UFC 242 takes us to Abu Dhabi for a monumental showdown between two champions. If you thought the main event of UFC 241 was insane, then wait till you see the fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier.
So let’s dive into the main event. On one side, we have the undefeated lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and on the other side, we have the interim lightweight champion, Dustin Poirier. On one corner, we have arguably the best grappler in UFC, and on the other corner, we have a striker who has been into wars many times in his UFC career. However, calling this a wrestler vs striker matchup would be unfair since Khabib’s striking is highly underrated and Dustin is no easy task on the ground. So let’s look at both the fighters in the fight.
Every time we talk about Khabib Nurmagomedov, the first thing that comes to the table is his grappling and rightfully so. Khabib doesn’t win rounds with his grappling. He breaks fighters inside the octagon. In the early part of his UFC career, Khabib will shoot for a single leg, take his opponent down, get him up against the fence with his legs trapped. And out of nowhere, the opponent is in a whole new world of hurt. With unstoppable wrestling, Khabib also has a vicious ground and pound and submission game to compliment the wrestling.
However, Khabib is not an expert when it comes to striking. His striking is rudimentary yet very effective when combined with his wrestling. Agreed, Khabib’s chin will be in the air to hit during the fight. But his opponents think twice before committing to a strike since Khabib might shoot for a takedown. The last place where you want to be is on the ground with Khabib. Khabib stood and trade punches with the best striker in the UFC, Conor McGregor and dropped him down. Hence it’s undeniable that Khabib can strike if he wants to. He has done that in the last 3 rounds against Al Iaquinta. However, can he do that against Dustin Poirier?
Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gathje, Max Hollaway, Anthony Pettis. These are the MMA champions against whom Dustin Poirier went to war and knocked them out. To answer the question of whether Dustin can knock Khabib out If Poirier can knock Justin Gathje out then he can do the same to Khabib as well.
Dustin Poirier is one of the most powerful strikers in the division. And he got incredible boxing skills. He went toe to toe with the best boxer in UFC, Max Hollaway and won. He can implement leg kicks and knees which can be lethal against Khabib. The knock out of Eddie Alvarez started with a vicious knee. And the same knee busted Hollaway’s head which changed the complexion of the fight entirely. This gives Nurmagomedov something to think about while shooting for the legs.
That apart, Dustin has a solid ground game. He may not look for a takedown against Khabib, but he can defend some of Khabib’s takedown and even if the fight goes to the ground Poirier is not uncomfortable there.
So how would the fight go between these two?
When you are in a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, you will be taken down sooner or later. However, Poirier has shown in the past that he can defend himself on the ground. In the rematch with Alvarez, Dustin was on the ground twice. What we can observe from that is Dustin stayed calm and he tried to control Eddie’s wrist to stop the ground and pound from Eddie. So Poirier will be comfortable if the fight goes to the ground.
However, it’s another level of grappling when Khabib lays on top of his opponents. Khabib hurts them with powerful strikes from the top until he gets the submission. I can see Nurmagomedov winning points on judges’ cards if the fight goes to ground. However, Poirier can defend himself in the ground for a meaningful period of the fight for sure.
Coming to the striking department the fight starts on the feet. That’s where Poirier will have more success. Poirier likes to stay in the pocket and box. Both Nurmagomedov and Poirier put forward pressure on their opponents. However, Khabib hasn’t faced an opponent who has put pressure on him and had him backed up against the fence. and Dustin is very capable of doing that.
Also, we have observed Khabib trading punches with his opponents a lot. In his fight against Al, Khabib had more success in striking than Al did. However, Al never capitalized on the openings he had because of the fear of being taken down. And the power difference between Al and Dustin is huge. if Dustin connects then Khabib might be in trouble. Also when Poirier sees an opening he comes in all guns blazing. His knock out against Gathje and Alvarez indicates the same. So we can expect Poirier to have more success than Khabib on the ground.
The result will depend on how both the fighters react to situations that they have never been in before. Poirier has never been in the cage with a grappler like Khabib and Khabib has never fought a powerful skilled boxer like Poirier. So it will all come down to how does Poirier react when he is on the ground with Khabib? Can he stay calm and implement his gameplan?
And how is Khabib going to react when Poirier’s punches hurt him? Can he get the fight to the ground again after he is hurt?
The championship rounds:
The Russian has an insane pace. He can maintain that for five rounds too. However, in the Al Iaquinta fight, he couldn’t take down Al as easily as he did in the earlier rounds. Instead, he traded punches with Al. That can be a big mistake against Poirier’s. It’s safe to say that Poirier can knock Nurmagomedov out in the later rounds. He did the same to Gathje. Even if Poirier gassed out a little bit against Holloway, he was still hurting Max with some serious power.
UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier Prediction
Dustin Poirier is the toughest matchup for Khabib Nurmagomedov yet. And the same can be said for Poirier too. Even if Khabib is the favorite by the oddsmakers going into the fight, I see Dustin getting the job done in UFC 242.
Winner– Dustin Poirier gets the job done in championship rounds.