MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 242, a five-round title unification fight between UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and UFC interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier. The event takes place Saturday, September 7 at The Arena, Yas Island in United Arab Emirates.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (-450)
Nurmagomedov (27-0) is the UFC lightweight champion. The 30-year-old Russian is one of the few undefeated fighters left in the upper echelons of the sport, having not lost a single MMA fight since beginning his career in 2008. Since making his UFC debut in 2012, Nurmagomedov is a perfect 11-0 all while fighting some of the most elite fighters in the lightweight division. Nurmagomedov has defeated the likes of Conor McGregor, Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza, Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Johnson en route to winning the lightweight championship. He wins his fights by utilizing a dominant wrestling-heavy gameplan and controlling his opponents on the mat. Nurmagomedov is the top wrestler in the UFC lightweight division and has been able to get everyone he’s fought so far down to the mat. On the ground he has the submission skills and ground and pound ability to dominate his opponents. No one has come close to figuring out the Nurmagomedov puzzle yet, and now it’s up to Poirier to see if he’s the one who will be able to do so.
Dustin Poirier (+360)
Poirier (25-5, 1 NC) is the UFC interim lightweight champion. The 30-year-old American was once a top featherweight prospect in the WEC and had a solid run to his UFC career at 145lbs, but he eventually flamed out and moved up to lightweight. Since moving up to 155lbs, Poirier has looked incredible. He’s 9-1, 1 NC as a lightweight and is finally fulfilling the potential many thought he had earlier in his career. Since moving up in weight, Poirier has defeated the likes of Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Jim Miller. At lightweight he’s a much more durable fighter and that allows him to stand in the pocket and trade shots with his opponents which gives him a better shot of landing his powerful punches. He’s one of the top boxers in the lightweight division, if not the best, and has massive knockout power in his fists. He also has a solid submission game, great cardio and a will to win. Poirier has worked incredible hard for this opportunity to fight for the UFC lightweight title and now let’s see what he does with the opportunity. The promotion believed in him enough to give him an interim title fight against Holloway and he rewarded them with an incredible performance in winning that title. Now he’ll look to unify the belts and become the first man to defeat Nurmagomedov when the two meet in the main event of UFC 242.
Fight Breakdown: I absolutely love this matchup between the top wrestler in the UFC lightweight division in Nurmagomedov and the top boxer in Poirier. It’s a true clash of styles, and I’m excited to see how it plays out inside the Octagon. While I have been incredible impressed with Poirier’s improvements, I can’t go against Nurmagomedov here. He’s unbeaten for a reason, and betting against him is never a good idea. Nurmagomedov has managed to take down every opponent he’s fought and I don’t see Poirier being an exception to that rule. I expect Nurmagomedov to shoot for takedowns immediately and once he gets the fight to the mat he will be in the driver’s seat. Poirier will likely be tough to take down in the first round or two, but eventually Nurmagomedov’s relentless pressure will break him and he will start be able to get the takedowns easier. On the mat I expect it to be one-way dominance for Nurmagomedov, and for me the only question is whether or not Nurmagomedov finishes the fight. I tend to lean towards Nurmagomedov winning a decision as Poirier is very durable and tough to finish, but you can’t discount a late submission or ground and pound TKO finish. Either way, at the end of 25 minutes or less I believe Nurmagomedov will get his hand raised as he unified the UFC lightweight titles.
Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov wins by decision