John Kavanagh, the coach of UFC star Conor McGregor, says that Dustin Poirier will need little reminding of the power that the Irishman possesses in his hands six years after being blitzed by him in Las Vegas by a first-round TKO.
It is sometimes said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In some ways, this is how Straight Blast Gym Ireland head coach Kavanagh sees his star student’s rematch with Poirier that will cap the UFC’s latest residency at Abu Dhabi’s “Fight Island” next month.
Back in September 2014, after months of back-and-forth jawing between the two, McGregor fulfilled his pre-fight predictions that he would “bounce” Poirier’s head off the canvas en route to a first-round finish – doing exactly that less than two minutes inside the first frame.
Since then, both men have won world titles (or an interim world title, in Poirier’s case), moved weight classes and added a slew of further victims to their combat resumes.
But while the McGregor-Poirier rematch comes at a time when both men are in vastly different place to where they were in their careers six years ago, Kavanagh says that the result will be the same.
“I think you can spend a lifetime going to sports psychologists and talking to this person and that person – that’s not going to have been erased from his mind,” Kavanagh told TheMacLife.
“He knows that he is facing somebody who can shut off his lights very, very rapidly and now is a lot more powerful and a lot more experienced than he was even then, so it’s a tough, uphill battle for Dustin.”
The defeat to McGregor in 2014 was a transformative one for Poirier; it was his final fight in the featherweight division and a launching pad for a career-best run of form which brought him all the way to a fight with UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
His defeat against the Russian champion was just his second in the 13 fights post-McGregor.
“I think (Poirier) has definitely gotten better,” Kavanagh acknowledged. “There’s a few more takedown attempts now in his fights.
“I hadn’t seen it before – he has a good guillotine. We can see that. Then his volume and his conditioning is looking on point.
“You can see in his fights he has an ability to take a lot of punishment and still come forward. Pick any of last few fights to see that quality.
“However, he’s fighting a different animal than any of those guys: somebody with true, one-punch knockout power that he’s already felt.”
In the end, it seems Kavanagh sees the sequel playing out like the first fight. He admits both men are improved versions of the brash, 145lb contenders who walked to the cage to fight each other for the time several years ago – but for all the talk of a supposed “rebirth” of Poirier, Kavanagh reminds that the same is also true of the fighter he trains.
“It was a bad night for Dustin,” Kavanagh said of the first encounter.
“It was very one-sided, and when you look at some of the shots he’s absorbed – now he’s a bigger man now, and you can say maybe there’s some argument he can absorb more shots now, but he’s fighting a bigger man, as well.
“Even if you remember back to the fight, the opening hook kick, it just whistled by his head.
“A couple of inches lower, that might have even outdone the Aldo fight.”