‘The Diamond’ gained revenge for his brutal defeat by the same opponent in 2014, producing a barrage of heavy punches to force a surprise stoppage – the first such defeat of McGregor’s illustrious MMA career – in round two of the eagerly-awaited rematch on the UFC’s Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
With nearly 2,000 socially-distanced fans watching on at the brand new Etihad Arena, Poirier wore down McGregor with some debilitating early calf kicks and absorbed some heavy shots from the Irishman before unleashing a volley of thundering strikes.
McGregor was initially disorientated by a stunning right hook from his lightweight rival, who did not let up as he forced ‘The Notorious’ – fighting for the first time since destroying veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone inside 40 seconds 12 months ago – to the mat and the referee rightly intervened with just over two-and-a-half minutes still on the clock in round two.
“It’s hard to overcome inactivity over long periods of time, that’s just it,” a frustrated but respectful McGregor said after a third UFC defeat overall that dealt a huge blow to his chances of coaxing Khabib Nurmagomedov out of reitirement for a second showdown between the arch-rivals.
“The leg kicks were good, that low calf kick was very good. The leg was dead and then I just wasn’t as comfortable as I needed to be. It’s inactivity and that’s it.
“But Dustin’s some fighter. If you put in the time in here, you’re going to get cosy in here and that’s it. I just have to dust it off and come back and that’s it. And that’s what I will do.”
In the co-main event, Michael Chandler’s keenly-anticipated UFC debut proved explosive as he defeated the usually-resilient Dan Hooker inside the first round of their short-lived lightweight contest.
The former three-time Bellator world champion landed a crushing left hook to the chin and then rained down blows on his helpless opponent to swiftly finish a one-sided contest before flipping off the octagon in acrobatic fashion and passionately laying down the challenge to McGregor, Poirier and Khabib.
Meanwhile, Makhmud Muradov utilised his devastating right hand to secure a third-round stoppage against Andrew Sanchez and Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood came out on top in a tremendous encounter with flyweight rival Jessica Eye.
In the opening fight on the main card, Amanda Ribas was upset by compatriot Marina Rodriguez, who recovered from a difficult opening round to secure a brutal stoppage against her fellow Brazilian in the women’s strawweight division.
In the feature prelim bout, Armenia’s Arman Tsarukyan claimed a comfortable decision against Matt Frevola, while Brad Tavares showcased fantastic takedown defence in his win over submission specialist Antonio Carlos Junior.
Julianna Pena called out the dominant Amanda Nunes after submitting Sara McMann with a rear naked choke and a strong final round secured a morale-boosting win for Polish light-heavyweight Marcin Prachnio against the inconsistent Khalil Rountree Jr.
In the early prelims, there were wins for Movsar Evloev and Amir Albazi against Nik Lentz and Zhalgas Zhumagulov respectively.