Conor McGregor looked to be in classic form in the first round against Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 257 Saturday night, then everything changed.
McGregor won the opening round with solid punching and some really good work against the cage. But early in the second round it was clear Poirier's leg kicks had a huge impact on McGregor and had weakened his right calf. Those kicks opened things up and Poirier struck, landing a few big punches, including a big right hook that sent McGregor to the ground. Referee Herb Dean jumped in to stop things with 2:32 left in the round.
It was a disappointing result for McGregor, who the UFC has certainly banked on big time. After the fight he claimed the inactivity had hurt him and that he planned to fight more to prevent that from happening again.
McGregor was returning to the octagon after a year away. He last fought at UFC 246 on January 18, 2020. He scored a TKO win over Donald Cerrone in just 40 seconds that night and was expecting to fight multiple times last year, but those plans were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before the Cerrone fight, McGregor hadn't fought since October 6, 2018, when he was submitted by Khabib Nurmagomedov. That fight came after a two-year layoff, during which he boxed Floyd Mayweather. All told, since the start of 2017, McGregor has now had just three fights in the UFC.
It remains to be seen what could be next for "The Notorious." The 32-year-old has discussed a return to boxing, but has three fights left on his UFC contract and seems to be focused on the octagon. He claims he's willing to fight seven times over the next 18 months if Dana White & Co. line fights up properly. That sounds like it's in line with his pre-COVID plans.
As for Poirier, he's likely in line for a title shot. He entered the night as the No. 2 lightweight in the UFC and upped his stock a lot by beating McGregor. If Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn't return, a title fight with Justin Gaethje (No. 1 ranked lightweight) or a rubber match with McGregor could be in the cards.