It could be argued that Dustin Poirier was the first fighter to make a big splash on the MMA scene in 2011. In one of the preliminary fights at UFC 125 on New Year’s Day, Poirier took on Josh Grispi, a fighter who was supposed to be the challenger to Jose Aldo’s featherweight title. Not only did Poirier beat Grispi, he crushed Grispi, wearing his opponent out and battering him with strikes. Suddenly, Poirier was the new sensation at featherweight.
Unfortunately for Poirier, that win hasn’t aged well at all. There are two reasons for this. The first is that Grispi was crushed even worse by George Roop in his next fight, indicating that Poirier’s win over Grispi had less to do with Poirier than it had to do with Grispi. The second is the nature of Poirier’s UFC 131 win over Jason Young. It was a unanimous decision win for Poirier, but he hardly fought as well as would be expected after his dismantling of Grispi. Suddenly, it appeared that Poirier was, in fact, a very average UFC featherweight, while Josh Grispi has been a fighter who looks absolutely awful.
His opponent will be Pablo Garza, a fighter who actually lost in a preliminary fight on the 12th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but was invited into the UFC anyway, and responded with a devastating KO win over Fredson Paixao. In his last fight, at UFC 129, Garza pulled off a rare flying triangle choke on Yves Jabouin, improving his UFC record to 2-0. Neither Jabouin nor Paixao is a great opponent, but the way Garza beat each of them was spectacular.
Garza is a very tall featherweight, standing 6’1″, so expect him to want to take this fight to the ground, even potentially pulling guard in the process. Fighters who are as tall and lean as Garza tend to be very threatening with triangle chokes and armbars from bottom position. Poirier has never been submitted in a fight, and at 5’9″ he isn’t necessarily a short featherweight fighter, but he’ll likely want to keep this fight standing at all costs.
Still, if Poirier succeeds in keeping this fight at striking distance, he may not have a significant advantage. Poirier lands strikes at a high rate, showcasing a very active approach against both Jason Young and Josh Grispi, but so does Garza, as he showed against Jabouin before securing that triangle choke. And while I would normally be inclined to give the power advantage to the shorter Poirier, Garza’s devastating KO of Fredson Paixao makes me hesitate before being willing to give Poirier such an advantage.
SILVA PREDICTION: PABLO GARZA (48.43) OVER DUSTIN POIRIER (45.53)
So, when SILVA predicts a large upset by picking Garza to win this fight, I can see why. This is completely subjective, but it seems to me that if this fight goes to the ground, it’s Garza’s fight to lose, but if it stays standing, then it’s a coin flip, not an advantage for Poirier. Poirier is about a 3-1 favorite to win this fight, so maybe the betting public sees or knows something I don’t, but I think there might be a little bit of unjustified hype on the side of Poirier. SILVA has it being close, so I’m not shocked or surprised if Poirier wins by any means, but I’ll take the upset and pick Garza to win.