Promising UFC featherweights Erik Koch and Dustin Poirier were first scheduled to meet at UFC 142 in February 2012. However, Koch pulled out of the fight with a knee injury and Poirier would go on to defeat fellow 145-pounder Max Holloway instead.
So when they finally squared off on Saturday night at UFC 164 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, it was apparent they would be making up for lost time.
Both Poirier and Koch were coming off losses in their previous outings in the Octagon and were primed for redemption.
Round one was five frenetic minutes that could rival any scrap in the company’s 20-year history. Poirier came out guns blazing as he peppered Koch with a long jab and powerful lead leg kicks. Early in the round, “The Diamond” clipped Koch with a flurry and sent the Duke Roufus product to the mat.
With the Milwaukee faithful in attendance holding their collective breath as their hometown boy fell to the canvas, Koch gathered his faculties and slipped Poirier into what was seemingly an airtight triangle.
As Koch strained to pull Poirier’s arm across his body, the 24-year-old scrambled, pulled, and fought his way out of the submission.
The crowd erupted as the fighters returned to standing.
Another triangle attempt soon followed for Koch, but once again, Poirier escaped and they were back to striking.
Somewhere around the 90-second mark, Poirier floored Koch with a huge right hook that almost certainly would have ended the night of a lesser fighter.
Koch survived, and Poirier leapt in for a D’arce choke – a choke he’s finished two UFC fights with already.
As Koch’s veins pulsed on camera, his eyes dimmed, and it looked like he would be succumbing to Poirier’s signature submission.
Then the bell sounded.
The crowd erupted, as the fight flipped to round two.
Rounds two and three weren’t as magical as that opening stanza, but they were a solid display of counter striking, lateral movement, and ground battling.
Late in the third round, Koch nearly managed a historic comeback when he took Poirier’s back during a scramble and was looking to sink in a rear-naked choke. However, as Poirier wagged his finger “no, no, no” to the crowd, it was obvious as the final bell tolled that Koch simply didn’t have enough gas left in the tank to finish the fight.
The final scorecard read 29-28, 29-27, 29-27 for Dustin Poirier. As is the case with so many great MMA fights, though, this was a much closer fight than the history books will show; something Poirier attested to when commenting on that ultra-tight first-round triangle he was caught in.
“It was really close guys. I felt myself gargling,” Poirier said. “I thought to myself, ‘This is the end.’
“I really thought it was over, guys.”
You weren’t the only one, Mr. Poirier.
For Koch this marks his second defeat in as many fights, and it will most assuredly see him fall out of the Top 10 rankings – at least for the time being.
Poirier on the other hand now finds himself in the win column with some breathing room after going 2-2 in his last four fights. Expect a substantial jump up in competition for Poirier, as he is still one of the sport’s “fighters to watch” heading into 2014.
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