UFC 264: Conor McGregor's five keys to victory trilogy with Dustin Poirier, including calf kick defence

CONOR McGREGOR returns to the octagon this weekend for a do-or-die trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier.

The Notorious will resume his rivalry with the former interim lightweight champion early on Sunday morning in the main event of UFC 264 in Las Vegas.

McGregor won his first meeting with the American six years ago but was knocked out in the second round of their January rematch,

The former two-division champion is planning to exact revenge on his old featherweight rival in devastating fashion.

But will he be able to make good on his latest pre-fight vow? And if so, how will he do it?

With those questions in mind, SunSport thought it'd only be right to break down the keys to The Notorious' returning the win column.

Check them out below.

  • ? UFC 264 fight card start times, prelims, live stream and TV channel info for McGregor vs Poirier 3
  • ? UFC 264 odds free bets and tips for McGregor vs Poirier 3

Keep Poirier at range

There's no point denying that McGregor does his best work at range. One look at his highlight reel and you'll see that most, if not all, of his stoppages have come outside of the pocket.

Proficient as he is at trading on the inside, the Dubliner does his best work where he's in the golden range – a distance where he can hit and without being hit.

His 2016 masterclass against Eddie Alvarez was a prime example of him staying just outside of harm's way but being close enough to inflict damage.

Fan favourite Poirier will no doubt look to get inside the Irishman's range and utilise his dirty boxing.

To avoid that, McGregor will have to make use of his long reach with his lead arm to maintain the distance he wants to operate in.

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Time Poirier's blitzes

The dynamic Poirier will have to close the distance in order to get into his preferred striking range for this rubber match. And he'll have to do it fast.

But as the aforementioned Alvarez and future UFC Hall-of-Famer Jose Aldo will tell you, doing that against McGregor is a lot easier said than done.

Poirier has, in the past, shown proficiency at narrowing the distance without leaving himself susceptible to counters.

It'll be imperative for McGregor to get a beat on Poirier's explosions to avoid the avalanche of punches the Louisianan unloads once he has his opponents hurt.

Turn out to or check the lead leg/calf kicks

One route to victory I pointed out ahead of the pair's rematch was Poirier taking away the mobility of McGregor by attacking his lead leg.

And boy did that prove to be a spot-on prediction.

The Diamond took full advantage of McGregor's tendency to lead heavily on his lead leg by battering him with debilitating calf kicks.

McGregor's mobility was greatly impaired by the kicks, so much so he didn't sit down between rounds.

Having suffered the devastating effects of the calf kick, McGregor will no doubt be eager to avoid them.

To negate them, he should turn out his lead leg as Poirier throws the strike or check the kick Muay Thai style.

Avoid being pressed up against the cage and the clinch

We all know prolonged grappling exchanges, especially those that take place on the ground, suck the wind of out McGregor's sails. That is the case with most fighters.

Mystic Mac, however, seems to have his explosiveness sapped away from him more than others after prolonged periods of clinching.

If the bigger and seemingly stronger Poirier can tie McGregor up after closing the distance and suck him into prolonged battles for dominant position, he'll have great success.

Although he's a more than proficient grappler, McGregor would be wise not to allow himself to be pressed up against the fence.

Avoid the championship rounds

Conor McGregor is one of the fastest starters in the history of mixed martial arts.

His 40-second destruction of Donald Cerrone last January – his only victory in the last four years – is clear evidence of that fact.

But the sometimes mismanaged use of those fast-twitch muscle fibres come at a price. The price: fading in the third round.

To his credit, McGregor has become better at managing his energy reserves over the years. But not to the point where you could envisage him getting a late stoppage.

Aerobic capacity is no problem for Poirier, who is no stranger to going five hard rounds.

If McGregor is going to be the one to close the book on the pair's rivalry, he has to get the job done early doors. If he doesn't, it could end up being a long and gruelling night at the office for the UFC's poster boy.

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