When we last left our heroes...One of the things I always talk about, or rather, complain about is Akira's personality. For that, I apologize. After all, I don't know the guy. I just know how annoying he seemed on the show. But the character you play can be divorced from the character you are. No, Akira Corassani is probably not a Jack Gleeson in Joffrey Baratheon clothing, but I should give him the benefit of the doubt (last GoT's reference I swear).
The guy is undefeated in the UFC, with a 12-3 (1 NC) record. While his record is deceiving, it's nonetheless impressive. Unfortunately a full fight with Maximo Blanco would have told us a lot about where he is at this point in his career, but we were sadly robbed of that opportunity.
At age 25, Poirier is the fighter shouldering the pressure. He's 7-2 in the UFC, with the two losses to Chan Sung Jung, and Cub Swanson. Dropping this bout would not only set him back, but might validate some of the criticism that he's Rory MacDonald-lite; a fighter with all the talent, but none of the fortitude against offensive pressure fighters.
In both of his losses, he just couldn't handle his opponent's onslaught. That sort of changed against Diego Brandao, but I feel like Brandao is such a defensively porous fighter that the bout said more about Diego's weaknesses than Dustin's strengths. Speaking of which, let's talk about those.
What both men can do: Dustin is still very much a work in progress, but he's a hell of a fighter early on in his career. His strength is his boxing. One of the problems many fighters still have when it comes to punching is that they want badly to exploit the lack of material protecting their opponent. Granted, perhaps this is a discussion that's better left to the experts, but my impression is that fighters in MMA like to throw that wild overhand right because it's a high reward punch. There are no gloves to soften the blow with an earmuffs defense, and with the small gloves, one shot is all you need.
Poirier avoids that trap. He sticks with a straight left that rarely misses and does so with the kind of consistency and calculation you only see the upper echelon fighters do. He's also a very good grappler with a knack for the d'arce choke. This is a result of good top positioning.
Akira is a weird beast. I don't favor him in this fight, but he is...in my opinion...effectively adequate. Yes, jack of all trades, master of none, bla bla bla. What makes Akira stand out is that where most fighters become the victims of not being specialists, Akira is a good example of how not being a specialist can be balanced by being defensively sound. Positioning is a function of timing. Look at Melvin Guillard: after all these years the truth is that he probably knows how to grapple, but that's not the problem. The problem is that he doesn't know when. Either when to scramble, when to panic, or when to defend.
He's also pretty good at digging to the body. Nothing special, but despite his lack of KO finishes, Dustin would be wise to avoid a slugging match.
What both men can't do: Still, being good but not great, and defensive prowess don't get you title shots. That's just the fundamental truth of mixed martial arts. Yes, great fighters can be boring, and might lack finishes, but it is never at the cost of offense. Jose Aldo has very few finishes over the years, but is an offensive dynamo.
MMA is not kind to the archaic adage that "defense wins championships". This is why Poirier is so favored here. He's the better, more dynamic striker, and he's the bigger man in the cage, which will only highlight his advantage on the feet.
As I mentioned above, the only real problem with Dustin's game is how he handles fighters who are just a little crazier, and more offensive than him, and who are capable technicians as well. KZ, despite the stigma attached to him as a foreign half-dead brawling motorscooter, is an absolute expert grappler. The man moves seamlessly on the ground. Swanson takes risks, but they are calculated. Dustin needs to show he can effectively deal with controlled aggression moving forward. Thankfully for him, he'll box his way to a comfortable victory against Corassani.
Odds and Ends: Nothing to say about the odds here. Dustin is rightfully the favorite, and you'd have to firmly believe that Akira has the ability to sabotage Dustin's gameplan with voodoo magic to think he's worth betting on.
Prediction: Dustin Poirier by Guillotine, round 2.