Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are set to settle the score and conclude their epic trilogy in the main event of UFC 264.
The Calf Kick
Whilst attributing all of Dustin Poirier's successes at UFC 257 to a single technique is reductive and fails to just appreciate just how varied The Diamond's offence was in the rematch against McGregor, it is fair to say that his repeated use of the calf kick unquestionably swung the momentum of the bout in his favour heading into the fateful second round.
To make things even crazier, Dustin didn't even incorporate the low calf kick into his offence until the final 90 seconds of the first round, before gradually increasing his output with the strike and virtually immobilising his opponent allowing the blow that caused the first knockout defeat in Conor's MMA career to land.
Of course, it is unlikely that lightning will strike twice in such a way, but what is clear is that Poirier can radically decrease the damage of McGregor's vaunted boxing skills by chipping away at the Irishman's legs. With that in mind, don't be surprised to see Poirier use his diverse arsenal to full effect in pursuit of victory.
Arguably one of the biggest misconceptions about Conor McGregor as a fighter is that he is a bad grappler. The assertion is consistently levied at McGregor presumably because he was submitted by Nate Diaz and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Now, while Dustin Poirier doesn't have the wrestling pedigree of Nurmagomedov or the finishing instincts on the ground of Diaz, he has repeatedly demonstrated an impressive wrestling offence, particularly for a fighter without a background in the sport.
This was made clear in the rematch earlier this year where Poirier was able to secure a takedown and establish top control early in the fight. However, a wrestling-heavy game plan in the trilogy is unlikely to be successful alone. Attempting takedowns is one of the most cardio-intensive actions a fighter can perform during the course of a fight, and you only need to look at Conor's performance against Chad Mendes to see how dangerous the Irishman's striking can be against a tired opponent.
One of the biggest question marks regarding the career of Conor McGregor is his ability to sustain his offence for the entirety of a five-round fight.
While there is no question that the Irishman is a front runner that prefers to dismantle his opponents early rather than dragging them into deep waters into the later rounds, Poirier's almost inhuman ability to absorb punishment will likely mean that Conor will need to be able to sustain his offence in order to get his hand raised.
Conor has done it before though. In his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202, McGregor found a second wind as the fight progressed and won the fourth round on all three of the judge's scorecards which would ultimately prove crucial in his winning the decision.
The Irishman has clearly made conscious efforts to better conserve his energy compared to early fights, but he will need to be at his best to keep up with Poirier if the fight reaches the championship rounds.
McGregor’s Revised Striking Style
Curiously, when Conor McGregor entered the world of boxing to take on Floyd Mayweather, he remained loyal to the coaches who had served him throughout all his success inside the UFC Octagon. Then, after making a return to the sport of mixed martial arts later in his career, Conor called for the help of his childhood boxing coaches in order to sharpen his striking skills.
This variance in coaching also appears to have affected the Notorious' style in competition. During his early UFC run, Conor employed a much more diverse striking arsenal that allowed him to keep his opponents guessing before connecting with his famous left hand.
However, by using such unorthodox techniques Conor's gas tank often suffered, and it seems his new boxing-heavy approach allows him to maintain his output for longer. Despite this, McGregor's flatfootedness was one of the main reasons that Poirier's calf kicks proved so successful.
Often remarked as one of the most intelligent fighters in the sport of MMA, it will be fascinating to see what adjustments Conor makes at UFC 264 in order to avoid Poirier enjoying similar success in the striking department.
Unless the bout miraculously ends as a draw, this fight will bring a conclusive end to one of the most exciting trilogies in the history of the sport.
A win for Poirier should finally give the Louisiana native the respect he deserves from casual fans and allow him to negotiate as the A-side in a fight with current champion Charles Oliviera. With Khabib Nurmagomedov out of the division, Poirier may finally be able to establish himself as an undisputed UFC champion.
On the flip side, a win for McGregor would go a long way to silencing the doubters that emerged following his performance in the second fight earlier this year.
However, particularly since the birth of his first child and the tens of millions of dollars made in the Floyd Mayweather fight, the once perpetually active fighter has certainly made his Octagon appearances more sparingly in recent years.
With that being said it is still unclear where McGregor will go next with a win on Saturday. A dominant win over a longtime contender like Poirier would almost certainly qualify the Irishman for a shot at Charles Oliviera's UFC Lightweight Championship.
However, whilst many of his contemporaries are chasing UFC gold, McGregor is a savvy businessman and could easily use the opportunity to begin building towards a more profitable bout such as concluding his trilogy with Nate Diaz, whose stock is at a high following an impressive performance in a losing effort to Leon Edwards at UFC 263.
Michael McKean is an experienced writer with a portfolio that includes work on the subjects of sport, gambling, travel and finance. With a background rooted in journalism, Michael first ventured into the professional writing world based in Switzerland, where he wrote for a number of language and travel sites and magazines before moving into the world of sports writing and gambling sites.
As an avid soccer fan, who follows everything from the Scottish lower leagues to the European elites, he has earned himself a solid reputation as a reliable football betting tipster and predictor. Outside of work, Michael has always gotten involved with grassroutes football everywhere he has worked and lived - UK, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Brazil - and still isn’t shy when it comes to pulling the boots on himself. As well as soccer, he has also developed a love of North American sports, particularly ice hockey - a love which began in Switzerland and saw him venture across the pond to follow the NHL. Moving away from dry land, he’s also a keen longboard surfer and is happiest when writing with a view of the ocean.