'Mystic Mac' is back.
At least that's what Conor McGregor (22-4) has claimed in the lead-up to fighting Dustin Poirier (26-1-6) on Sunday.
"I will knock Dustin out inside 60 seconds," McGregor, the fighting pride of Ireland and the biggest PPV draw in combat sports, said recently. "I love Dustin, I think he's a good fighter. He's even a great fighter, you know? But great is still levels below me."
For many, this portends a return to the McGregor of old. After all, 'The Notorious', during his rapid ascent to the top of the UFC, made a habit of picking the rounds in which he'd put away his opponent.
But much has transpired since both fighters last shared a cage at featherweight in September 2014, when McGregor sensationally stopped Poirier in the first round.
McGregor went on to KO Chad Mendez, sensationally knock out UFC lightweight legend Jose Aldo, had two barn-burning fights with Nate Diaz, dismantled Eddie Alvarez, made a foray into boxing against Floyd Mayweather, returned to shatter UFC PPV records in a losing effort against Khabib Nurmagomedov and then utterly squashed Donald Cerrone. Since 2016, he's been a part-time fighter and a full-time liquor baron.
Poirier, in the meantime, has put together an impressive resume of victims in the octagon since 2017 including big names such as Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway, and Anthony Pettis. While both fighters are the same age " 32 " it is unarguable that Poirier, through the dint of being the more active fighter over the past couple of years, has more miles on his body.
Though many will contend that Poirier isn't the same fighter that he was in 2014, that he's grown and adapted his striking and defensive game (he has), what most people don't realise is that fighters, above all, don't change. Can't change. Not fundamentally.
In the heat of battle, they inevitably revert to type.
So how does the rematch between McGregor and Poirier play out?
Prediction: McGregor TKOs Poirier in Round 2
The blueprints to defeat McGregor exist. Like Nate Diaz, you have to be insanely durable, take his best shot and keep coming forward Terminator-like. Or like Nurmagomedov, put McGregor against the cage or on the ground, where his defensive skills are highly under-rated, but he isn't much of an offensive threat.
Take him into rounds 3, 4 and 5. Grind him down. Wear him out.
Unfortunately, questions about Poirier's durability, not to mention his defensive skills, linger.
And every UFC fight starts standing up, where McGregor is perhaps the best pure striker Mixed Martial Arts has ever seen (though Max Holloway might argue otherwise).
Expect the Irishman to try to live up to his pre-fight banter and come out throwing bombs.
McGregor puts Poirier down in Round 1. 'The Diamond' weathers the storm and even lands a couple of good return shots on the Irishman.
But Round 2 sees McGregor empty his clip and inevitably land something through Poirier's leaky defence.
Poirier hits the mat and the referee stops the bout.
McGregor cuts a scathing promo on Nurmagomedov and puts the rest of the division on notice.