Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back to the pay-per-view (PPV) business today (Sat., Sept. 7, 2019) to stage UFC 242 from inside The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The event will be headlined by a Lightweight title unification match between division king, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and interim champion, Dustin Poirier. In the co-headlining act, Paul Felder and Edson Barboza will run it back in what is sure-to-be a thrilling 155-pound affair.
Since 2013, Nurmagomedov has only competed six times, which is a slow year for someone like Donald Cerrone. Still, despite his sparse activity during his UFC career, “The Eagle” is widely considered to be the most dominant Lightweight to have ever graced the Octagon, as going undefeated (27-0, 11-0 UFC), will do that to a fighter’s legacy. But, there are some who still don’t feel Nurmagomedov has faced all of the best UFC has to offer, which can be attributed to his time off in between fights. But the way Nurmagomedov dominated and defeated the foes he has faced, has convinced mostly everyone that “The Eagle” is really a G.O.A.T, and anything short of giving him that label is a crime.
Still, had Nurmagomedov faced and defeated the likes of the aforementioned Cerrone, Eddie Alvarez, Kevin Lee, Tony Ferguson, Anthony Pettis and Justin Gaethje instead of Darrell Horcher, Abel Trujillo, Pat Healy and Michael Johnson, then perhaps the naysayers wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Since 2017, though, Nurmagomedov’s level of UFC competition has improved, taking out the likes of Al Iaquinta, Edson Barboza and of course, Conor McGregor (full fight here). And I get it, Nurmagomedov was working his way up, but it just feels like he has been with the promotion for a long time and competed so many times, when he’s really just fought 11 times in seven years. Going back and reading this, it feels like I am anti-Khabib, which I am not! The man can fight, I just hope he sticks around for a few more years and takes on the Ferguson’s, Cerrone’s and the Gaethje’s of the world before he calls it a career.
Poirier is looking to stop Nurmagomedov’s title run before it picks up further steam. “The Diamond” has been on a tear as of late, beating most of the men I hope Nurmagomedov gets to face one day. He is on a five-fight win streak, and all he did was beat Jim Miller, Pettis, Gaethje, Alvarez (twice if you ask me) and even Featherweight king, Max Holloway. If you compare Nurmagomedov’s last five opponents to Poirier’s, it’s not even a close race when it comes to who had the tougher road up.
That said, Poirier’s UFC journey can reach a huge milestone if he can hand Nurmagomedov his first-ever defeat to become the unified champion. It’s an intriguing fight on all levels, as I give the striking edge to Poirier, while Nurmagomedov obviously has the edge in wrestling. If “The Eagle” can end “The Diamond’s” run dominantly, it will ease any doubt as to why he is the best, while Poirier can enter a whole new level of stardom with a victory Saturday afternoon.
The rest of UFC 242’s main card isn't worthy of a full price for a PPV event. It seems UFC is banking on Nurmagomedov’s star-power to carry the load by itself, because the PPV portion of the event could have used a couple more high-profile match ups. Perhaps Dana White and Co. are trying to see just how a big a star they have in Nurmagomedov, and whether or not he can sell without Conor McGregor standing across from him.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A bout between Khalid Taha and Bruno Gustavo Aparecido Da Silva was initially slated to go down at UFC 242, but UFC officials opted to change plans and shift it over to UFC 243 next month. UFC newcomer Fares Ziam stepped in to face Don Madge on short notice after Magomed Mustafaev was yanked from the fight for undisclosed reasons.
A fight between Adam Yandiev and Puna Soriano was canceled after the former was forced out of the fight with a knee injury just a few weeks ago. With no suitable replacement found, Puna was unable to fight at this event.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
The underbelly of this event will be headlined by a women’s Flyweight match up that will see Andrea Lee take on Joanne Calderwood, who at one time thought to be a future star in the promotion. However, she has been up and down thus far in her career, going 2-3 in her last five outings. Lee, meanwhile, is now where Calderwood was early on in her career, the difference is that “KGB” is consistent with her wins. Winner of seven in a row — three inside the Octagon — Lee can set herself up for a future title shot if she can take out “JoJo.” Lee has the whole “Cowboy” look going for her and she can scrap. She seems to have the overall package to be a big star for UFC, she just needs to take care of business against a seasoned veteran in Calderwood.
Zubaira Tukhugov was at risk of not ever getting the chance to fight inside the Octagon after he was involved in an ugly post-fight brawl at UFC 229 with Team McGregor. But, Dana White’s words didn’t come to fruition, as Tukhugov will face Lerone Murphy, an undefeated (8-0) UFC newcomer. Tukhugov will look to show UFC didn’t make a mistake by keeping him around, as he hopes to score a big win after having his nine-fight win streak snapped in his last outing.
Further down the line, a Welterweight fight between Nordine Taleb and Muslim Salikhov sounds like a banger of a fight. Both men have a good overall game and have had decent success. Taleb did stumble for a bit after losing two straight, but got back into his groove with a win over Kyle Prepolec earlier this year. Salikhov, meanwhile, is a whopping 12-1 over his last 13 fights, though he is just 1-1 in his UFC career. After stumbling out of the UFC gate against Alex Garcia, he got back in the win column by defeating Ricky Rainey.
Murphy will bring his undefeated mark (8-0) to the Octagon when he faces Tukhugov in his debut. It’s a tough draw for Murphy, as Tukhugov is a tough fighter who has won nine of his last 10 bouts. That said, it will be Tukhugov’s first fight in three years, so it will be interesting to see if ring rust plays a factor.
Ottman Azaitar is another undefeated combatant looking to keep his win streak going when he faces Teemu Packalen. Not much is known about Ottman, as he’s been fighting on the regional circuit in Abu Dhabi. Still, hitting the big stage in front of the hometown crowd is huge for him, and he looks to make a splash.
Liana Jojua has a tough draw in Sarah Moras for her UFC debut, but her confidence is sky high after winning five straight. With the nickname of “The Russian Ronda Rousey,” Jojua already has that added pressure on her coming into her UFC debut.
Also, Faras Ziam will look to collect his sixth straight win when he faces Don Madge in Lightweight action. While I’m sure Ziam would’ve liked more time to prepare for his UFC debut, when opportunity knocks, you must answer regardless of the short notice. Standing at 6’1,” Ziam will obviously look to use his size and reach advantage to get the “W” this afternoon against Madge, winner of five in a row.
To get a better look at all of the newcomers, click here to read Patrick L. Stumberg’s “New Blood” piece.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
While he isn’t at risk of being cut, Barboza needs to get back into the win column to prove that he is still a force to be reckoned with at 155 pounds. Over his last four outings, the electrifying striker is just 1-3, losing to the likes of Khabib, Kevin Lee and most recently getting knocked out by Justin Gaethje. Granted, those are three of the best in the business, but losing to them while dominating the likes of Dan Hooker is showing the combat world that he can’t win the big fights.
Barboza is still as exciting as it comes, and he does have a win over Paul Felder, but he needs to do it again if he wants to slip further down the pecking order. Felder, meanwhile, is 4-1 in his last five fights and would love nothing more than to get some revenge on the Brazilian. And he can do it, too. I wouldn't be too surprised if this fight steals the show, because when these two Lightweight strikers start swinging, sparks fly and knockouts usually happen.
Interest Level: 8/10
Look, the Lightweight title fight is going to be fire, as anytime Nurmagomedov and Poirier fight it’s entertaining as hell, which is the reason I gave it a fairly high score. But let’s not kid ourselves, the overall card isn’t that great. Sure, the co-headlining act between Felder and Barboza can steal the show, from there, though, the card isn’t what you would call must-see TV. The early start time might also hurt PPV sales. Curtis Blaydes was on the cusp of fighting for the Heavyweight title before he was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in the first round, ending his four-fight win streak. He did get back in the win column by defeating Justin Willis this past March, however. Now, he will look to make it two in a row when he faces Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Islam Makhachev will look to collect his sixth straight win under the UFC banner when he takes on Davi Ramos in 155-pound action. Ramos is the owner of a four-fight win streak and has made great strides in the last few years. The problem? He isn’t on anyone’s radar, though a win over Islam will help him get a few more eyeballs on him moving forward.
Mairbek Taisumov has won six in a row for UFC and has gone 6-1 thus far in his run with the promotion. Still, that doesn’t seem to be good enough for these voters to give him a Top 15 ranking. If he can take out Carlos Diego Ferreira — who is currently riding a four-fight win streak — that could put him over the top.
All these fighters are talented, but when UFC is trying to sell a PPV event — and not just tickets to a certain demographic in another country that includes presidents, princes and sheiks — this doesn’t get the job done. Early reports are saying that buys for the event are trending upward. If true, I assure you it has everything to do with the main event itself.
UFC 242 Full Fight Card:
UFC 242 Main Event:
155 lbs.: Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier
UFC 242 Main Card On ESPN+ PPV (2 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
265 lbs.: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Curtis Blaydes
155 lbs.: Diego Ferreira vs. Mairbek Taisumov
UFC 242 ‘Prelims’ Undercard On FX (12 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
145 lbs.: Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
135 lbs.: Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moraes
170 lbs.: Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalen
UFC 242 ‘Prelims’ Undercard On Fight Pass (10 a.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
170 lbs.: Muslim Salikhov vs. Nordine Taleb
185 lbs.: Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings
155 lbs.: Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam
*Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to change.
For more upcoming UFC events click here.