The Severe Spotlight: Dustin Poirier

Shirley Bassey in 1971 told us that “Diamonds are forever”. She went on to ensure us that “They wont leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might, desert me”. Dustin Poirier, whilst entering the twilight of his competitive career, is not only shining as brightly as ever after his 38th professional fight but is ensuring that the legacy he leaves is comparable only with The Cullinan.

Much was to be said about Poirier as he entered this fight week. He had openly discussed retirement, openly discussed an awareness that the clock was running out of battery on what he had left in the sport. Openly discussed his reasons for not going up to welterweight to polish off his career, and as we have become accustomed to with Poirier, discussed taking on the fight that not only was to produce fireworks, but also a fight that scared him.

Before we jump into the performance, its important to highlight exactly what Dustin Poirier means to the sport of MMA as he spans multiple era’s. His first amateur fight took place in December 2007, on the same night Roger Huerta and Clay Guida headlined UFC – TUF 6 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He made his WEC debut at 7-0 against highly regarded Danny Castillo in 2010. After the UFC bought the WEC, Poirier made his UFC debut in a win over Josh Grispi in 2011. Since then, he has amassed 30 UFC appearances, with names on his resume like:

  • Conor McGregor
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov
  • Max Holloway
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Eddie Alvarez
  • Justin Gaethje
  • Michael Chandler
  • Chang Sung Jung
  • Dan Hooker
  • Jim Miller
  • Bobby Green
  • Diego Ferreira
  • Cub Swanson

Those are names that span at least 3 eras of MMA. From fighting in the middle of haybales, to headlining UFC Pay-Per-Views, Dustin Poirier is a special man. A family man, a man dedicated to his team, to his craft and to giving back to his community via The Good Fight Foundation – there are not many like him. We must give fighters like Poirier the recognition that they deserve whilst they are still here.

On to the fighting.

Both men stomped out to the centre of the cage, a thudding right hand fist bump from Poirier meets the softly laden palm of Benoit Saint-Denis to initiate the contest. Saint-Denis opens with two touching leg kicks, to which Poirier responds by slamming a left leg into the thigh of Saint-Denis. The Frenchman’s reaction is to land a jab and drive into a double leg. In classic fashion, Poirier jumps a guillotine. He was unable to lace his right leg around the hips of Saint-Denis to lock up the closed guard he wanted, and so began to torque through the half guard he had. Whilst certainly a tight choke attempt, having the half guard allowed for Saint-Denis to roll through, wrestlers bridge with his head in the pocket of Poirier’s hips and turn to the top.

Finding his way to a four point, the battle moved to Saint-Denis looking to insert hooks on Poirier, he momentarily achieves this as he hops onto the back and attempts to sink a choke in, but Poirier very smartly removes the right leg of Saint Denis as he turns his chin inside. Knowing that the base of Saint-Denis was compromised, Porier opts for a piking position with his body and beings to shuck his opponent off his back, both men finding their way into a clinch.

As we creep into the second minute of the first round, its evident that the fundamental boxing skill and head movement favours Poirier, however the Frenchman is relentless, wading through shots and ranges to find Poirier. Inside the clinch Saint-Denis found elbows and knees, but calm remained Poirier.

A nice double entry by Porier is reversed by a clean kimura trap roll by Saint-Denis, they both rise and find themselves in the clinch. It is here that Saint-Denis should have taken stock of how well Poirier covered, rolled, ducked, and then landed a clean right hand of his own amid the flames.

To highlight this there is 1:50 on the clock. Poirier has just landed a clean right hand and circled to the middle of the cage. Saint-Denis barrels forward with a low right body hook that lands. The Philly shell comes up, and blocks the proceeding right hook to the head, the elbow blocks the left hook to the body, the next right and left hook don’t find the target properly before Poirier snaps a left shovel uppercut into the jaw of Saint-Denis who falls waywardly into the cage clinch.

Once again Saint-Denis works for a takedown, and for the third time in a single round, Poirier looks for a guillotine, this time a high wrist variation. Saint-Denis defends and ends up on the back of Poirier with a minute left. Very little choking threat was offered by Saint-Denis until Poirier drove his head to the underhook side, misaligned his back and began to rotate in – Saint-Denis offered a triangle-armbar, to which Poirier saw the clock had 3 seconds remaining and wagged a disapproving finger to the audience.

Less than 15 seconds into the second round and Poirier shows off another of his guillotine variations, this time an arm-in guillotine, fully locking Saint-Denis into his closed guard. Saint-Denis postures well and immediately passes the half guard into full mount, working on a single-arm chest wrap. Poirier wins back inside frames and gives his back. Saint-Denis makes the right choice by opting for double wrist rides and bellying out Poirier, who equally makes a good choice in rotating his hips to clear a hook and begins to build up.

Saint-Denis rolls Poirier back to traditional back control.  Given their position on the cage, as Poirier has sunk his weight low, it is difficult for Saint-Denis to align himself properly to search for strangles so instead opts for short chokes across the jaw. Poirier is far too tough to pay any mind and strips the top hook of Saint-Denis and turns in, rolling his head through and ending up in top half guard as Saint-Denis begins to heist.

Again, the brilliance of the head movement and the comfort to be up against the fence with someone swinging shots is on show. Saint-Denis unloads a 5-6 punch combination that Poirier slips, rolls, ducks, and dives the way out of landing his own shots punishing Saint-Denis for his relentlessness.

Poirier senses tiredness and on the reset lands a crisp right straight to the body. The shots coming at him are laboured and so the heels start to sit a little deeper, the left hook right straight lands cleanly for Poirier and Saint-Denis stumbles a murmur. Porier has seen it and cracks a left hook that drops the Frenchman.

The Saint-Denis instinct is to shoot on a double, Poirier catches him with a left hook as he shoots, grabs a high wrist guillotine (of course) and forces a disengage from front headlock. The blood has polluted the water and Poirier is a hungry shark. A left hook stands Saint-Denis straight, another baits the left to be thrown by Saint-Denis, but the head is dipped the core is rotated and the right-hand hammer is already on its way. As the left arm of Saint-Denis retracts, a right hook from hell comes behind it, crushing Saint-Denis to the mat.

Poirier finishes the fight by sauntering over and driving a stake up the chest and directly under the jaw of his opponent.  

Diamonds are forever.

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