Dustin Poirier has already had a memorable year. The UFC lightweight cemented his place in mixed martial arts history by intimidating, beating and defeating Conor McGregor twice in 2021.
But Poirier’s end goal for this record breaking year is to finish it off wearing the UFC’s 155-pound title belt again. For that, he will have to win in the main event of UFC 269 against a champion who has even more to gain from a victory than his challenger.
Charles Oliveira (31-8) takes on Poirier (28-6) on Saturday night in Las Vegas to close the final pay-per-view of the promotion of a big year for the two men.
McGregor’s two saves of Poirier were very lucrative, but they also established him as one of the iconic fighters of his time with a sympathetic tenacity that was too difficult for McGregor to overcome. What Poirier desires even more than those huge checks is a championship belt – not just the acting strap he held for five months in 2019.
“I have the opportunity to be world champion and it gives me chills just to say it,” said Poirier. “I want it so badly. This fight is very important to me.”
The man between Poirier and his title is an opponent who also had his own career breakthrough already in 2021. While Poirier wants a feat, Oliveira wants to start a title reign.
When Oliveira defeated Michael Chandler in May to win the belt, the Brazilian won it in his 28th UFC fight – the longest wait for a first champion in UFC history. Still only 32 years old despite his background, Oliveira is eager to become the next dominant champion in arguably the most exciting division in the UFC over the past decade.
A win over Poirier would be the most impressive of a career in which he won 17 UFC fights but lost to most of the biggest names he shared a cage with, including Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. .
A win over Poirier would be Oliveira’s biggest achievement after winning the belt, and the prospect kept him motivated after reaching his career goal in May.
“We continue to fight,” Oliveira said through a translator. “More people follow you, more sponsors come in, so I took advantage of that, but I always stay humble and I remember where I’m from.”
Oliveira’s accomplishments are impressive: he holds the UFC record for most stoppage wins (17) and submission wins (11) in promotion history, and he’s won more bonus checks. night performance (10) than anyone else. Once known primarily for his jiu-jitsu skills and overall ground play, he became an enthusiastic striker who won his belt by stopping Chandler with punches.
Poirier, who has firmly beaten the previously feared McGregor in his last two fights, respects Oliveira’s punching skills to a point.
“Not a big puncher, not the best footwork, but he’s trying to finish you off,” Poirier said of Oliveira.
Poirier clearly believes he can beat Oliveira, but other opponents have erred on a similar belief in recent years.
“He’s as dangerous as any of the other top players I’ve fought, just in other areas,” Poirier said. “His submission game numbers don’t lie. He’s one of the most dangerous to hit the canvas in the UFC, and we didn’t put that aside in training camp. He is very dangerous.
Oliveira has led a nine-fight unbeaten streak since late 2017 in the T-Mobile Arena on the Strip, while Poirier’s only loss in that same four-year streak was to former weight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. light now retired.
Poirier and Oliveira have been largely courteous to each other in preparing for this showdown. It’s a welcome contrast for Poirier, who gritted his teeth this year when forced to participate in the improper verbal theatrics that made McGregor a rich man. Oliveira is not interested in such shenanigans, and he shows respect for his challenger’s skills.
“He’s a tough and complete fighter,” Oliveira said. “Very tough and strong in his boxing, as well as in his wrestling, and everyone knows he likes to fight in five rounds. But I do care what I can do and what I bring to the game.
Poirier and Oliveira share the top of the UFC 269 card with both division champion Amanda Nunes (21-4), who is a big favorite to beat Julianna Peña (10-4) and retain her bantamweight belt in her debut. defense at 135 pounds since 2019. Former UFC bantamweight champions Cody Garbrandt and Dominick Cruz are among the fighters in contention earlier on the card.
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