Three fun options for Dustin Poirier after epic win over Dan Hooker

It was quite the weekend for Dustin Poirier, who delivered yet another performance UFC fans will be talking about for a long time.

In addition to getting his hand raised over Dan Hooker in a thrilling main event, the 31-year-old Lafayette, La., native was named the inaugural recipient of the Forrest Griffin Community Award, which recognizes a UFC athlete “for their exceptional volunteer and charity work and the meaningful impact their efforts have on the community.”

Poirier and his wife Jolie founded The Good Fight Foundation in 2018 and it has made a difference in Poirier’s home state where they’ve held food drives, back-to-school campaigns, and raised money to help purchase furniture for local shelters plus necessity kits for hundreds of women experiencing homelessness and much more.

“Dustin is a great athlete, but more importantly he’s a great human being,” UFC president Dana White said in a press release. “He is a kid who works hard and is passionate about giving back to not only his community, but to those who are less fortunate.”

Receiving that honour on Friday didn’t distract him from the task at hand Saturday night, as he needed all 25 minutes to secure a win over the No. 5-ranked New Zealander.

The pair each earned a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus after setting a new UFC record for most total strikes landed in a lightweight fight. Poirier (208) and Hooker (182) combined for 390 total strikes landed — narrowly outdoing the old record, which Poirier also held when he and Max Holloway combined for 388 at UFC 236 in 2019.

Hooker did a fair bit of damage in the first 10 minutes and won the first two rounds, but Poirier dug deep and took the final three frames to become the 10th fighter in UFC history to earn at least 18 wins inside the Octagon.

Poirier hadn’t fought in nearly 10 months after losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 then undergoing hip surgery. He said after his win over Hooker that he intends on taking some time off and not returning until late this year or potentially not until 2021.

“I had to overcome some stuff and now that I’m a victor again I want to get back to the drawing board, keep getting better and I want to stay in love with this sport,” he said. “I don’t want to push myself or work myself so much to where I hate this. I’ve been doing this a long time and pushing myself to the limits every day so I just want to do it right and give it my all the right way.”

Whenever he does return, though, he’ll be in line for another high-profile matchup with a top star. So, with that in mind, here are three options to consider for Poirier.

Tony Ferguson

“El Cucuy” is perhaps the most obvious option for “The Diamond” considering the two fan favourites are ranked directly behind champion Nurmagomedov and interim champ Justin Gaethje who are tentatively scheduled to meet in a title unification bout later this year.

Ferguson is coming off a loss to Gaethje at UFC 249 after his highly anticipated title fight with Nurmagomedov fell apart for a fifth time. Poirier holds a TKO victory over Gaethje when the two met in an instant classic in 2018.

Ferguson absorbed 143 significant strikes against Gaethje in late April, 100 of which were to the head, and he sustained a fractured orbital bone in the fifth-round TKO loss. It was Ferguson’s first loss in seven years and considering the damage he took there’s no need for him to rush back into action.

Poirier took a lot of damage this past weekend as well, so let both guys heal up in the summer and fall and match them up at some point in the winter.

One of the storylines heading into UFC 249 was that Ferguson and Gaethje were the consensus two most exciting fighters in the entire sport let alone the lightweight division. Poirier deserves consideration too.

Ferguson has nine post-fight bonuses in his past nine appearances (six Fight of the Night, three Performance of the Night), but Poirier is no slouch either with five bonuses in his past eight fights and 11 total performance bonuses in his UFC career.

Both are excellent strikers willing to eat shots in order to land their own – a trait many of the most popular fighters in MMA share – and both are Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts who aggressively pursue submissions when on the mat.

My goodness, just imagine the carnage, the creativity, the frenetic scrambles these two would produce against one another. It would be yet another guaranteed all-action bout with undeniable Fight of the Year potential. Plus, it would make sense from and rankings and title contention perspective.

Nate Diaz

Poirier and Diaz were scheduled to meet at UFC 230 in 2018 but it never came to fruition after Poirier was forced to withdraw from the event due to an injury. The fight was never rescheduled even though it tickled the fancy of MMA fans. When he was healthy, Poirier was put into an interim lightweight title bout against Max Holloway, who was the reigning featherweight champion at the time, and Diaz extended his hiatus which dated back to 2016.

Diaz eventually made his return at UFC 241 and earned an impressive unanimous decision over Anthony Pettis in a welterweight contest. After the fight he called out Poirier’s teammate Jorge Masvidal. Diaz explained his reason for his lengthy layoff was “Because everybody sucked and there was nobody to fight” before giving respect to Masvidal’s recent performances. They met at UFC 244 and Masvidal walked away with the BMF belt after the doctor stopped the fight after the third round due to multiple cuts near Diaz’s eyes.

Diaz is very particular about who he feels is deserving to face him, but there’s no denying at this point Poirier’s style and recent efforts are worthy of a pay-per-view showdown with a superstar like Diaz.

Earlier this year, Poirier even said he’s still interested in one day fighting Diaz.

“I know it’s a fight I can shine in,” Poirier told MMA Junkie. “I know it’s a fight that at this point of my career where I’d be excited to do that training camp and do those boxing rounds and do those jiu-jitsu rounds. That’s a fun opponent to get ready for with my style of fighting. … I would love that fight. I would do it at 170, I would do it at whatever weight they wanted to do it. I think that’s a fun fight. I think the fans would like that fight. But we’ll see. That is a fight that I want, but I don’t know what’s next. I don’t even know if that guy will fight again. I still respect the guy as a fighter. … He’s a fun fighter to watch, and those are the kind of guys that I want to fight.”

Conor McGregor

Even through McGregor announced his “retirement” in early June, no one is really taking it seriously and it would seem like only a matter of time before he eventually steps back into the cage.

This one is less likely to happen than a fight with Ferguson or even Diaz, the main reason being McGregor already holds a win over Poirier.

The two met in 2014 in McGregor’s fourth UFC fight back when they both competed in the 145-pound division. There were verbal barbs thrown in the lead-up to the event but the fight itself wasn’t all too competitive. It took McGregor less than two minutes to earn a knockout win over Poirier, so McGregor can always hold that over Poirier’s head as are argument against a rematch.

However, Poirier is a much different and far superior version of himself at lightweight. Poirier decided to stop depleting himself to make weight and moved up a division following his loss to McGregor and since then he has gone 10-2 in the 155-pound division. McGregor, even though he is a former lightweight champion, is only 1-1 at lightweight and 3-2 in non-featherweight fights in the UFC.

Poirier has wanted to run it back for several years and at this point many fight fans would welcome part two with open arms.

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