Khabib Nurmagomedov is back in the octagon this Saturday and for those of us in Africa, we don’t have to wake up in the wee hours to catch a UFC main event. The pay per view starts at 20:00 CAT.
UFC 242 on the 7th of September is headlined by the premier division in the promotion with four top Light heavyweight fighters squaring up. The one is a fight to unify the title and another is to be the first step toward a 2020 title challenge for the winner.
The fight in the desert will be the biggest light heavyweight fight I have ever seen.
Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier
The undisputed and undefeated champion’s current record stands at 27-0 which virtually unheard of in mixed martial arts. His last fight was a win in October 2018, nine months and a $500k fine later he is back. [insert image of Khabib choking Connor]
On Saturday, he faces the interim champion, whose record sits at 23-5-0-1NC and his last fight was a March 2019 decision win over Max Holloway.
The one thing the UFC has going for it is the presence of storied individuals on its roster and this fight brings together two men with some history behind them. The Eagle of Dagestan with his father who has never been ringside for any of his UFC bouts, so this is a first for him. How much will that motivate him? Then there is the Diamond, many aliases in the UFC are spot on. But Porier’s could actually be as accurate as they come, diamonds are made from intense pressure and that has defined Poirier.
Nurmagomedov v Poirier Breakdown
Poirier has a 2” reach advantage and loves to stand right in the pocket and go to work. He loves using his hooks and punches well out of the clinch. Poirier has the amazing hand speed which makes him a superb striker.
Nurmagomedov is a ground fighter who prevails by putting opponents under immense pressure. He comes in and steps on the opponent’s front foot. He may seem like a route one kind of fighter but his striking has improved since the Barbosa fight which makes him more dangerous. He now has the ability to make opponents doubt their plan as he can either go for takedowns or get a knockdown with his punches. This doubt was evident as the fight wore on versus McGregor as he found himself in doubt and pausing when Khabib and himself had time on their feet.
Poirier is good at damaging the lead leg, he loves to wear an opponent’s leg down so that the opponent keeps his distance. Allowing Poirier to utilize his reach well. As a fighter who likes to work on the lead leg first before landing punches, the punishment to the lead leg starts everything for him. If he is effective with this he easily dictates the pace of the fight.
Khabib’s superb wrestling is as effective as Francis Ngannou’s knock out power, it works every time. Khabib has taken his last eight opponents in the first round which is a UFC record. We have never seen such dominance on the ground. Khabib’s forward pressure when looking for a takedown is relentless, he glues to an opponent’s lead leg and isn’t afraid to take punches in order to complete the takedown.
Poirier is a calculated striker whose strikes are meant to knock one out or at the very least have you scared to step inside. Khabib is a calculated striker whose striking sets up the takedown.
The only way I see Poirier having his way with Khabib is if he can cut up Khabib early on. Khabib is a cerebral fighter and if he gets cut up by Poirier then maybe that can shake Khabib’s psyche. I have never seen Khabib bleed, how would he react to that? Poirier when facing wrestlers has protected his back well and he will be tested to the maximum by Khabib who Is the best wrestler in the world.
Khabib, in my opinion, won’t need to make any adjustments to his game. He thrives when putting one under pressure and putting his full body weight into whatever he does in the octagon. He will look to stifle Poirier but he must be wary when walking in and out of takedown.
So if you read my UFC 241 preview you would remember that I mentioned my go-to pointers in getting my pick, I either go with my eye test, gut, head or who I like.
Each has served me well to different degrees-:
So once again as I did in Cormier versus Miocic in finding my pick I have tapped into all four of my indicators, and once again I’m not 100% in the know about who will win the bout.
* Eye test – Khabib Nurmagomedov.
* Gut – Khabib Nurmagomedov.
* Head – Either one could actually win.
* Who I like – Both actually.
So I would put money on Khabib Nurmagomedov although it’s a tight one (and only because I’m sorta biased towards Tony Furgeson being the one to hand Khabib his first loss).
My picks for the other UFC 242’s main event
The light-heavyweight clash between Edson Barboza and Paul Felder is also an interesting clash which sees two strikers square up in the co-main event. Barboza 20-7 will be looking to etch his name as closer to being the title contender in 2020. He comes face to face with a man he once beat in Felder who has improved significantly since his loss to Barboza. Whoever wins this will be looking good to crack the top five. This will be Felder’s biggest fight and he will be hungry to grab a crucial win. Both men are in your face strikers with amazing highlight reels by any standard. I pick Felder to be the new face of Ireland in the UFC after the fight. Well, the other Irish is too busy selling good whisky and being a bad boy.
I’m counting down to UFC 242, but keeping my money in my pocket when it comes to the big one.