UFC 242 Breakdown: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier

UFC 242 Breakdown
Adam Hagy and Gary A. Vasquez for USA TODAY Sports
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We have an incredible card this weekend at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. Headlining the event will be a lightweight title fight between two of the very best fighters on planet earth, the No. 1 ranked interim champion Dustin Poirier and the undisputed, undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

This is about as high level of a matchup as we’ll ever get, both of these guys are so elite, but fight nothing like one another. Dustin Poirier has always been a serious talent ever since he debuted in the WEC against Danny Castillo. Where he really shined through and first stood out was when he upset Josh Grispi in his UFC debut, winning all three rounds against the one man who was supposed to fight then-champion Jose Aldo next.

After this, he would win his next three fights before losing to Chan Sung Jung, his only loss via submission.

After splitting his next two fights with a win over TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins and a unanimous decision loss to then peaking Cub Swanson, he’d win his next three, two of which were via knockout. “The Diamond” then fought Conor McGregor in McGregor’s first really high profile matchup and lost via knockout in round one. After this, Poirier went to lightweight and has gone 9-1 (1 NC) since.

After going 4-0 in his first four fights at 155 pounds, he got caught by Michael Johnson and finished via strikes. He has since gone 5-0 (1 NC). This includes wins over current and former champions like Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Max Holloway. Quite the impressive resume Poirier has, and now he’s got to fight perhaps the scariest lightweight the sport has ever seen, and perhaps the best MMA grappler the sport has ever seen as well.

Khabib Nurmagomedov made his UFC debut in 2012 and has gone 11-0 since, capturing the UFC lightweight championship and defending it in his last two fights. After winning his first three UFC fights, he then broke a record for most takedowns in a single UFC fight against four-time NAIA All-American Abel Trujillo.

He almost ended the fight via triangle choke, but the bell at the end of round one saved Trujillo, and Nurmagomedov was able to break this record considering. Nurmagomedov took Trujillo down a total of 21 times out of 27 attempts, which is 78% accuracy, but that’s not the most impressive part.

The most impressive part of that is that the record was previously 15, which was recorded in a five-round fight, and Sean Sherk is the man that set the mark. If anyone remembers, “The Muscle Shark” was a stud wrestler in his own right; he had two extra rounds to do it and got six fewer takedowns. If that doesn’t show you what Nurmagomedov is capable of then nothing will.

Trujillo isn’t one of the elites at lightweight, but he is a good fighter, a dangerous fighter, and a great wrestler with way more credentials than listed above.

Nurmagomedov would then maul both Pat Healy and Rafael dos Anjos before being out for exactly two years due to injuries. He was supposed to fight Tony Ferguson in his return, but Ferguson was forced out with an injury and was replaced by Darrell Horcher, who Nurmagomedov out-grappled easily to a second-round TKO victory.

“The Eagle” then returned later that year to fight Michael Johnson, and had his best performance to date, before being out another 13-and-a-half months due to weight cutting issues.

His last fight before challenging for the title was against this weekend’s co-main event A-Side, Edson Barboza, a fight he dominated. The Tony Ferguson matchup was then made again for the fourth time for the vacant UFC lightweight championship, but Ferguson fell out with a leg injury. After thinking he was going to fight Max Holloway all week leading up to UFC 223, he then had to fight Al Iaquinta instead, a fight he won all five rounds of.

After winning the belt he, of course, fought “The Notorious” Conor McGregor at UFC 229, and also dominated that fight. He’s been out since then due to suspension, but he’s now back against the interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier, his most dangerous opponent to date. If there’s anyone “The Eagle” has ever fought that has the best chance of changing his record for the worse, Poirier has the best chance thus far by far.

Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5) 1 NC

Both of these guys are at the pinnacle of the sport right now, and rightfully so. There’s one fight we could refer to when predicting this one, and that’s Nurmagomedov’s fight with Al Iaquinta, though it may not have 100% relevance given the fact that was a 24-hour notice fight. However, Poirier has never fought anyone like Nurmagomedov, but Nurmagomedov fought Iaquinta, who fights similar to “The Diamond”.

They both are primarily boxers that mix in some decent kicks, but Poirier’s better on the ground than Iaquinta; his footwork is a little different, and he also hits much harder. Aside from that, they’re quite similar. “The Eagle” and “The Diamond” have two common opponents, Michael Johnson, and Conor McGregor, and funnily enough, both knocked Poirier out in a combined 3:21. That’s not to say Nurmagomedov definitely has this fight won, because MMA math doesn’t work and Nurmagomedov doesn’t win fights in that manner.

The only time we’ve ever seen Nurmagomedov have problems of any sort was against Gleison Tibau in his second UFC fight. He attempted 13 takedowns against the 15-fight, six-year UFC veteran and scored zero, but what people don’t realize is that this was not only Nurmagomedov’s second fight in the UFC, but also only his second fight ever in a cage, his first 16 were in a ring. He also still won that fight 30-27 on all three judges scorecards.

One interesting thing to think of, Poirier hasn’t ever lost how Nurmagomedov wins, and Nurmagomedov hasn’t lost ever, something’s got to give in this fight.

How do you see this fight going between these two 30-year-old assassins?

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