Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier
Khabib Nurmagomedov will step back into the Octagon for the first time since his title defence against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 and the post-fight brawl that led to the suspension of both fighters. He faces Dustin Poirier in what is being billed as a fight to ‘unify’ the UFC Lightweight Championship.
Dustin Poirier is on a five-fight win streak and if you look at the names he’s beaten in that time it’s clear that there’s no one else who should be fighting Khabib right now. In his last four fights Poirier has scored victories over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, former Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and Featherweight champ Max Holloway – all of them convincing wins and all within the space of 18 months.
In Khabib Nurmagomedov, however, he faces an opponent that has utterly dominated the Lightweight division for the last seven years and who has looked comfortable against every opponent he has faced. Despite Conor McGregor’s recent assertion that Khabib got lucky with the big overhand right that altered the course of their fight, the Dagestani champion never looked like losing from the moment the contest started. That can be said of most of his fights.
Dustin Poirier will know what to expect from his opponent come September 7th; the result of the fight just depends on whether he can counter it better than any of Khabib’s previous 27 opponents. The biggest surprise from Khabib’s last fight was how effective his striking was – lucky shot or not – so Poirier won’t be in too much of a hurry to engage.
The biggest opportunity for Poirier will be when Khabib shoots for a takedown, which he inevitably will. The timing of it just depends on how well Khabib fares on his feet, but Poirier is a decent counter-puncher, as he showed against Max Holloway, so will look to capitalise on his opponent’s relentless forward movement.
The fight changes when it goes to the ground. Poirier has a good ground game but Khabib is in a different league and will look to dominate his opponent on the mat. As with all of Khabib’s fights, it’s a case of when and not if he scores a takedown, and for Poirier it’s a case of if and how fast he can get back to his feet.
Edson Barboza v Paul Felder
Edson Barboza has had a tough time in the Octagon recently. While it would discredit him to say he’s the gatekeeper of the Lightweight division, he has been matched against top opponents in his last few fights and has come up short every time. First there was his loss to current Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, in which Barboza was beaten up for 25 minutes. Then just four months later he was mauled again by Kevin Lee, before being on the wrong end of Justin Gaethje’s fight-ending right hand in March this year.
Prior to that most recent KO, Barboza did score a victory over rising star Dan Hooker and left him with a concussion and a fractured orbital bone, showing how dangerous he still is. He will need every bit of the aggression he showed in that fight when he steps in to rematch Paul Felder at UFC 242.
In his first fight with Barboza and every other fight since, Felder has shown that he is as tough as they come and he has only been stopped once in his professional career. Like his opponent, he is a dangerous striker and three of his last four wins have come courtesy of some big elbows. He came out of his last fight against James Vick with a decision victory but also some serious injuries, but there’s no doubt he will throw everything into his fight against Barboza.
The toughness of both fighters will supersede their striking abilities and Felder is too canny to be caught by one of Barboza’s big wheel kicks, so expect this fight to go three full, entertaining rounds. Their first fight against each other in 2015 won Fight of the Night and it wouldn’t be surprising to see their rematch do the same.
Islam Makhachev v Davi Ramos
Islam Makhachev grew up with Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and has trained with him for many years, so it is not too surprising to know that he carries a similarly impressive mixed martial arts record into UFC 242. He is 17-1 in his professional career and his only loss came during his second appearance in the UFC, when he was knocked out by Adriano Martins.
Makhachev is set to fight Brazilian Davi Ramos, who has put together a four-fight winning streak and a pro record of 10-2. Ramos is a 3rd-degree Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt and ADCC grappling champion, so he presents an interesting counter to Makhachev’s sambo wrestling.
Curtis Blaydes v Shamil Abdurakhimov
Curtis Blaydes will win the UFC Heavyweight Championship one day. If it weren’t for Francis Ngannou – against whom he has suffered the only two losses of his career – he might have had his title shot already. Blaydes had a five-fight win streak reset by the big Cameroonian at UFC Fight Night in November 2018 but then bounced back into the win column with a comfortable decision victory over Justin Willis in March.
On Saturday Blaydes will face another accomplished wrestler. Shamil Abdurakhimov is a former Russian national wrestling champion but it is his striking that has made him stand out in his last few fights, as he has stopped two of his last three opponents by TKO. After beating former Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski by decision last year, Abdurakhimov said he wanted to face the division’s top fighters. In Curtis Blaydes he has got his wish.
On Blaydes’ part, this is a big test to get back on track towards a title fight and he goes in as the odds-on favourite at around 3/10. His opponent won’t be a pushover but it’s hard to see an area where Blaydes isn’t better, so he should walk away with the win.
Mairbeck Taisumov v Carlos Diego Ferreria
Mairbeck Taisumov is a UFC Fight Night veteran but despite putting together a six-fight win streak – five of which were knockouts – he has yet to be bumped to one of the organisation’s bigger cards. He isn’t the most active fighter, having fought only once a year since 2016 – some speculate that fighters avoid him rather than he avoids fighting – and he missed weight in his last outing, which won’t have gone down well with UFC President Dana White. But if Taisumov continues knocking people out and he can put together two or three fights in the next year, you might hear his name a bit more.
His opponent, Carlos Diego Ferreria, is the former Legacy FC Lightweight Champion and a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt. This is his fifth year in the UFC and like his opponent he has faced some top fighters but has struggled to crack the division’s top ten. He will have his work cut out against Taisumov’s formidable striking and will be looking to take the fight to the ground as soon and as often as possible.
Top Betting Tip for UFC 242
Despite the incredibly short odds on Khabib emerging victorious – he’s currently odds-on at 27/100 – this really could be the fight in which his unparalleled 27-0 winning streak comes to an end. Be bold and back Dustin Poirier to win at around 3/1 odds.