The UFC® is headed to Abu Dhabi for UFC 242 and bringing two of its biggest stars with it.
In the promotion's third event in the United Arab Emirates, UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to face Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier.
Here is everything you need to know before the main event of UFC 242.
Khabib Nurmagomedov's Previous Fight
In one of the most heated and controversial build ups in modern UFC history, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor finally faced off at UFC 229.
After two years away from The Octagon®, expectations were mixed for McGregor's return, especially against the undefeated Lightweight Champion.
The bout turned into a thrashing and was one of the slickest performances of Khabib's career against his highest profile opponent.
After being stuffed on his first takedown attempt, Khabib continued to apply pressure, grinding McGregor down on the cage and eventually bringing him to the mat. From there, the former Sambo champion went to work, suffocating McGregor round by round with continual pressure.
The shock of the fight came less than a minute into the second round, when Khabib clipped McGregor with a right hook that sent the Irishman tumbling backwards. While it didn't produce the knockout blow, the hook altered the course of the fight, forcing McGregor to take his opponent as seriously on his feet as he did on the ground.
The climax came in the fourth round when Khabib got a hold of McGregor's back and applied a tight neck crank that forced his opponent to submit.
But the action didn't stop there. A brawl ensued between both fighter's camps, resulting in Khabib flying out of the cage to confront McGregor's teammate Dillon Danis.
The penalty for the brawl was severe for both men, as McGregor was given a six-month ban and Khabib was handed a nine-month suspension.
Dustin Poirier's Last Fight
Dustin Poirier’s shining moment finally came in the main event of UFC 236 against Max Holloway.
Pitted against the reigning UFC Featherweight Champion, Poirier out-dueled the 145-pound king to win the Interim Lightweight Championship and get his first taste of gold inside The Octagon.
The bout was a standup war, as both men traded blows for 25 minutes. Poirier easily won the fight on the judge’s scorecard, taking at least four rounds according to each judge, but the fight was much closer than paper suggests. Holloway worked his coveted jab throughout the entire five rounds, tagging Poirier multiple times and making him look vulnerable at moments.
But Poirier still came out on top, utilizing his slick footwork and striking prowess to outscore Holloway and take the fight without question when left to the judges.
The victory was Poirier's fourth in a row and extended his undefeated streak to six fights. But most importantly -- it set up a date for him to fight Khabib for the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship.
Tale of the Tape
|Khabib Nurmagomedov||Dustin Poirier|
|FIGHTING OUT OF||San Jose, CA||Lafayette, LA|
|WEIGHT||155 lbs.||155 lbs.|
Stats that Matter
- Poirier boasts a 69-percent takedown defense
- Khabib attempts over five takedowns on average per 15 minutes
- Poirier lands an average of 5.59 significant strikes per minute
- Six of Khabib's 11 UFC wins have come by way of unanimous decision
What to Watch For
Pressure is the buzzword for this fight.
Khabib bests stifles his opponents by applying constant pressures that forces them to empty out their gas tank early. In the McGregor fight, Khabib was able to wear out the former Featherweight and Lightweight Champion within 10 minutes and completely take over.
So the question is: how long can Poirier withstand the pressure Khabib puts on him?
This fight won't be defined by the first takedown attempt, but rather the second and third. Even when the Russian is unsuccessful getting his opponent to the ground on the initial try, it doesn't discourage him from shooting again. This is why Khabib's improved standup game and distance management are so important to his continued development and dominance.
He can stand in the pocket with Poirier and make his opponent take his striking seriously, while also preparing for the inevitable takedown attempt through Khabib’s multiple level changes. While Poirier will bring the power in round one, Khabib's pressure on the ground and against the cage will make the Interim Champ exert his energy at a faster pace than normal, weakening his striking as the fight enters the championship rounds.
Poirier has bested accomplished wrestlers before (Eddie Alvarez most notably) but hasn't faced someone with the ruthless aggression that Khabib brings with his pressure. The Russian will get his opponent to the ground no matter how many attempts it takes. And once he has him down, the ground and pound onslaught begins.
Attend UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi with an Official Ticket Package
Don't miss the UFC's return to Abu Dhabi. Witness this event with the special Elite or Ultimate packages from the UFC VIP Experience. Packages include a reserved seat to the weigh-ins, hospitality suite access, meet-and-greets with UFC fighters and much more!