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Jon Anik: Dustin Poirier can’t be counted out at UFC 302, but Islam Makhachev ‘really is that good’

Jon Anik sees Dustin Poirier as a live underdog, but he understands why oddsmakers sway heavily in favor of UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev.

According to BetMGM, Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) is a -600 favorite in his upcoming title defense against Poirier (30-8 MMA, 22-7 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 302 (pay-per-view/ESPN2/ESPN+) main event at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Poirier is a +425 underdog.

“I’m glad I’m not an oddsmaker because I would find it exceedingly hard to price Islam Makhachev right now because he really is that good,” Anik said in an interview with Odds Shark. “I can understand why a lot of the fanbase and a lot of the fighters like Dustin Poirier in this spot. I like the quick turnaround having faced Benoit Saint Denis in a really big pressure spot.

“Not a title fight of course, but at UFC 299 in Miami, he was a betting underdog in that setting. I like that this fight is happening in New Jersey, it’s in his time zone, it’s close to home, I like the competition cycle. He was largely unscratched even though it wasn’t a perfect performance against Benoit Saint Denis, and he does have a lot more experience accrued over the last several years.”

Anik also admires the way Poirier has bounced back from prior losses. “The Diamond” has never lost two straight in his career.

“When you look back at the fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov and we could spend 10 minutes on how that experience might play into this fight against Islam Makhachev, but then so responsive thereafter against Dan Hooker, then two wins against Conor McGregor,” Anik said. “I think that Poirier is going to perform well. I think the problem might just be the guy that is in the red corner.”

Anik sees one major advantage that stands out for Poirier, but points to his previous two title losses, which came by submission as concerning points. He thinks Poirier has to capitalize on the feet early.

“I think natural power and I say that with all due respect to Islam Makhachev,” Anik said of Poirier’s advantage. “Makhachev is a five-tool striker, certainly his head kick of Alexander Volkanovski speaks to just how many different ways he could get you out of there. He’s certainly not just a grappler. But Dustin Poirier out of that southpaw stance has a lot of power, certainly in that right hand but also in the left hand, as well. And I just think it’s about risk mitigation for him. When are you going to go for it, pick your spots, try to avoid the ground.

“Those grappling situations against Khabib Nurmagomedov were not ideal, and I think when a lot of people handicap this fight, they worry about Dustin Poirier getting put in those similar situations and time ripping off of the clock. It’s advantage striker when it comes to MMA and Joe Rogan talked about this recently, they allow you to stand up at the beginning of every round, so I do think that it stands to reason that if Dustin Poirier can gain respect with that power early on and present some sort of adversity.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 302.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie