American Top Team strength and conditioning coach Phil Daru broke down the gameplan for Dustin Poirier against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242.
Daru dropped into the Pull No Punches podcast with Kajan Johnson and Shakiel Mahjouri ahead of the UFC lightweight title unification bout between Nurmagomedov and Poirier. Daru explained what role strength and conditioning plays in perfecting the formula to beat “The Eagle.”
“You have to have impeccable energy and you have to have movement qualities. His ability to move in and out of the pocket, changing directions, causing angles to evade some of the takedowns, and then -- when he gets taken down or if he gets takedown -- he needs to be strong with his hips and inside the clinch,” Daru shared. “Working on strengths of his hips and his posterior chain in general. So his back, his glutes and his hamstrings are going to be important for extension of the hips so he can stop shots efficiently and shoot his hips in.”
“The goal really is to make sure we’re digging for underhooks and that Dustin has a strong core so he can rotate, as far as the transverse abdominis for rotation, so he can change direction and turn Khabib around and have him facing the cage. Then [Poirier] can push off and rain his shots the way he does,” he continued. “Let’s face it, Dustin is one of the best -- if not the best -- boxer in MMA right now. With that being said, we want to make sure we’re working on that as well. We don’t want to just cater to Khabib’s strengths.”
Daru had high praise for Poirier’s endurance system. “As far as conditioning goes we definitely need to make sure he has muscular endurance. It is going to be a grappling match in there,” Daru mentioned. “We’re doing things like stadium stair runs and prowler pushes that are really going to lactic build-up of the legs and then he has to buffer that lactate out of his muscles as fast as possible so that he is ready to go for the next round. Honestly, people don’t know Dustin’s conditioning is top-notch as far as his VO2 Max.”
VO2 max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise.
“It’s in the 60s. He is probably about 10 points away from being an elite marathon runner. You see Olympians with that type of oxygen utilization. He has a large aerobic base.”
The ATT coach expects Poirier to play the long game, but not too long.
“I’m going to go ahead and say we’re going to finish him in the fourth round,” Daru predicted. “We’re going to make him tired. I know that’s funny to say, but we’re going to make him try to shoot and we’re going to keep getting up. We’re going to hit him with shots to the body.”
UFC lightweight champion Nurmagomedov and interim champion Poirier will unify their titles in the main event of UFC 242. The event takes place at The Arena, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 7. A rematch between Edson Barboza and Paul Felder will serve as the co-headliner.