Woodley and Hardy analyze what went wrong for Poirier against Johnson last night, credit Johnson’s speed and a new wrinkle in his game (w/Keller’s Analysis)

By Wade Keller, MMATorch editor

Dustin Poirier after his loss to Michael Johnson (Sean Pokorny © USA Today Sports)

Michael Johnson scored the upset victory over Dustin Poirier last night, and FS1 analysts Dan Hardy and Tyron Woodley believe Johnson’s speed advantage was the difference.

“He knew he had the speed advantage; he utilized that,” he said Woodley.” He chose to step in, step out, he landed the punch that it to the ground. Obviously he has the finishing mentality. He jumped on him, seized the moment. The punches you don’t see are the ones that sit you down to the canvas.”

Hardy was impressed, in particular, with his feet movement to set up the one-two combination that dropped Poirier and in essence ended the fight. “He did a great job adjusting his feet,” he said. “He constantly continued to shift laterally and move around Dustin Poirier, which I think I exposed that. He planted that back foot to use the power in his left hand.”

Hardy said Poirier appeared to underestimate Johnson’s speed and it cost him. “I think it actually surprised Poirier,” he said. “I think he was expecting to be able to close him down a little quicker and a little easier, and I think he was a little too enthusiastic… When there’s a speed advantage there, you always stand a better chance to land a good clean counter punch and that’s exactly what he did. He was throwing at the same time as Poirier. He didn’t have both of his hands guarding his face. He was able to slip off, he landed a nice short right hook, and the left came over the top.”

Woodley noticed something else, though, that might have thrown off Poirier from his gameplan. “He added one new wrinkle to his game,” Woodley said regarding Johnson. “I think not only his speed, he usually comes in and out… [but he also] started going laterally, side to side, and it made it hard for Poirier to find him. I think when he came in and landed those strikes, he was looking to retaliate, but Michael Johnson wasn’t there to hit.” He summed up Johnson’s keys to victory: “The speed, the lateral motion, his confidence, and his power.”

Poirier would have stood a better chance if he had stayed out of Johnson’s range for longer, waiting for Johnson to lose a little speed as the fight progressed, according to Hardy. “If they fought again or it would have gone to the end of the first round, it may have been a very different fight. Johnson might have slowed down a bit and allowed Poirier into the fight. He caught him just at the right time, a minute and a half into the fight, which is when he’s going to be at his fastest and most powerful… The longer the fight goes, the better the chance of the more durable endurance fighter. That’s Poirier.”

Was Poirier overconfident? Was he looking past Johnson, since he had spoken openly about wanting Eddie Alvarez after beating Johnson. Woodley doesn’t think so. “He wasn’t overconfident. That speed was just a factor… He did exactly what he should have done. For an opponent who is faster than you, you have to be relaxed and you have to show that composure. He was doing that. He got within range, he started striking. It was a proper attack. He just got landed.”

Hardy agreed. “You just never know what’s going to happen when you’re fighting someone with that speed and that power. There’s always that X factor that the fight could be over in a second, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Keller’s Analysis: You could tell the panel on FS1’s postgame show were surprised by the outcome. Their tone suggested they felt Poirier would win more often than he’d lose against Johnson, but only because he’d learn from this fight that he needed to take a different approach to the fight, and utilize his more well-rounded game to wear out Johnson a bit and stay out of range until Johnson began to tire a bit. Poirier lost, and it’s a setback, but based on how he came back after his loss to Conor McGregor, his next fights should be fascinating to watch. If he can win another fight or two against top contenders at 155, he’ll be right back in the title match conversation. It’s going to be tough for Poirier, though, to accept having to win a couple fights before being back in that conversation compared to where a decisive win here would have placed him. The big money fights shifted from Poirier to Johnson with this win.

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