Dustin Poirier said repeatedly during the build-up to his rematch with Conor McGregor on Saturday at UFC 257 that he wasn’t the same fighter that McGregor knocked out in the first round in 2014.
He proved that dramatically on Saturday. He chopped McGregor’s lead leg apart with calf kicks and then finished him with a brutal combination, dropping him with a left and a right and ending it with two shots on the ground.
With McGregor slumped over on the canvas at Etihad Arena and unable to defend himself, referee Herb Dean jumped in to stop it at 2:32 of the second round.
It puts Poirier in position to fight for the lightweight title, either against champion Khabib Nurmagomedov if he chooses to resume his career or another top contender.
But Poirier, who closed at +260 at BetMGM, will be difficult to beat no matter who he fights for the belt.
“I’m happy man, but I’m not surprised,” Poirier said. “I put in the work.”
The consensus going in was that Poirier had to avoid McGregor’s power early and make it a long fight. And while McGregor did have a good first round and landed several solid strikes, Poirier was composed and gave as good as he got.
He took a number of hard shots from McGregor, including a shoulder strike to the face while they were clinched, and didn’t buckle. It was the same move McGregor used a year earlier at UFC 246 in Las Vegas to knock out Donald Cerrone.
But Poirier stuck to the plan. He chopped repeatedly at McGregor’s lead leg with the calf kick and it was swollen and bruised by the end of the round.
“The calf kick was very good,” McGregor said.
The final sequence began when Poirier landed a calf kick. He followed with a left hand and came back with a right and dropped McGregor. Poirier walked over and landed a blistering right and then another shot that caused Dean to stop it.
“The goal was to be technical, pick my shots and not brawl at all,” Poirier said.
It was a fast-paced fight but he stuck to his plan and he’s now in position for a massive opportunity.
McGregor said he would continue to fight and vowed he’d be back in the cage in 2021.
“I need activity,” McGregor said. “You don’t get away with being inactive in this business and that’s the way it is.”
Poirier proved that with a brilliant performance that opens a huge range of possibilities for him.
More from Yahoo Sports: