It’s been over five years, but the UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates with an exciting card headlined by a Lightweight Championship fight. After a nine-month suspension, the undefeated Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is back to make his second title defense against Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov has not fought since defeating Conor McGregor in October of 2018. Meanwhile, Poirier most recently defeated Feathweight Champion Max Holloway to become the Interim Lightweight Champion, earning him the date with Khabib Nurmagomedov.
UFC 242 Main Card On ESPN+ PPV (2 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier – While I have Nurmagomedov winning, there are a lot of concerns I have. Arguably, Poirier is the most well rounded fighter that Nurmagomedov has faced. He’s a legit striker with heavy hands and can put on a pace that eventually breaks fighters. Credit that to his excellent cardio. It’s also notable that Poirier has been taken down only four times in his last fifteen fights. It’s a very impressive feat, but obviously none of those opponents have the wrestling of Nurmagomedov.
The other concern I have in this fight is in the later rounds, will Nurmagomedov have enough in the tank to keep Poirier down. If not, and with the sometimes iffy striking defense of Nurmagomedov, it could get real dicey down the stretch for the undefeated Lightweight Champion. However, with all that said, I can’t pick against the Eagle. The mans got the best wrestling and smothering style I’ve ever seen. In Nurmagomedov’s last eight fights in the UFC, he’s taken down his foes a combined 49 times. That number is highlighted by a ridiculous 21 takedowns against Abel Trujillo.
Anyways, the point I’m getting to, is that Nurmagomedov is going to take down Poirier. Will he be able to hold him down? I think yes, but Poirier is going to make him work for every takedown and second of top control. In the end, Nurmagomedov does enough early to aid him to a decision victory and becoming the undisputed Lightweight Champion.
155 lbs.: Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder – This is an excellent rematch and I believe that despite the damage Barboza has taken, he’s still a player in this division. Felder on the other hand is on quite a roll, and minus the Mike Perry brawl, he’s fought more strategically of late. While this fight is going definitely be a striking chest match, I’ve got to wonder when the crazy weight cut is going to catch up with Felder. He’s a massive man and while that aids him at Lightweight, at 35 years old, a few Barboza leg kicks to the body is going to zap him. In fact, I see Barboza tearing up the body and legs of Felder en route to a decision victory.
155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos – At some point Makhachev is going to get a top ten fight, but he’ll have to settle with a tough grappling wizard in Ramos. And I’d a been higher on the thought that Ramos could potentially submit Makhachev, but after his most recent fight against Austin Hubbard, I’m thinking otherwise. I feel like Makhachev’s wrestling is going to stifle the grappling edge of Ramos, ultimately winning via decision.
265 lbs.: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Curtis Blaydes – This is a great fight and while I’m siding with Blaydes, I could very well see Abdurakhimov winning this. However, Blaydes is younger, a better wrestler and a serviceable striker with some pop. I believe at some point he gets fight to the ground and wins this with his savage ground-and-pound via TKO.
155 lbs.: Diego Ferreira vs. Mairbek Taisumov – This is an excellent fight and I’ve been back-and-forth with my pick. Ultimately I’ve sided with Taisumov. I believe that Ferreira’s aggressive style, which is includes some wildness to it, is going to get him caught. Taisumov is a solid striker, who excels at countering foes. He’s got legit knockout power and is going to make Ferreira pay for his looping strikers. So with that, I have Taisumov winning via knockout.
UFC 242 ‘Prelims’ Undercard On FX (12 p.m. ET):
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee – Fun fight, but I’ve got Lee. I think Calderwood has all the talent in the world, but her inconsistencies fight to fight are hard to get by. Lee is on an absolute tear, winning seven in a row, three of which came in the UFC. She’s well rounded, highlighted by excellent kickboxing. As long as she can stay upright, which I believe she will, I see her outpointing Calderwood via decision.
145 lbs.: Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy – Tukhugov is probably most famous for being in the post-fight Conor McGregor melee, as well as being a stablemate of Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, he’s a really solid talent and this fight just seems like a welcome back warmup fight. So with that, I have Tukhugov winning via TKO.
135 lbs.: Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras – I’m not sure why Moras is an underdog here. She’s faced way tougher opponents and held her own. Moras has excellent grappling, which is going to lead her to an “upset” victory here. I’ll say via decision.
170 lbs.: Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalen – I’m surprised Packalen is still in the UFC, considering he’s seemingly used as a fodder in every fight. I’m going out on a limb and saying he gets sacrificed here. So with that, I have Azaitar winning via KO.
UFC 242 ‘Prelims’ Undercard On Fight Pass (10 a.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato – Ive got Muhammad taking this fight all day. Sato may have a punchers chance, but Muhammad is as durable and well rounded as they come. I expect him to utilize his wrestling and make light work of Sato, winning via decision.
170 lbs.: Muslim Salikhov vs. Nordine Taleb – This is a toss up, but I have Salikhov. I was high on him arriving to the UFC and despite a debut defeat, he bounced back with a solid knockout victory. Now, Taleb is very talented and strong for the division, but he’s also 38 and has been finished in his last two losses. Not to say he’s “chinny”, but durability is starting be questionable. So with that, I have Salikhov winning via KO.
185 lbs.: Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings – I swear, every time I pick against Cummings, he wins flawlessly. And while Akhmedov is underrated based on his consistency to flat out win, I’m going with Cummings to barely outpoint him. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Akhmedov win though, he’s very well rounded. However, I’m riding on the notion that Cummings is finally fighting healthy at his natural weight class. So with that, I have Cummings winning via decision.
155 lbs.: Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam – Madge looks to be a solid addition coming from the EFC. He’s a savage and fans are going to love him as he climbs the ranks. My prediction is that Madge runs right through Zia, winning via TKO.