Conor McGregor anticipated an early-round knockout.

But he probably didn’t envision himself dazed on the canvas midway through the second round of Saturday’s UFC 257 main event against Dustin Poirier, which he lost by TKO at 2:32 of the second round.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” McGregor said afterward, citing his relative inactivity since his most recent fight last January as one of the reasons for his defeat.

Poirier, who Saturday stepped into the octagon heavier, stronger, and more confident than his younger self, who six years ago was clipped and finished 106 seconds into his 2014 fight against McGregor, appeared unbothered.

He survived through the first round and began chipping away at McGregor’s legs. In the second round, he pointed to McGregor after swallowing a left from the southpaw, acknowledging the same hand that ended his night six years ago and inspired his jump to the lightweight division.

A minute later, Poirier circled away from the fence and forced McGregor against it with a swarm of left and right hooks. Moments after, he hammered McGregor’s face with a right hook that froze the Irishman before his body fell to the canvas, prompting referee Herb Dean to call the fight before Poirier could pounce.

“I’m happy man, but I’m not surprised. I put in the work,” Poirier said.

“The goal was to be technical and to pick my shots, not brawl at all.”

Poirier (27-6), the No. 2 lightweight contender, was considered an underdog to McGregor (22-5), the No. 4 contender. Poirier’s durability is well-respected but questions lingered about how he matched up against a fighter who has devastated opponents in hand-to-hand combat. He landed 48 significant strikes to McGregor’s 29.

His victory, perhaps most stunning in the way he overwhelmed McGregor, propels him back into lightweight title contention after he failed to unify the belt as an interim champion when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019.

Now, six years after McGregor forced Poirier to reassess, McGregor must regroup.

After earning his 11th lightweight victory since that loss in 2014 on Saturday, Poirier is again nearing the divisional summit. His path to the top will be shaped by a retired Nurmagomedov, whom UFC President Dana White described as unmoved by Saturday’s performance, which may suggest that he’ll vacate the belt.

“He said to me, ‘Dana be honest with yourself. I’m so many levels above these guys. I beat these guys.’ You know, I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound positive,” White said of Nurmagomedov’s return.

While Saturday’s fight may be viewed as a pseudo-semifinal, Poirier saw it as a showcase between the best active lightweight fighters — one made sweeter by avenging his past loss.

“I felt like this was a title fight,” he said. “If Khabib’s not coming back, me and Conor are the two best guys. I think this is a title fight. I’m the champion."

Review the rest of UFC 257 below.

5:51 a.m.
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Poirier stuns McGregor with second round TKO

By Glynn A. Hill

Dustin Poirier tags Conor McGregor, stunning him with a right hand by the fence before the fight was stopped at 2:32 in the second round.

5:42 a.m.
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Poirier duels McGregor in more competitive first round

By Glynn A. Hill

Dustin Poirier responded to a pressing Conor McGregor but failed to impact McGregor standing or on the ground.

5:27 a.m.
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Michael Chandler wins UFC debut

By Glynn A. Hill

Lightweight Michael Chandler’s (22-5) UFC debut proved brief but auspicious. He grounded Dan Hooker (20-10) with a left hook midway through the first round, then pummeled him with his right before the fight was called at 2:30. He proceeded to challenge fellow lightweight contenders, including retired division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and UFC 257 headliners Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, as his next opponent following the bout.

5:12 a.m.
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Muradov, Calderwood earn main card victories

By Glynn A. Hill

Makhmud Muradov (25-6) unleashed a mid-round flurry to earn a third-round victory over fellow middleweight Andrew Sanchez (12-6) in the second bout of the main card.

Joanne Calderwood (15-4) won by unanimous decision against Jessica Eye (15-9) in the ensuing flyweight bout.

4:57 a.m.
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UFC 257 has streaming issues, locking out even UFC fighters

By Glynn A. Hill

UFC president Dana White insisted he would target people who try to pirate Saturday’s UFC 257 stream, calling out an Instagram user at Thursday’s pre-fight news conference and declaring, “We got one.”

But when the five-fight main card began, even UFC athletes found themselves among many legal buyers locked out of the event, which streamed on pay-per-view via ESPN+.

Even NFL superstar J.J. Watt, he of a $100 million contract, wanted a refund.

The ESPN+ Help Twitter account fielded hundreds of complaints before it addressed the problem ahead of the co-main event between Michael Chandler and Dan Hooker.

4:45 a.m.
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Rodriguez defeats Ribas by second-round TKO

By Glynn A. Hill

Marina Rodriguez (13-1-2) defeated Amanda Ribas (10-2) by TKO 54 seconds into the second round of their strawweight bout in the opening fight of the UFC 257 main card.

4:13 a.m.
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Tsarukyan wins catchweight bout

By Glynn A. Hill

Lightweight Arman Tsarukyan won a unanimous victory over Matt Frevola for his third consecutive UFC victory Saturday.

Tsarukyan and Frevola’s fight came together at the last minute after Ottman Azaitar, Frevola’s scheduled opponent, was cut from the UFC following a health protocol violation Friday. Tsarukyan was available because his opponent, Nasrat Haqparast, was unable to compete because of illness.

After three rounds, the judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 in favor of Tsarukyan, who will forfeit 20 percent of his purse after exceeding the lightweight limit (155) by two pounds.

3:25 a.m.
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McGregor offers Poirier more than trash talk in their rematch

By Glynn A. Hill

Biting insults have been as much a part of Conor McGregor’s brand as his punishing left hand.

When he first fought Dustin Poirier in 2014, they traded barbs in the leadup and had to be separated by UFC president Dana White at their weigh-in.

At Thursday’s news conference ahead of their rematch Saturday, both fighters took a more composed approach, offering compliments.

Conor McGregor is even following through on his word to donate half a million dollars to Dustin Poirier’s charity.

When the matchup between McGregor (22-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) and Poirier (26-6 MMA, 18-5 UFC) materialized in late 2020, “The Notorious” McGregor said he would put forth a hefty sum to the Good Fight Foundation, a charity run by Poirier and his wife, Jolie.

In November, Poirier told MMA Junkie he expected McGregor, who he rematches in Saturday’s UFC 257 headliner, to follow through on his word and help him move toward his goal of building a gym to help underprivileged youth train combat sports.

2:14 a.m.
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Curious episode leads to UFC 257 shakeup

By Glynn A. Hill

UFC released undefeated fighter Ottman Azaitar on Friday, a day before the Moroccan’s lightweight bout against Matt Frevola. Now, Frevola will face Arman Tsarukyan after the latter’s scheduled opponent was unable to compete because of illness.

Azaitar (13-0) was removed for a “violation of the health and safety protocols” at the W Hotel in Abu Dhabi, UFC said in a statement. President Dana White elaborated in an interview with BT Sport, describing an unauthorized person identified by security.

“It’s pretty amazing, actually,” White said. “He and his team cut off their wristbands, gave them to somebody outside the bubble — I don’t know how they even did it. That guy taped them, showed up here with a bag, went into a room, shimmied across four balconies, went in [Azaitar’s] room, dropped the bag off, changed his clothes and then left.

“It’s just bad. He’s gone. He’s no longer a UFC fighter, and he’s not fighting tonight.”

UFC Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Epstein told ESPN last summer that the promotion’s “Fight Island” bubble would be “the tightest bubble that you could sort of ever produce.” Individuals are subjected to a 48-hour quarantine upon arrival at the hotel and are tested for the coronavirus multiple times.

“It’s a pretty unique situation on an island with incredible controls over who’s coming in and not letting people come back in once they’ve left,” he said.

The episode left Frevola (8-1-1) without an opponent or a bout until Nasrat Haqparast dropped out because of illness, leaving Tsarukyan (15-2) in a similar position; although UFC said Tsarukyan will forfeit 20 percent of his purse after exceeding the lightweight limit (155) by two pounds.

“It worked out,” White said. “I’m happy for both the guys that were able to get a fight.”

1:45 a.m.
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What’s at stake in Poirier-McGregor 2

By Glynn A. Hill

Conor McGregor insists the war isn’t over.

Ahead of his rematch with Dustin Poirier in the in the main event of UFC 257 in Abu Dhabi, the former lightweight champion has proclaimed that he’s in the best shape of his career. He predicted a first round knockout on Saturday, more than six years after he grazed Poirier with a left hand, finishing him 106 seconds into the fight.

McGregor isn’t overlooking Poirier, but he said his sights are set on a return to the top of the division — a pinnacle that could go through his nemesis Khabib Nurmagomedov — and a belt that won’t be at stake in Saturday’s lightweight bout.

Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following his second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje in his lightweight title defense in October. UFC president Dana White has since courted the current division champion in an effort to coax his return, which could feature a lucrative rematch.

While McGregor’s interactions with Poirier have been far more tame in the lead-up to their reacquaintance, McGregor has continued to push for another fight against Nurmagomedov throughout the buildup to UFC 257 as he looks to reestablish himself following a year-long layoff, a tumultuous 2019, and his failed title challenge against Nurmagomedov in 2018.

McGregor attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and other fighters in Brooklyn that year and was suspended for his role in a melee that followed their bout in UFC 229 that October. He escalated their feud in 2019, insulting Nurmagomedov’s wife.

In the UFC 257 pre-fight news conference Thursday, McGregor emphasized the necessity of a rematch while adding he’ll reassume the lightweight throne regardless of Nurmagomedov’s decision.

“It’s a tough business and things have gone on in his personal life. I don’t wish him any harm, like I said it was in 2018, a lot of time has passed.” McGregor said. “The world knows this fight is not over, this war is not over. The sport needs it to happen, the people need it to happen. I’m not gonna chase it if he doesn’t want it, you know what I mean? And that’s it. I’ll keep my calm and move on.”

White said Nurmagomedov told him that he might return to the octagon if he sees “something spectacular” Saturday night, otherwise he may vacate the lightweight belt (via ESPN). That something could come from either Poirier or McGregor, both of whom Nurmagomedov has defeated in recent years. It could also come from Michael Chandler or Dan Hooker, who will face each other in the UFC 257 co-main event. White also mentioned another lightweight, Charles Oliveira, who dominated Tony Ferguson in December.

Until then, McGregor’s battles continue outside the octagon.

He was sued in Ireland on Monday by a woman who accused him of raping her in a hotel penthouse in 2018, according to the New York Times, which has revealed multiple sexual assault allegations against him. It said Irish police and prosecutors declined to pursue criminal charges against McGregor, who at one point was arrested and questioned.

When asked about the lawsuit at the news conference, the question was met with faint boos from the crowd in attendance.

“You know, it’s old news. It was investigated thoroughly over the course of two long years, and I was cleared of any wrongdoing, and that’s it,” McGregor said. “I have so much positivity in my life, I’ve got a great challenge ahead of me on Saturday night and I’m very excited to get in.”

1:30 a.m.
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How to watch the fight

By Glynn A. Hill

When: Broadcast of main card (five fights) starts at 10 p.m., Eastern time.

Pay-per-view: The main card is available on ESPN+ and costs $69.99 for current subscribers, $89.98 for new subscribers (price includes an annual subscription to ESPN+).

Main card: Strawweights Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2) vs. Amanda Ribas (10-1); Middleweights Andrew Sanchez (12-5) vs. Makhmud Muradov (24-6); Flyweights Jessica Eye (15-8) vs. Joanne Calderwood (14-4); Lightweights Michael Chandler (21-5) vs. Dan Hooker (20-9); Lightweights Conor McGregor (22-4) vs. Dustin Poirier (26-6).

1:15 a.m.
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Dustin Poirier has changed his body — and life — in the six years since his loss to Conor McGregor

By Glynn A. Hill

Six years ago, Dustin Poirier couldn’t finish his fight with Conor McGregor. He couldn’t even finish the first round before the Irishman grazed him with his left hand and was declared the winner 106 seconds into the fight, handing Poirier his first defeat by TKO.

The loss inspired maturation in Poirier, who has said he became more grounded and more composed. The birth of his daughter in 2016 helped him prioritize what’s important.

Losing to McGregor also inspired a physical change, compelling Poirier to jump from featherweight to lightweight, where the maximum weight increased from 145 to 155 pounds, enabling him to shed and maintain mass more comfortably.

Entering Saturday’s rematch, Poirier has won five of his last six contests, highlighted by a fourth-round knockout of Justin Gaethje and an interim lightweight title victory over Max Holloway. He suffered his only loss of that stretch when he failed to unify the title against an undefeated Nurmagomedov in 2019.