Pre-Fight Thoughts: Dustin Poirier -vs- Max Holloway 2
This is one of those bittersweet fights, where I am both elated that I get to see 2 exceptionally talented fighters paired up in what should be a violent, exciting battle. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of both Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier, and the prospect of seeing one of them lose — and possibly in a violent manner — is one of the difficulties of being a fight fan. Still, it's part of the sport and we must accept it, even if it never gets that easy. And, while this is a rematch, one could be forgiven for treating this like a first encounter as both Holloway and Poirier have matured and evolved their craft in the 7 years since they last fought.
That also means you can't use the fact that Poirier defeated Holloway via first round submission in 2012. Holloway's skills have grown, as has his confidence; he was also a 19 year-old at the time — which boggles the mind to consider. That fight, while a legitimate win for Poirier, will tell us precisely nothing about how this second meeting will go. Poirier, too, has struggled since then and fashioned himself into a top tier fighter, as opposed to the exciting mid-carder he seemed destined to be until his move to lightweight. Poirier is calmer, more tactical, and moving up a weight class does seem to have enhanced his durability.
This is a battle of striker versus striker, but both men are very different in their approaches to the stand-up game. Holloway burns people down with a ceaseless barrage of combinations, and lighter punches — like a Diaz brother but able to fend off wrestlers. Poirier is a very hard puncher, but also skilled enough to dial back his power so as not to exhaust himself. The fight is a clash of styles, but under the umbrella of MMA striking. Holloway is relentless in his assault, and Poirier often needs to use his power to back opponents off with a hard shot — and I honestly don't know if he'll be able to do that to Max. Likewise, if Poirier tries to grapple with Holloway, the featherweight champ's movement and positioning will make it very difficult to get ahold of him to clinch or take him down.
Max Holloway's chin has never been in question, and he has taken hard shots for almost everyone he has faced and walked right through them. It's rare that Holloway even looks concerned about a shot he takes, and if Poirier can't back him off then it seems very likely that he will get overwhelmed by Holloway's unceasing barrages. Still, it's a very close fight; I don't think it is wise to dismiss the possibility of either winning. As to who is favoured, I think that comes down to personal preferences; Holloway has looked incredible in his recent fights, but so has Poirier.
I lean towards Poirier in this fight, but my rationale is little more than a gut feeling. It's unfortunate this bout is for an interim title, further clouding a division which has had a tenuous title picture since Conor McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez in November, 2016. You can't even say for certain that the inteirm title means its holder gets a shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov, when his suspension ends, because Dana White has been openly agitating for Khabib to rematch Conor McGregor. What we are guaranteed is a great fight between a pound-for-pound great in Max Holloway and a fellow veteran who has just hit his stride and looks poised to ascend to that vaunted Next Level.
Published: April 13th, 2019.