UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier Preview
A preview of Saturday’s UFC 242 card, set to take place in Abu Dhabi.
Updated: Sept. 5, 2019 • 8:35 PM ET
Khabib Nurmagomedov will attempt to take down another opponent this weekend.
The UFC lightweight title will be on the line in the main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi this Saturday, as undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will face interim champion Dustin Poirier to decide who will be the undisputed champion of the world.
Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought since October 2018 when he defeated Conor McGregor by fourth-round submission, silencing his critics. Unfortunately for Nurmagomedov, he had to serve a nine-month suspension handed out by NSAC because of a brawl he started in and out of the cage after the fight when he jumped out of the Octagon and attacked McGregor teammate Dillon Danis. Nurmagomedov has served the suspension and paid a $500,000 fine, while McGregor hasn’t fought since.
The 30-year-old Nurmagomedov (27-0, 11-0 in the UFC) has beaten some of the best lightweights in the world. Including McGregor, he has victories over Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza and Al Iaquinta. While he has been linked to super fights and changing weight classes in an attempt at becoming a double-champion, Nurmagomedov seems comfortable crafting his legacy as lightweight.
“I think if you want to improve your legacy by changing weight classes, I don’t think this is help for you,” Nurmagomedov recently said win a conference call. “Only one thing helps for you. You have to beat tough opponents.
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“What about when you beat tough opponents and you’re still undefeated more than 11 years. I think this can improve your legacy…My opinion, winning undefeated a long time and when you never lose, this one is real thing. This is my opinion. It doesn’t matter what people think. It doesn’t matter what they want. When you go to the cage again, again, again, you win, win, win, win, they have to talk about this guy is best. I don’t focus on welterweight or featherweight. My focus is on the lightweight division. I’m a real lightweight, and my fight is going to be in the lightweight division. I don’t want to change any weight classes. I want to focus on my weight division.”
Nurmagomedov knows he’ll have the crowd on his side in Abu Dhabi.
"All the time when I fight in UFC, I didn't have almost 100 percent support in stadium," Nurmagomedov said. "But right now, I think I'm going to feel this because I feel this is my area. This is not Dustin Poirier's area.
“These people don't come to watch fight because of Dustin. These people come because of me. That's why I feel I'm going to have big, big support from my friends here in Middle East. A lot of people are going to come from [former] USSR countries, Russia, from Dagestan, from the Arabic countries. A lot of people are going to come support me and thank you so much for them."
Poirier (25-5-1) is coming off one of the most impressive wins of his career after a back-and-forth battle with featherweight champion Max Holloway for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 236 in April. He won the fight via unanimous decision and it marked the second victory of his career over Holloway, who is considered by many to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
The 30-year-old Poirier is 9-1-1 since moving up to lightweight and has looked like a different fighter. He fought at lightweight before entering the UFC, but made his debut at featherweight. Today, he’s more durable, doesn’t get tired and his striking has been unmatched by his opponents at 155 pounds thus far.
”I got an opportunity to make history, do something that’s never been done and I’m embracing that,” Poirier said via MMA Junkie. “They’re building an arena in Abu Dhabi for this event. This is historic.
“I’m just excited that I put myself in this position and that I have an opportunity to show the world how great I am on the biggest scale possible and unify these belts. Make history — this is what this is about.”
During his current four-fight winning streak on the way to the interim title, Poirier has victories over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Holloway, and he’s confident that he can be the first to defeat Nurmagomedov.
“I feel like I can submit Khabib, but feel like I’m going to stop him,” Poirier said. “I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I’m going to either knock him out or I’m going to submit him. I’m going to finish Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Poirier knows the strengths of his opponent and has been building a game plan to counter Nurmagomedov’s abilities.
“I’m not going in there worried about his takedowns so much,” Poirier said. “I need to hurt this guy. That’s a huge part of my training camp, putting myself in good position to win the rounds and win the fight, staying off the fence, getting up off the ground. But, at the same time, I need to do what I do.”
Saturday’s co-main event will also be in the lightweight division, a rematch between No. 7 Edson Barboza and No. 10 Paul Felder. Barboza is 1-3 in his last four fights and will try to rebound from a first-round knockout loss to Gaethje in March. The other two losses came to Nurmagomedov and lightweight contender Kevin Lee.
The 33-year-old Barboza is one of the most dangerous and diverse strikers in the UFC; and including already having a win over Felder, the Brazilian has wins over Dan Hooker, Beneil Dariush, Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, Bobby Green and Terry Etim. He has won Performance of the Night (Beneil Dariush), Knockout of the Night (Terry Etim) and several Fight of the Night bonuses during his career.
Coming off of a unanimous decision victory over James Vick in February, Felder is 6-2 in his last eight fights. He believes another fight with Barboza means a great display of martial arts for the fans.
“This is about martial arts for me,” Felder said Wednesday at UFC 242 open workouts. “This is why I live this lifestyle. This is why I do what I do.
“It’s not because I like to hurt or be mean to other people, it’s because I love competition and I love living the warrior way and that’s how Edson is. And I promise you, that’s exactly what we’re going to put on display on Saturday night for all of you guys is a war of martial arts and integrity.”
Felder has thought about avenging the defeat to Barboza ever since it happened.
“I just want to get this one back so bad,” Felder said. “Four years ago, I lost a decision to Edson. I was young, I was green. It was only my third UFC fight. This is my thirteenth, so I think it’s time to show these guys what I’m really made of.”
Felder could inch closer to the top 5 of the rankings with a win and land a high-profile fight that could put him in the title conversation. Including Vick, he has notable victories over Charles Oliveira, Stevie Ray and Josh Burkman in his career.
The rest of the main card
Lightweight bout - No. 15 Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Heavyweight bout - No. 4 Curtis Blaydes vs. No. 9 Shamil Abdurakhimov
Lightweight bout - Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira
Women's flyweight bout - No. 5 Joanne Calderwood vs. No. 6 Andrea Lee
Featherweight bout - Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
Women's bantamweight bout - Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras
Lightweight bout - Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalén
UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims
Welterweight bout - Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
Welterweight bout - Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov
Middleweight bout - Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings
Lightweight bout - Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam