Dustin Poirier never knew what hit him.
Michael Johnson waylaid the American Top Team standout with punches in the first round of their UFC Fight Night “Poirier vs. Johnson” (online betting) main event on Saturday at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas. “The Menace” sealed Poirier’s fate 1:35 into round one, handing the 27-year-old his first loss as a lightweight in more than six years.
So sudden was the stoppage that neither man broke a figurative sweat. Johnson lured the Lafayette, Louisiana, native into his desired range before firing off a right hook-straight left combination. The concussive blows flattened Poirier and rendered him incapable of withstanding the barrage of rights and lefts that came next. Referee Dan Miragliotta was on the scene in an instant to prevent “The Diamond” from suffering further damage. Those who had written off Johnson as a serious contender in the crowded Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight division were forced to reassess their position.
In wake of UFC Fight Night “Johnson vs. Poirier,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
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Michael Johnson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Johnson put back-to-back decision losses to Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush behind him in the most emphatic manner possible. The 30-year-old Blackzilians representative butchered Poirier in 95 seconds, securing his first victory since he bested Edson Barboza a year and a half ago and delivering his first finish since he knocked out Gleison Tibau at UFC 168 on Dec. 28, 2013. The unbeaten but oft-injured Nurmagomedov last fought at UFC on Fox 19 in April, when he carved up Darrell Horcher with second-round punches to improve to 23-0.
Derek Brunson vs. Gegard Mousasi-Vitor Belfort winner: Emerging as an unlikely title contender at 185 pounds, Brunson won for the seventh time in eight UFC appearances. The 32-year-old disposed of two-time Ring of Combat champion Uriah Hall with a left hook and follow-up punches in the first round of their middleweight co-main event. Though Hall appeared relatively coherent and able to defend himself, referee Herb Dean nevertheless elected to wave it off 1:41 into round one. Mousasi and Belfort will square off at UFC 204 on Oct. 8 in Manchester, England.
Evan Dunham vs. Rustam Khabilov: Dunham keeps chugging along at 155 pounds, and while he may never sniff the upper tier of the lightweight division, he poses substantial risk to virtually any would-be contender hoping to climb the ladder at his expense. The Eugene, Oregon, native turned away a game but outmatched Rick Glenn across three rounds at UFC Fight Night 94. A former World Series of Fighting champion who filled in for the injured Abel Trujillo on short notice, Glenn struggled in all phases and watched his plans for a successful Octagon debut deteriorate with each passing moment. Dunham, 34, has rattled off four straight victories since suffering back-to-back-to-back losses to Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza between May 18, 2013 and July 16, 2014. Khabilov last competed at UFC Fight Night “Arlovski vs. Barnett” on Sept. 3, when he claimed a unanimous decision from Leandro Silva in Hamburg, Germany.
Islam Makhachev vs. Gilbert Burns-Michael Prazeres winner: A knockout defeat to the criminally underrated Adriano Martins cut into the Makhachev hype in October. Consider it restored. The former combat sambo world champion out-scrambled and out-grappled onetime Ring of Combat titleholder Chris Wade to a three-round unanimous decision, as he moved to 13-1 and distanced himself from the fate that befell him at UFC 192. Makhachev, 24, remains one of the sport’s most promising prospects at 155 pounds. Burns and Prazeres will collide at UFC Fight Night “Cyborg vs. Lansberg” on Sept. 24 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Dustin Poirier vs. Beneil Dariush-Rashid Magomedov loser: The last time Poirier was on the receiving end of a violent knockout, he answered with a four-fight winning streak: He followed his TKO loss to Conor McGregor in September 2014 with consecutive victories over Carlos Diego Ferreira, Yancy Medeiros, Joseph Duffy and Bobby Green. Only Duffy made it to the scorecards. Poirier’s supporters can only hope for a similar response after he was cut down by Johnson’s blazing hands. They can take solace in the fact that he has never lost two fights in a row. Dariush will throw hands with Magomedov at “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3” Finale on Nov. 5 in Mexico City.