez vs. Albert Morales – Morales

BET OF THE WEEK

Carneiro vs. Robertson to go less that 2.5 rounds at 6/5

START TIMES

Early Prelims – Fight Pass at 12am

Prelims – Fight Pass & BT Sport 2 at 1am

Main Card – BT Sport 2 at 3am

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma