Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (14-3, 6-2 UFC) vs. Diego “DB” Brandao (18-8, 4-1 UFC)
Kicking off the main card of UFC 168 is a fantastic featherweight matchup between the top 10 ranked Poirier and TUF 14 champ Brandao. It’s a nice piece of matchmaking by Joe Silva and one that could potentially be very rewarding for Brandao should he win here.
Dustin Poirier came up in the South Eastern USA fighting mostly in and around his home state of Louisiana. A protégé of UFC veteran Rich Clementi, Poirier has since added the invaluable instruction available at American Top Team to his fight preparation and that has paid dividends.
-Poirier is a pure MMA fighter; you can see it in his style that he has little in the way of traditional martial arts training on its own and does all the little things you like to see in an MMA fight. Things like throwing punches at the right time to create openings on the ground and switching between south paw and orthodox striking stance are what separates him from other all-arounders out there and it makes him very good at finishing fights.
-One thing particularly impressive and effective in Poirier’s skill set is the way he mixes up his punches. While his hands are clearly powerful and have some nice snap on them, it is the way he alternates between tight, deliberate, punches and big haymakers that makes him unique. He also has been known to dig those nasty body shots here n there and they are always effective.
-Poirier is also pretty nasty on the ground. He chains together sub attempts and even combines submissions when the situation calls for it. That triangle/armbar of Max Holloway was a thing of beauty and the way he locks up that D’arce choke is also impressive.
Boasting a 6-2 UFC record is plenty impressive in today’s super-competitive UFC, but The Diamond has shown a certain vulnerability to a particular style. Both Cub Swanson and The Korean Zombie were able to match Poirier’s well rounded skills and they possessed and additional skill that put them over the top. The Zombie’s nice use of length and creativity or the crafty veteran savvy of Cub may give Poirier trouble if they were to fight again.
Diego Brandao came up in Brazil fighting on the regional circuit near his hometown of Fortaleza. He started fighting in the smaller shows here in the States in 2008 and within 2 years he was a member of successful MMA super team Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA. He skated through his season of TUF before almost getting KO’d in the finale where his instincts and BJJ saved him and got him that awesome plaque/sculpture thingy.
-Diego’s most useful weapons is in all seriousness are his confidence, angst, and competitive mean streak. The guy fights opponents as if they were a combination of the kid who stole his lunch money and the creep who stole from his mother. He looks to hurt guys early and often and he is quite good at it. At 26 he’s still a youngster and should be able to call on this for a few years to come before he really grows up.
-Every aspect of Diego’s ground game is also top notch. Having a black belt should give you an idea of how good his basic but effective BJJ is and he is surprisingly effective in wrestling as well. He has outwrestled his UFC opponents by scoring an impressive 12 takedowns and surrendering only 3.
-The ace up Diego’s sleeve is his explosiveness and boldness. He is not afraid of punching his way into range and launching a flying knee and he often connects clean. It’s this factor that makes him an effective fight finisher in 14 of 18 wins.
While he has improved some in this aspect, Diego’s aggression can at times border on recklessness and his emotional state only adds to this. He takes the fact that you signed a contract to fight him personally and gets super intense. And on a more statistical tip, he gets hit a good amount. The aforementioned aggression is part of it but so is his 69 inch reach. His overall accuracy is good but a large percentage of the shots he eats are power punches and that can spell trouble.
Diego came out of TUF 14 with some big expectations that have since simmered quite a bit. This is kind of odd considering his lone loss is to the tough Darren Elkins and he has rebounded nicely. As he refines his game more Diego will get better and better, but his best is probably a year or 2 down the road. Considering Poirier’s 6 inch combined height and reach advantage and the strength of his resume, I am picking The Diamond to win a tough fight by decision.