by Chad Cooper
The UFC Lightweight title will be unified this weekend in Abu Dhabi as the undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov faces the interim champ, Dustin Poirier, at UFC 242. Main card, which can only be purchased at watched on ESPN+, begins at 1 p.m. CST. If you love wrestling, this is your card.
UFC Lightweight Championship
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (27-0) vs. Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (24-5, 1NC)
Khabib returns to the cage after serving a suspension for his post match brew-ha-ha with Conor McGregor last October. It’s been 27 up and 27 down for “The Eagle” who has dispensed them all.
Poirier, who was KO’d by Conor in the 1st Rd some 5 years ago, has grinded out four straight over some big names to win the Interim title back in April over Max Holloway.
Poirier’s only chance is to catch Khabib with a power punch, which he is fully capable of… But, Khabib is an animal who averages more than 5 takedowns per 15 minutes.
Classic wrestler vs. puncher. I’m going with the fighter who actually wrestled a bear when he was 9…
Odds: Khabib (-450), Poirier (+345)
PICK: Khabib KO/TKO Rd 4 (+430)
Co-Main Event (lightweight)
No. 7 Edson “Junior” Barboza (20-7) vs. No. 10 “The Irish Dragon” Paul Felder (16-4)
What the hell has happened to Edson Barboza?
Dude used to be the man and now has lost 3 of his last 4 to Khabib, Kevin Lee and Justin Gaethje.
Felder on the other hand has won 4 of his last 5. His only lost during that run was a welterweight debut against Mike Perry.
This is a rematch of a 2015 Barboza win that earned “Fight of the Night.” I expect another war here.
Odds: Barboza (-155), Felder (+130)
PICK: Barboza UD (+230)
Islam Makachev (17-1) vs. Davi Ramos (10-2)
Makachev is another wrestling machine who looks to make it six straight wins while Ramos has won four straight.
Unless I am missing something here, it’s Islam’s to lose.
Odds: Islam (-330), Ramos (+270)
PICK: Islam UD
No. 4 Curtis “Razor” Blaydes (11-2, 1 NC) vs. No. 9 Shamil “Abrek” Abdurakhimov (20-4)
Blaydes is a “heavy” favorite here, partially because his only 2 career losses have both come from Francis Ngannou.
Blaydes is a really good wrestler and really don’t see Abrek stuffing all those takedowns.
Odds: Blaydes (-500), Shamil (+350)
PICK: Blaydes KO/TKO Rd 2
Mairbek “Beckan” Taisumov (27-5) vs. Diego Ferreira (15-2)
Mairbek returns to the cage after a year layoff looking for his six straight win. He has a lot of pop in those hands as 62% of his wins come by way of KO/TKO.
If Diego wins, I think it will be by decision, yet I see this one ending before the final bell rings.
Odds: Mairbek (-270), Ferreira (+205)
PICK: Mairbek KO/TKO Rd 2
Prelims • 11 a.m. on FX
Joanne Calderwood (13-4) vs. Andrea Lee (11-2)
Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4) vs. Lerone Murphy (5-0)
Liana Jojua (7-2) vs. Sarah Moras (5-5)
Ottman Azaitar (11-0) vs. Teemu Packalen (8-2)
Early prelims • 9 a.m. on UFC Fight Pass
Belal Muhammad (15-3) vs. Takashi Sato (15-2)
Nordine Taleb (15-6) vs. Muslim Salikhov (14-2)
Omari Akhmedov (18-4-1) vs. Zak Cummings (23-6)
Don Madge (8-3-1) vs. Fares Ziam (10-2)