This past weekend (Sat. September 7, 2019) at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, we had a great morning and afternoon of fights that showcased all sorts of talent. The event featured 13 fights, seven of which went to decision with one of those being a draw, four knockouts, and two submissions.
The show was headlined by undefeated and undisputed UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov and now former interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier. This fight saw Nurmagomedov literally run right through the No. 1 ranked lightweight, as he scored seven of the attempted eight takedowns and landed 54 of his 77 total strikes.
We at LowKickMMA have compiled a list of five fights to make after their showings. Where do the winners go from here? Where do the losers go from here? Continue reading to see our five matchups:
Curtis Blaydes (12-2) 1 NC vs. Junior dos Santos (21-6)
Curtis Blaydes had a vintage trademark performance last night, as he cruised his way to a TKO victory after absolutely mauling Shamil Abdurakhimov, what a dominant showing that was. His performance over Abdurakhimov may have been just as dominant as Nurmagomedov’s win over Poirier was.
Blaydes has got to be one of the very best wrestlers in this entire sport, and that’s really something considering the highest level of wrestling he ever competed in was NJCAA. His ground and pound is quite vicious as well. “Razor” is going to continue to give the majority of heavyweights fits, maybe all of them at some point. At 28-years-old, pretty much growing up and evolving in the UFC, and coming from a wrestling background, he’s going to be even more of a problem than he is now in the coming years.
A fight with Junior dos Santos makes sense strictly because dos Santos is the only guy above him that makes sense. Blaydes lost to Francis Ngannou twice, Daniel Cormier is about to retire and will probably get an immediate rematch against the champion Stipe Miocic in his last one. Those are the only guys in front of him. Derrick Lewis is right behind him, but has lost his last two, rather than dos Santos’ last one, “Razor” versus “Cigano” is the fight to make.
Islam Makhachev (18-1) vs. Gregor Gillespie (13-0)
We’ve gotten to see Islam Makhachev fight two stud grapplers in a row now. One of which was against the debuting Arman Tsarukyan in April, and the other of which was on Saturday against Davi Ramos. Many people say Gregor Gillespie is the one to dethrone Nurmagomedov because of how good he is at wrestling, but there’s one problem, he simply isn’t in the position to get that fight. However, a fight with ‘Mini Khabib’ makes perfect sense.
Makhachev is about as elite as they get, he’s like a 27-year-old version of the champion. His grappling is some of the best in the sport, and his striking is quite technical as well. The way these Dagestani fighters do such a stellar job of mixing freestyle wrestling, Greco-roman wrestling, BJJ, and judo to make the perfect MMA grappling style is a beautiful thing to observe, especially the ones trained by Khabib’s father.
This is the perfect fight to see where each should go from here, and it’s the perfect fight that if it happens, it’d be easier to gauge and predict how a fight with Nurmagomedov would go for Gillespie. This could also get Gillespie into the top 15, which is something we’ve all talked about for some time now. What will come out on top? An NCAA Division I Freestyle Wrestling National Champion or a World Combat Sambo gold medalist?
Paul Felder (17-4) vs. Al Iaquinta (14-5-1)/Dan Hooker (19-8) winner
Paul Felder looked good in his rematch with Edson Barboza, and like their first fight, it was incredibly close. This one may have even been closer than the first fight. Though the scoring was atrocious, there really wasn’t much of a way to mess this one up, because either could’ve gotten the nod without much controversy.
Felder has been scheduled to fight Al Iaquinta twice at this point. Once when Felder fought Charles Oliveira, Iaquinta pulled out due to being unhappy with his contract. The other was when Iaquinta was scheduled to fight Felder, but instead fought Nurmagomedov on a day’s notice for the title. Maybe the third time could be a charm for these two.
Now if Dan Hooker wins, himself versus Felder is a great fight too. Hooker comes from a kickboxing background, so that against Felder’s karate and taekwondo would be very fun to watch. Same with Iaquinta, though he comes from a wrestling background, he’s mostly a boxer that has a few good kicks he likes to use. Iaquinta is ranked above Felder, and with a win, Hooker will most likely be right next to him. Either of these fights make a great deal of sense and would be fun to watch.
Dustin Poirier (25-6) 1 NC vs. Conor McGregor (21-4) II
This would be a great rematch that everyone would love. Firstly, there aren’t too many options for Poirier right now as the division is. Most guys in the top ten are booked, one just fought but has lost four of his last five, and two of lightweight’s top ten are at welterweight now. That leaves us with Conor McGregor.
Many of us have wanted this rematch for a long time, especially since they’ve both been at 155 pounds. McGregor has stated that he’d like to make his return as well, and the next best guy aside from the champion and the No. 1 contender is Dustin Poirier. Of course, McGregor quickly knocked Poirier out in their first fight together, but a rematch may go quite differently.
McGregor’s precision and timing are impeccable, and that’s what got him the knockout win over Poirier in their first fight, but Poirier can take a much better shot at lightweight. He used to get hurt all the time at featherweight; Jonathan Brookins, Akira Corassani, and Diego Brandao all hurt him on the feet, only one of which is a guy that regularly knocks his opponents out, or even has high level striking for that matter. That doesn’t happen anymore, Poirier did get knocked out by Michael Johnson, but that fight is where he learned that he needs patience in order to be the best.
McGregor needs a fight, and he’s not going to fight anyone that isn’t ranked highly either. Tony Ferguson’s going to be booked, the champion’s going to be booked, the next best bet may be the winner of Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje. However, if Gaethje wins that fight, he should probably be next in line after Ferguson. Both McGregor and Poirier were climbing the featherweight rankings during their first fight, now they’re both at the very top of lightweight. How would this rematch go?
Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) vs. Tony Ferguson (25-3)
Is it time for this fight to come together yet or what? As everyone knows, these two have been scheduled to fight each other four times, of course, none of which did they actually make the walk to the cage opposite one another. Each pulled out twice, resulting in each of them taking a fight with a lesser opponent once, and each of them taking a fight with another fellow ranked opponent once. Nurmagomedov had to fight UFC newcomer Darrell Horcher because of this, and Tony Ferguson had to fight UFC newcomer Lando Vannata.
Also, Ferguson ended up fighting Edson Barboza after Nurmagomedov pulled out, and Nurmagomedov had to fight Al Iaquinta after Ferguson pulled out. At least all four times the healthy party was still able to fight, but four times these two have been scheduled to fight each other and it hasn’t happened. They were even scheduled to fight on the same night at UFC 229, and both made it to the fight with no issues, but if they’re fighting each other, it doesn’t seem to pan out. What bad luck they’ve had.
Hopefully, the fifth time’s a charm for this fight. Both are on a 12-fight win streak in MMA’s most stacked division, not even the UFC’s most stacked division, but the entirety of MMA. Each time these two end up not fighting each other, they both just keep continuing to win and this fight gets more and more important to make each time. The UFC has been trying to make this fight for four years, it’s time to see who really is the best lightweight in the world.