Dustin Poirier has always been known for putting on some of the most epic slugfests in UFC history.
He’s wrapped up two “Fight of the Night” awards while competing inside the Octagon with only five decisions against 16 total bouts since joining the UFC roster. Poirier has always prided himself on going big or going home, but a first-round knockout loss to Michael Johnson last year taught him a very valuable lesson: In the sport of mixed martial arts, defense is just as important as offense.
“He threw a punch at the perfect time and I made a mistake with my boxing and footwork and my body’s position when I received the punch,” Poirier explained when speaking to FOX Sports. “A lot of stuff goes into these shots when guys go down. A lot is your own body and how you’re receiving the shot and I wasn’t protected at all. My feet weren’t planted on the ground.
“A lot of stuff goes into making somebody malfunction like that.”
Statistically, Poirier currently absorbs just under three and a half strikes per minute with his overall defense sitting almost exactly at the same percentage as the average — 58-percent — for all fighters in the UFC.
On paper, those numbers don’t exactly show any glaring weaknesses in Poirier’s defense, but at the same time, a knockout loss like the one he suffered in his last fight let him know that there were mistakes being made that had to be changed.
For Poirier, the biggest adjustment was realizing that even if he’s better than an opponent, that doesn’t mean one errant punch can’t slip through and knock him out cold.
“It’s important for me to protect myself. I have no fear when I get in there. I need to have more respect for these guys,” Poirier said. “Everybody’s dangerous with a pair of four-ounce gloves. I know I’m better than them. They’re dangerous and they’re fighting to feed their families.
“From here on out the name of this camp is be more defensively responsible. When you see me in the cage you’re going to see a smarter fighter. I’m not going to be a boring fighter. I’m still going to take risks but I’m going to take calculated risks.”
One of the other changes that Poirier made after the loss to Johnson was adjusting his sparring schedule in the gym.
Poirier is the latest in a long line of UFC athletes who have openly admitted to cutting down on full speed sparring sessions in order to alleviate some of the damage they take before ever stepping into the cage for competition.
“This camp I’ve done the least amount of sparring that I’ve ever done,” Poirier said. “Of course I’m still working a lot and getting the work done but it’s less and further timing between sparring sessions.
“For longevity, I want to fight another seven or eight years, I’m looking at it and trying to be smart.”
Thanks to the changes he’s made, Poirier is looking to add a few more “Performance of the Night” bonuses to his resume rather than another “Fight of the Night” against Jim Miller when they meet on Saturday night in Brooklyn.
Poirier will never be scared of a firefight, but he’d much rather burn his opponent to the ground before they ever get a chance to hit him back.
“He’s been in the UFC a long time, 25 fights in the UFC and the most wins in the lightweight division. Looking at his fights, he’s far from being a shot fighter or an old man. He’s still very dangerous and fast and moves well. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s always been towards the top of the pack at lightweight,” Poirier said about Miller.
“He’s a guy who likes to jump on opportunities. He doesn’t put himself in a bad position to get a takedown but his wrestling and his jiu-jitsu are his strong suits. He’s fought everybody but I’m a different kind of striker. He’s been hit by a lot of guys, but I don’t think he’s ever been hit by a guy like me.”