Dubai: Who better to make a prediction on the highly-anticipated Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor main event rematch at UFC 257 than someone who could have been in the mix himself.
New Zealand’s Dan Hooker lost to Poirier in five-round dogfight in June last year via a unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-46), but said that he felt he came close to winning it in what was an epic second round.
A bloodied Hooker unloaded a barrage of clean, hard shots, but Poirier surprisingly stayed on his feet. Fighting from against the cage, Hooker continued to land a ridiculous amount of shots, but Poirier survived to see the end of the round and go on to win the contest.
Looking back on that fight, Hooker told Gulf News: “I came very close in that second round to getting the stoppage.
I felt I was one more knee or couple more punches from getting the stoppage and if I had that done, it would have been me against McGregor instead on Saturday. But I guess I came up short
“You know this is a high-risk, high-reward sport and I took the risk. I felt like I had him hurt and I tried to get the finish, I tried to take him out.
“I felt I was one more knee or couple more punches from getting the stoppage and if I had that done, it would have been me against McGregor instead on Saturday,” he said. “But I guess I came up short.”
Asked to make his prediction on who will get his hand raised in the rematch of their 2014 fight where McGregor knocked out Poirier in the first round, Hooker said: “I just think it’s going to be the same fight as the first one, but Dustin is a different fighter at 155lb.
“I feel he’s got a better chin, he’s one of the most durable guys in the division and he has a great gas tank,” said the Kiwi. “I think it’s going to go the full five rounds and be a back-and-forth war. I can’t pick a win a winner but I just feel it’s going to be an incredible match.”
Highly respected British bookmaker William Hill makes McGregor an overwhelming 3/10 favourite with Poirier a 5/2 chance at best.
What do the experts think?
Here we look at some of the fighter talk that appeared on ‘The Body Lock’ mixed martial arts website ahead of the rematch.
“I don’t know, man. This is two really high level fighters. Conor is really good. I do see him probably winning. It’ll be interesting to see if Dustin rises to the occasion. I don’t think that’s [the weight] an issue. I think what’s different is their mindsets because of the places they are and the places they’ve gone since then. They’re much different people since that fight, you know, both of them.”
former Interim UFC Lightweight Champion.
“I think Conor. I think Conor gets it done. From the last fight, both of them improved and Dustin has improved leaps and bounds. But I think Conor, his shots will still be too heavy for him, and I think he probably finishes him again. I think a later round this time, but I think he finishes him again.”
#3 in the UFC welterweight rankings.
“I’mma have to go with Conor. I feel like people don’t give Conor enough credit for how dynamic he can be. I’m not saying I’m looking past Dustin Poirier but Conor McGregor is pretty damn dynamic and he’s pretty crafty the way he goes about doing things. I’m going to have to watch that fight. I’ve got no idea who’s going to win it.”
- Demetrious Johnson
inaugural and former UFC Flyweight Champion
“I think McGregor, for sure. We’ve already seen it once. Poirier is obviously much improved since that last fight, so I think there’s a chance that Poirier wins but I would lean McGregor for sure.”
- Ben Askren
former Bellator and ONE Welterweight Champion
“I love Poirier. Conor McGregor, I love him too, he’s awesome. I think it’s going to be more of a boxing fight unless Poirier’s taking him to the ground which I really can’t imagine. And that being said, I’m going to have to go with Conor Mcgregor again. I think it’s just a bad matchup for Poirier, being that he’s more of a boxer. It’s an interesting fight, I’m pumped to watch it because Poirier’s as tough as they come and he’s probably super motivated for this fight and you don’t know where McGregor’s head is at.”
- Chris Weidman
former UFC Middleweight Champion
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen Conor McGregor fight. His last fight was with Donald Cerrone but we saw how that went. I know Dustin Poirier has made some improvements since the last time they fought but to be honest with you, Conor McGregor is a lifelong martial artist. Even though he’s not in the fight or in the Octagon, he’s always training. He could possibly pull out another win, for sure.”
- Stephen Thompson
#5 in the UFC welterweight rankings
“McGregor. I think McGregor’s going to win. He’s really a high-level fighter. We like to see things too black and white in this sport sometimes and it’s really easy to write someone off as ‘oh, McGregor fought blah, blah, blah, and he got beat by Khabib and this and that and it’s like everyone who fought Khabib has been beaten by Khabib like that. Conor’s not someone to write off because he got beat by Khabib.”
- Cory Sandhagen
#2 in the UFC bantamweight rankings.
“[I’m a] Big Conor fan and a big Poirier fan, I think they’re great fighters but I kind of see it going the same way. Artem Lobov, the GOAT, said it great, you know. People act like Dustin Poirier wasn’t good before he fought Conor last time. Dustin Poirier has always been good, you know. It’s just that styles make fights and I think that’s a good style for Conor. But overall, that’s a good fight for the fans. If Poirier goes out there smart, it may not be the same result but overall it should be close to the same fight.”
- Kevin Holland
#10 in the UFC middleweight rankings
“I think that’s a different fight this time. I think Dustin’s not going to come in as emotional as last time. I think he’ll be a little smarter. I fought Dustin, too, and I know his style. Southpaw vs southpaw gives Conor a different look than his usual slip and bang with his left. I think it’s going to be a different fight. I’m not sure how it plays out but I think it’ll be different from the first one.”
- Anthony Pettis
Former UFC Lightweight Champion
“I’m very excited for that fight. I think that Poirier is definitely the more improved of the two, that I can tell because Conor doesn’t fight very often, so it’s kind of difficult to gauge sometimes. He had a great performance against Cowboy but, again, I think that Dustin Poirier is on a different level right now and I think that he’s come into his man-body since he fought Conor the first time. I think Conor’s got a talent for finding the openings and finding the time. I think he hits hard but I’ve seen Conor get rocked, too. I can see that fight ending in a knockout, one way or the other, either way.”
- Miesha Tate
Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion