Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight kings Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier will clash TODAY (Sat., Sept. 7, 2019) at UFC 242 from inside The Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Since first stepping into the Octagon, Nurmagomedov has been straightforward about his goals in the promotion: smash everyone, capture the belt, and earn status as an all-time great. He’s arguably already accomplished all three tasks, but the final goal requires a few more big wins and title defenses before the debate is closed. On the other hand, Poirier has faced tough losses as he grew up inside the Octagon, but he’s a better fighter for them. The 30-year-old knockout artist is on a ridiculous hot streak, having smashed seriously elite fighters in each of his last four contests to earn his interim title.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Conor McGregor (UFC 229), Rafael dos Anjos (UFC on FOX 11), Edson Barboza (UFC 219), Michael Johnson (UFC 205), Al Iaquinta (UFC 223)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: The sport’s premiere Sambo specialist is a relatively simple fighter. Nurmagomedov is going to attempt to latch onto a leg or body lock, transition until his foe is on the mat, and dominate from there. He does so in every fight, but the only question that really matters is if his opponent can stop it?
Given Nurmagomedov’s consistent — and successful — approach to fighting, he’s a difficult man to write strategy for. His only real strategy is to wrestle his opponent to dust, but it also works every time, so why change things up?
If there’s one aspect for Nurmagomedov to focus on, it’s timing his takedown. In general, the Dagestani athlete is willing to take a bad shot and wrestle his way into good position. However, that’s a really exhausting strategy, and Poirier is likely going to try and get Nurmagomedov tired. As such, it’s in “The Eagle’s” best interest to really try to find his timing before taking those early shots.
Record: 25-5 (1)
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 236), Justin Gaethje (UFC on FOX 29), Eddie Alvarez (UFC on FOX 30), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 120), Joseph Duffy (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Conor McGregor (UFC 178), Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 94), Cub Swanson (UFC on FUEL TV 7), Chan Sung Jung (UFC on FUEL TV 3)
Keys to Victory: Poirier is one of the hardest hitters in the division. Just as importantly, he’s developed into a smart combination boxer, and the Louisiana-native has plenty of experience in both wrestling and jiu-jitsu as well.
In my opinion, there is a clear strategy that must be employed to defeat Nurmagomedov, and it revolves around cardio and pace. Luckily, my gig as Midnight Mania host requires me to stalk Dustin Poirier and American Top Team’s respective Instagram accounts, and it seems to me that they have drawn similar conclusions.
Nurmagomedov is consistent in his approach. He wrestles hard, builds a lead, takes a break, then wrestles again. That break is the main exploitable weakness he has shown — what happens if Nurmagomedov is not given his break? What happens if, in the third or fourth round, Poirier presses a tired Nurmagomedov while the Dagestani wrestler is unable to explode into a takedown attempt?
Poirier can press foes like few others — he tends to knock very tough men out when able to fire off combinations. At some point, Nurmagomedov will look to rest, and Poirier will look to attack. Just how effective Poirier’s flurry will be shall be determined by his overall conditioning, how much he was able to force Nurmagomedov to work early on, and how much damage he absorbed while Nurmagomedov was in top position.
That moment will be very, very interesting.
Bottom Line: It’s a title unification match between two of Lightweight’s three remaining kings.
Much of Nurmagomedov’s talk is about legacy, so it’s difficult not to frame the consequences of this bout around such thoughts. What does a win here do for Nurmagomedov? It’s another great title defense, an excellent name to add to his resume. Poirier has been beaten before, sure, but the current version of “The Diamond” is an absolute killer and definite champion-slayer.
Turning him away is a big deal.
Of course, this has the potential to be an ever larger moment for Dustin Poirier. Throughout his current tear, he’s largely been overlooked, and a trend which continues here. I’ll put in simply: no Lightweight on the planet in any way deserves to be a 5-1 favorite over Dustin Poirier given just how well he’s performed recently. If Poirier does manage to accomplish the monumental task that is defeating Khabib Nurmagomedov, it will be all the more sweet because most are looking past him.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 242 fight card right HERE, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
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At UFC 242, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier will compete to unify the Lightweight titles. Which man will leave the cage strapped with gold?