UFC Fight Night 94 Opening Odds Breakdown: Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Johnson

dustin-poirierEvent: UFC Fight Night 94 Date: September 17, 2016 Location: Hidalgo, Texas Venue: State Farm Arena Broadcast: Fox Sports 1 UFC Lightweight Contender Dustin Poirier One of the premier action fighters over the past several years in the UFC, it’s easy to forget that Dustin Poirier is still only 27 years old. ‘The Diamond’ has been under contract with Zuffa since 2010 with 17 bouts in the UFC and WEC combined. After starting out in the WEC as a lightweight, Poirier dropped to featherweight and made an immediate impact, knocking off then title contender Josh Grispi. He would build off that performance, eventually taking a five-fight winning streak into his first UFC main event against Chan Sung Jung. While he was submitted in the fourth round, Poirier and Jung put on arguably the Fight of the Year for 2012. That pattern would repeat for Poirier at featherweight, as he also dropped bouts to Cub Swanson and Conor McGregor before deciding to move up a weight class. Making his UFC lightweight debut in 2015, Poirier looked rejuvenated. His offense was more crisp and just as dangerous, but his defense and durability seemed improved with the extra 10 pounds. All of these elements to his game would be on display as he racked up four straight wins to move into title contention. Currently ranked No. 7 by the UFC, a win over a fellow top 10 opponent in Michael Johnson would go a long way towards earning him a title shot. UFC Lightweight Contender Michael Johnson Michael Johnson started out his career with a mediocre 5-4 record, repeatedly showing holes in his defensive wrestling and grappling games (even losing to noted Midwestern jobber Ted Worthington). However, three consecutive wins earned him an invitation to ‘The Ultimate Fighter 12’, which he took and ran with. Advancing to the finale of TUF 12, Johnson was close to stopping Jonathan Brookins to win TUF, but faded late and lost a decision. He would trade a win and loss before truly starting to come into his own. A three-fight win streak over Shane Roller, Tony Ferguson, and Danny Castillo established him in the lightweight division. Unfortunately, Johnson was derailed by the wrestling of Myles Jury and submission game of Reza Madadi, dropping back-to-back bouts. Going back to the drawing board, Johnson returned looking much improved at the end of 2013. Wins over Joe Lauzon and Gleison Tibau impressed, and he handed Melvin Guillard his UFC walking papers after taking the fight on short notice. Johnson’s biggest win was in his next fight, as his high-pressure style was able to shut down the vaunted striking of Edson Barboza for his fourth straight win. Unfortunately, Johnson would be the victim of poor judging in his next outing, losing a split decision to Beneil Dariush. He followed that with another loss to Nate Diaz, putting him in desperate need of a victory heading into his UFC Fight Night 94 bout with Poirier. Johnson has bested talented strikers in the past and will look to pull it off one more time in Hidalgo. Opening Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened Poirier a -175 favorite (bet $175 to win $100) with the comeback on Johnson at +135 (bet $100 to win $135) at Several Bookmakers. Since that time, the line has done nothing but tighten. Poirier is now down to -155, while the price on Johnson has not moved. Given the popularity of Poirier and the current form he’s in, I was a bit surprised to see the line open where it did and not really move. Poirier has proven that size isn’t an issue for him at lightweight, and Johnson isn’t an overpowering type of fighter to begin with. Both fighters are also southpaws (with a decent amount of experience against other southpaws), and generally Poirier has done a better job in those fights, the McGregor loss notwithstanding. While Johnson will probably find some early success, he’s shown on multiple occasions that he can’t sustain the same pace as Poirier across 15, let alone 25 minutes. Eventually Poirier will turn up the heat to the point that Johnson is left merely defending, or even searching for a takedown of his own. If Johnson shoots at any point in this fight, Poirier will put his excellent front headlock series to use and add his third D’arce choke to his resume. Otherwise I expect this to become a very lopsided bout into the third, fourth and fifth rounds, with Poirier eventually getting his hand raised. Three of the last four UFC main events have seen a closely lined favorite (undervalued for a myriad of reasons) pull off the win, and this bout should continue the trend. At -155, Poirier is the side I’ll be looking at.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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