Anthony Smith: Dustin Poirier has to make Islam Makhachev ‘nervous’ to win at UFC 302

Anthony Smith isn’t counting out Dustin Poirier’s chances just yet.

Poirier takes his second crack at winning the undisputed lightweight title when he challenges champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 302 in Newark, N.J. “The Diamond” has held an interim title and fought Khabib Nurmagomedov in a unification bout back in September 2019, but Poirier was submitted by Nurmagomedov and is yet to claim the top spot at 155 pounds.

Comparisons between Makhachev and Nurmagomedov are inevitable given that they’ve trained together for ages, so Poirier enters the June 1 clash as a significant underdog. Smith, a light heavyweight contender who also works as an analyst, sees a path to victory for Poirier.

“A better chance than a lot of people are,” Smith said on The MMA Hour when asked about his confidence in a Poirier win. “I think that he’s got a lot of momentum right now. I think that there’s a lot of comparisons with Islam and Khabib, but they’re very, very different fighters. I think the biggest difference is Islam is willing to stand and strike with Dustin, and that gives Dustin a lot of opportunities to do well. If he can move his feet and force Islam-like, Khabib had a different mindset. He would just wade through whatever you were throwing, if he could get a hold of anything, he was going to start climbing it like a snake. He gets a hold of you and he just starts sinking and pulling you in and it just gets worse. It’s like quicksand, it gets deeper and deeper.

“Islam doesn’t really fight like that. Does he have the ability? I don’t know, but his skill set is more diverse, so he’s willing to do more things. I think that opens up a lot of opportunities for Dustin, especially if Dustin can land early and get Islam-he needs him a little bit nervous and have a healthy bit of respect for him coming into range and I think he can be really successful. I think it starts really early, I think you’re going to know right away.”

Nurmagomedov famously went 29-0 as a professional fighter before stepping away from competition in October 2020, and Makhachev has carved out a similar path of dominance with just one loss in 26 bouts. He has won 13 straight fights, including a pair of wins over featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

Though Smith believes that Poirier’s best chance of winning is to out-strike Makhachev, few will be surprised if Poirier goes for one of his now-famous guillotine choke attempts, a submission that is yet to yield him a victory.

Smith understands the urge, given that he just logged the first win via guillotine submission in his 57th pro bout, which took place against Vitor Petrino at UFC 301 this past weekend. It was a moment that Smith credits Poirier for inspiring.

“The only reason I thought about was when I was in Miami and Dustin kept saying, ‘You miss every guillotine you don’t jump,’” Smith said. “Then I was just like, ‘F*ck, I don’t have any guillotine finishes in my whole career.’ I don’t even know that I’ve ever jumped one in a fight.

“A few weeks ago, I was talking about it in practice and I’ve been hitting them ever since then. I just keep finding myself in these guillotines and I’ve said it probably 20 times, wouldn’t it be sweet if I got a guillotine? And here we are. Pretty crazy.”

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