UFC light heavyweight Paul Craig believes the lightweight title fight between Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira at UFC 269 has “Fight of the Year written all over it!”
Oliveira will defend his UFC lightweight championship for the first time on Sunday morning at UFC 269 against Poirier.
The champion won the belt at UFC 262, finishing former Bellator champion Michael Chandler in the second round after almost being stopped in the first, while Poirier comes into the bout having earned two consecutive victories against Conor McGregor.
UFC light heavyweight Paul Craig spoke to Sky Sports to preview the title fight on the organisation’s final card of 2021.
“This has got Fight of the Year written all over it,” the Scot said.
He believes the contest will be an even more entertaining spectacle for fans than UFC 268’s lightweight fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, which saw ‘The Highlight’ emerge victorious after three action-packed rounds.
Poirier is looking to cement his legacy when he faces Oliveira for the lightweight championship at UFC 269
Oliveira is on a nine-fight win streak and has not lost since 2017. Craig described the champion as a “wizard in jiu-jitsu” but noted that he has also developed a dangerous striking game, demonstrating his capability to “ground and pound people” in recent fights.
The Brazilian’s skill on the ground facilitates him being a “dynamic striker because you’re not worried about being taken down if you’ve got jiu-jitsu like his.
Oliveira after winning the lightweight title at UFC 262 (Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via AP)
“You see him evolving in front of you, and he’s the champion for a reason – it’s a very tough fight for Poirier in my opinion.”
Craig sees the challenger as a “boxing-heavy guy who enjoys a low calf kick”, with Poirier having made effective use of the technique in his previous outings against McGregor earlier this year.
Poirier effectively used low calf kicks in his previous bouts against Conor McGregor
However, the light heavyweight warned that if Poirier attempts to stay on the outside, or at boxing range on Sunday morning, it would work to the favour of the champion.
Poirier’s path to victory would need to involve his cardio, Craig suggests, and “his ability to put people up against the cage, make them make mistakes, drop these big shots and knock them out.
“If I was his coach, that’s what I’d tell him: lean on your cardio.”
Poirier should use his cardio to his advantage against Charles Oliveira, says Paul Craig
Craig bills the lightweight class as “the most exciting division in the UFC”, with Gaethje, Beneil Dariush and the rapidly ascending Islam Makhachev all vying for future title fights, among several others. He also mentioned McGregor as a potential opponent for Poirier or Oliveira and spoke about the possibility of the Irishman moving between weight classes.
Craig told Sky Sports that he would like to see Conor McGregor at 170 pounds on his return
“It doesn’t matter that he’s not good at jiu-jitsu. It doesn’t matter that we’ve seen him beaten by Poirier. He’s got that ability to just switch somebody’s lights off with one shot.
“Do I want to see him back at 170? Yeah, I do!
“McGregor’s the type of guy where no matter what weight he’s in… he’s got the ability to draw eyes in.”
Ultimately, Craig predicts a victory for Oliveira against Poirier at UFC 269 and believes the champion’s “distance management, having a [two inch] reach advantage and mixing his kicks up” in combination with his potency on the ground will work to his advantage.
Craig predicts that the lightweight champion will prevail at UFC 269 (Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via AP)
Despite this, the Scot feels that Poirier’s cardio and heavy hands could pose a serious threat to ‘Do Bronx’ if the bout reaches the later rounds, as “his power does not seem to deplete” throughout a fight.
“As a fan, I want to see it go five rounds!”