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The best and worst from UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier

Khabib Nurmagomedov remains the UFC Lightweight title after choking out Dustin Poirier
Khabib Nurmagomedov remains the UFC Lightweight title after choking out Dustin Poirier

UFC 242 is done and dusted and when all was said and done, Khabib Nurmagomedov was simply too good for Dustin Poirier. The Eagle remains the undisputed UFC Lightweight champion after submitting Poirier with a third round rear naked choke, and after a so-so show overall, the fight between the 155lbers largely lived up to the hype.

Elsewhere, we got big wins for the likes of Curtis Blaydes, Islam Makhachev and Paul Felder, as well as some violent finishes – and some curious booking decisions from the UFC itself. Overall, you’d have to call the promotion’s trip to Abu Dhabi a success, but was it the best show of 2019 thus far? I don’t think so.

Here are the best and worst moments from UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier.

#1 Best: Khabib cements himself as the best

Can anyone stop Khabib Nurmagomedov?
Can anyone stop Khabib Nurmagomedov?

I wouldn’t go as far as to call him the greatest Lightweight in MMA history – for me he’s got a little more to do in terms of his title reign yet – but after tonight’s show there’s no denying that Khabib Nurmagomedov is clearly the best 155lber on the planet right now. It wasn’t a perfect performance from him but for the most part, the Dagestani grappling machine basically whitewashed Dustin Poirier en route to a third round submission win.

Poirier had his moments in the fight; he tagged Nurmagomedov with some heavy punches in the second round and had him on the back foot for a few moments, and also caught The Eagle in a pretty tight guillotine in the third round, but in the end Khabib’s grappling game was simply too strong and the rear naked choke finish felt like just a matter of time when you consider the amount of occasions that he was able to take Poirier’s back.

My feeling is that someone can beat Khabib if they can weather the storm and tire him out along the stretch remains, but whether that fighter is currently competing in the UFC is anyone’s guess. Hopefully the UFC can set up a fight with Tony Ferguson next; El Cucuy is a tremendous striker but he’s also one of the most dangerous men in the division from his back, which means he may not look as lost from there as Poirier did tonight.

Right now though, it’d be hard to make a case for anyone at 155lbs beating Khabib. He’s simply the best.

#1 Worst: What was the point in Blaydes vs. Abdurakhimov?

Curtis Blaydes had no problems in smashing Shamil Abdurakhimov
Curtis Blaydes had no problems in smashing Shamil Abdurakhimov

Okay, so as a long time fan of Curtis Blaydes, it was nice to see him pick up another TKO win here, as he took opponent Shamil Abdurakhimov down at will and smashed him to pieces with his punches and elbows, eventually stopping the Dagestani by literally breaking his nose with a brutal elbow. But as nice as it was to see Razor win, was there really any point in the fight?

Abdurakhimov was ranked at #9 in the UFC’s Heavyweight rankings coming in, 5 spots below Blaydes, and were this a rebound fight for the monstrous wrestler, it might’ve made sense. That wasn’t the case, though – Blaydes already had his rebound fight earlier in the year, crushing Justin Willis en route to a lopsided decision win.

More to the point, Blaydes has defeated better fighters than Abdurakhimov before – Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik immediately come to mind – and judging on his 2016 loss to Derrick Lewis, it was clear that with a poor bottom game, the Dagestani was always going to struggle with Blaydes from a stylistic point of view.

Quite why the UFC chose to make this match I’m not sure. I don’t think either man really gained a lot from it, even if Blaydes picked up a TKO win. Whether higher ranked fighters were dodging Blaydes or weren’t available I don’t know, but I’d like to see him matched higher next time around.

#2 Best: Azaitar’s brutal knockout

Ottman Azaitar scored one of the knockouts of the year over Teemu Packalen
Ottman Azaitar scored one of the knockouts of the year over Teemu Packalen

The main card of UFC 242 wasn’t exactly filled with highlight reel finishes; Curtis Blaydes’ TKO of Shamil Abdurakhimov was almost anticlimactic and while Khabib Nurmagomedov’s choke submission of Dustin Poirier was memorable, it wasn’t as brutal or stunning as his finish of Conor McGregor in 2018. The prelim fights, however, saw a contender for knockout of the year.

The fight between Teemu Packalen and newcomer Ottman Azaitar wasn’t garnering a lot of hype; unsurprising given the low profile of both men, despite Azaitar’s strong 11-0 record. That should change next time out though, as Bulldozer lived up to his nickname and picked up his 12th career win in seriously brutal fashion.

Packalen just didn’t seem to have enough speed to deal with the striking of Azaitar, who seemed content to wing heavy punches at his opponent’s head from the off. At just over 3 minutes into the first round, that gameplan paid off, as the Morrocan-German landed a huge right hand to the side of Packalen’s head and sent him crashing to the ground, instantly unconscious. To make matters even worse, Packalen’s legs were left twitching as if he were being electrocuted in a truly horrific scene.

Thankfully, Packalen was fine a few moments later, but this was still one of the most violent finishes in recent memory, and it’ll deservedly find itself on UFC highlight reels for years to come.

#2 Worst: Makhachev vs. Ramos turns out to be a damp squib

The fight between Islam Makhachev and Davi Ramos was somewhat disappointing
The fight between Islam Makhachev and Davi Ramos was somewhat disappointing

I was quite excited by the prospect of Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos as I felt like we’d see how Makhachev dealt with a really great grappler after largely using his own grappling skills to dominate his previous opponents. In hindsight, due to the styles and skillsets of both men, I probably should’ve guessed what we’d actually get – a slow striking battle with Makhachev doing just enough to edge a decision.

Essentially, both men are largely counter-based strikers; Makhachev was more aggressive in his earlier days but a KO loss to Adriano Martins seems to have changed that. And while Makhachev has tremendous wrestling, he clearly didn’t want to mess around with a fresh Ramos on the ground, and in turn, the Brazilian didn’t have the takedowns to ground the Dagestani.

It wasn’t the worst fight of 2019 by any means; both men worked hard and the third round got exciting once Makhachev hurt Ramos with a knee and came close to a finish, but realistically it was hard not to be disappointed by the fact that we never really got to see Makhachev test his grappling against an Abu Dhabi grappling champion. Unfortunately, we’re best to forget this one.

#3 Best: Felder vs. Barboza delivers the goods

Paul Felder's war with Edson Barboza was tremendous fun to watch
Paul Felder's war with Edson Barboza was tremendous fun to watch

The initial meeting between Paul Felder and Edson Barboza – which took place just over four years ago – delivered one of the better striking battles of 2015, and while tonight’s rematch might’ve featured a bit of a questionable decision, I felt that it was probably the best fight of the night, at least on the main pay-per-view portion of the card.

After three rounds of hard-hitting action, Felder was awarded a split decision, taking a 29-28 and 30-27 to a lone 27-30 scorecard for the Brazilian. Personally I had it 29-28 for Barboza, feeling he did enough to take the first two rounds, but it was definitely close – and the fact that Felder was cosmetically damaged badly by an accidental first round headbutt may have played a part in the thinking that Barboza deserved the win.

In the end, Felder was the slightly more active fighter but Barboza probably landed the harder shots, and realistically, we still don’t really know who the better fighter is. What we do know is that despite taking a ton of damage recently, Barboza can still take a shot, and despite becoming better known for his commentary lately, Felder is still tough as old leather.

The UFC could do a lot worse than simply matching these two up in a third encounter and giving them five rounds – as the main event of a Fight Night show – to settle the score once and for all. I’d definitely love to see it.

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Edited by Sai Krishna
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