Former UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov believes that arch-rival and former-foe, Conor McGregor must dispatch common-opposition, Dustin Poirier in the opening round of their UFC 264 trilogy bout on July 10. — or he risks the latter taking over and eventually stopping him. 

Khabib, who vacated the undisputed lightweight championship back in March of this year following his retirement from professional mixed martial arts last October, has fought both McGregor and Poirier in the past — stopping the former with a fourth round neck crank in October 2018, and the latter via a second round rear-naked choke in September 2019. 

In less than two week’s time, McGregor and Poirier will headline UFC 264 from the T-Mobile Arena — in the promotion’s return to a live gate in Las Vegas, Nevada for the first time since February of last year. The victor of the pair’s lightweight rubber match is likely to challenge minted lightweight best, Charles Oliveira for the lightweight crown before the close of this year. 

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Speaking with UFCRussia ahead of the third bout between McGregor and Poirier, Khabib gave his prediction on the lightweight rubber match, claiming that he’d favour the Dubliner to score a finish in the opening round if the bout only lasted the opening five minutes, however, the longer the headliner plays out, Poirier would start to take over.

It’s the same thing as the previous fight (UFC 257),” Khabib said. “If It’s a first round finish, I’d back Conor (McGregor). From the second (round) and further, Dustin (Poirier) wins.

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Back in January on ‘Fight Island’ at UFC 257 — Poirier and McGregor rematched at lightweight, with the former handing McGregor his first professional knockout loss in mixed martial arts in the form of a second round stoppage. 

With the Dubliner or Louisiana native likely to challenge Oliveira for the championship before the close of 2021, Khabib has given his thoughts on the lightweight division, claiming that the run-in will be “fun“.

There are many fighters at the top of the rankings who haven’t won anything for a long time,” Khabib continued. “If Islam (Makhachev) wins in July (against Thiago Moises), he will have eight wins in a row and he will keep moving forward.

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There’s such a nice composition to the division, not only the Russians but also the Brazilian — (Charles) Oliveira or Rafael dos Anjos. The Americans are also well-represented in the division; Poirier, (Justin) Gaethje and (Michael) Chandler. it’s going to be fun; like the World War… the Russians, the Americans and the Brazilians. This division has always been interesting and difficult so it will be fun by the end of the year.

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Aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Follow along at @Ross_Markey on Twitter for all the latest news, fight announcements, opinion, and feature pieces.