Dustin Poirier wants a top ten opponent at lightweight next after his win over Joseph Duffy. Should he get someone at that level next, and if so, who would you match him up with from that list? If not a top ten guy, who should he fight next, and why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
You always wonder about the ceiling of a guy who moves up a weight class because he wasn’t doing well at the lighter one. It doesn’t seem things are going to be any easier, as the difficulties are going to be compounded by fighting larger opponents. That hasn’t been the case so far with Dustin Poirier. “The Diamond” returned to lightweight after a TKO loss to Conor McGregor, and has been on a tear ever since. Finishes over Carlos Diego Ferreira and Yancy Medeiros preceded a violent and exciting win against up-and-comer Joseph Duffy. Poirier has always shown a pretty fan-friendly style, with finishes coming in 15 of his 19 victories.
Poirier’s desire for a top ten opponent is perfectly reasonable. He’s on the cusp of breaking into that bracket himself, and with three wins in a row under his belt it’s time to start figuring out whether he’s a legitimate contender for the title. A win over the Irishman Duffy, someone many expected to be breaking into the top 10 himself, showed us that Poirier’s recent streak at 155 lbs might be more than a flash in the pan.
There are three opponents in the top 10 that make sense when viewing the UFC’s current rankings. Al Iaquinta sits at #10, another emerging talent who’s added frequent TKO finishes to his repertoire over his last few matches. This could be a real barn-burner of a match, as both like to press the action. Iaquinta may be ready to rumble before Poirier though, as he hasn’t fought since April of 2015 and Poirier is currently recovering from a broken nose.
Michael Johnson is a big leap up in competition for Poirier, but would be a real litmus test of where he currently stands in the division. Johnson could use a bounce back fight after two straight unexpected losses, and he may view Poirier as such. A win over Johnson would be a huge boon for Poirier’s standing in the division. As an added bonus, a loss to Johnson wouldn’t really set him back much. While the UFC typically doesn’t like matching fighters coming off of wins against those coming off of losses, this fight would work both from a ranking and timing standpoint.
If the UFC insists on pairing Poirier with a fighter on a win streak, the guy who beat Johnson would be a good fit. Beneil Dariush is ranked #8 in the UFC rankings, and has been steadily climbing up the ladder with five straight wins. While he was awarded a pretty controversial split decision over Johnson, the Iranian has shown he can hold his own against the the top fighters at lightweight. Dariush has good size for the weight class, and can employ a frustrating style for his opponents, but at some point Poirier is going to have to face these fights if he wants to get to the top. Regardless of the particular top 10 guy the UFC matches Poirier up with, there isn’t anything for him to really gain fighting someone lower than that. Hopefully, he’ll get the ranked opponent he wants and deserves.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Absolutely, he should get it. The only reason you need is “Why not?” He’s already ranked at #12 in the UFC rankings so it’s not a huge leap. Plus, I think that Poirier can really make some noise and I want to see where he stands. He could anybody from #10 and up, whether it be Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, Beneil Dariush, Nate Diaz, or Michael Johnson. Why not? He wants it, let’s see what he can do. He definitely should not be fighting a guy outside the top ten, that would be crazy. Give him a chance to show what he can do.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Poirier is a great fighter and very fun to watch, but he’s a guy in limbo right now. He’s not on the top, he’s not on the bottom, but he has shown flashes of brilliance in the cage. I’d like to see him fight a guy of a better caliber but exactly who I’m not sure. He’s got a lot of fights under his belt and not a lot of losses so where he stands I can’t really say.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Why not? Had he only squeaked by Joe Duffy, I might be inclined to say otherwise. But he dominated the talented Irishman to prove that he deserves to be getting top 10 fights at lightweight just as he did at featherweight. I’ve seen Al Iaquinta’s name bounced around the MMA world and I have no problem with that, and want to throw Beneil Dariush’s name out there as well. Both are coming off of controversial split decision victories and would be best suited proving themselves against someone ranked lower than themselves… which happens to be Poirier. Whatever fight health permits, I’m fine with.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Listen up. Dustin Poirier is the most underrated fighter in the sport, and I’ve got it even money that he fights for the title by the end if 2017. I’m still trying to understand why the whole world was on the Joseph Duffy bandwagon for this fight. I understood why Duffy was the betting favorite for their originally scheduled fight, seeing as how it was in Dublin and all. But once the fight was shifted over to Vegas, Poirier should have been a 2 to 1 betting favorite.
I’m not going to turn this into a Poirier love letter, or pen a sonnet named ‘Ode to a Diamond’ or anything like that. Just suffice it to say that I fully believe he’s a top 10 lightweight right now, and he’s ready to fight his way into the top five.
If Dustin Poirier fights anyone other than Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson, or Gilbert Melendez next, I’m going to seriously have to reconsider Joe Silva’s competence. The Diaz fight is obviously beautiful. You’ve got to believe that both fighters’ natural aggressiveness will make for not only a hell if a fight, but a hell of a buildup as well. Ferguson is unlikely, given that he might be next in line for a title shot. Melendez is a sneaky good fight, and considering the fact that he’s set to return from his needle suspension in early July, and considering the state of Poirier’s nose (shattered like a white walker eating Valyrian steel), a Melendez vs. Poirier bout could certainly headline the night before UFC 200, or even open that pay-per-view.
Attention iPhone/iPad users, if you’ve enjoyed our app in the past and followed us there, or if you’ve never checked it out, make sure to update to the latest version in the Apple store. We’ve launched a new look for the app, in line with our recent desktop overhaul. Make sure to check it out! An update to our Android app is on its way soon as well, so Android users keep an eye out for that update soon!