Khabib defeats Poirier in UFC 242 to maintain his elite status

Vremya Sport | Wikimedia Commons

Vremya Sport | Wikimedia Commons

Ali Hussain

UFC 242, which was held in The Arena, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Sept. 7, saw Khabib Nurmagomedov, the undefeated UFC lightweight champion, return for a ninth title unification fight in UFC history against Dustin Poirier, the interim champion.

Nurmagomedov made headlines last year on Oct. 6 when, after winning his title defense fight against Conor McGregor, he jumped out of the octagon and on to Dillon Danis, McGregor’s protégé and one of his cornermen. 

That instance, provoked by what many see as a nasty rivalry between the two camps, resulted in the suspension of both Nurmagomedov and McGregor. On his part, Nurmagomedov was fined $500,000, which was a quarter of his purse that night, and was issued a suspension that has since been lifted. As such, UFC 242 was his first time back in octagon in almost a year.

In the meantime, Poirier had been steadily climbing the ranks of the UFC lightweight ladder. He has seen great improvements in his form, from learning how to appropriately use the shoulder roll and the jab for defense and leave an opening for possible counter-offense to playing in the pocket, which he can use on top of his natural power.

Using these techniques eventually lead him to defeat Max Holloway earlier this year to obtain the interim championship due to Nurmagomedov’s suspension. 

It was clear from the announcement of the fight that the decision would not be left to the judges. Either Nurmagomedov would be taken down by Poirier’s boxing or Poirier would tap to Nurmagomedov’s wrestling and ground game.

During the press release before fight, Nurmagomedov commended Poirier on his footwork and boxing and said that he would make Poirier tired and make him tap, to which Poirier responded, “I don’t get tired, buddy.”

The fight lasted until two minutes into the third round, when Nurmagomedov caught Poirier with a tight rear naked choke that forced him into submission.

This fight marks the least significant strikes Nurmagomedov landed with 22 and the second most takedowns with seven. 

With this, Nurmagomedov rises to second all-time in takedowns with 57. Meanwhile, Poirier made new records too, though not as admirable. This was the most times he has ever been taken down in a fight, as well as the least significant strikes, 12 to be exact, that he landed in a match that was longer than one round.

Poirier came close with a guillotine but, according to him in the post-match press conference, he failed to “go full guard so [Nurmagomedov] could not pull out and relieve the pressure.” Nurmagomedov said during the post-match press conference that the guillotine was part of his plan to tire him out because Poirier had put so much pressure on that aspect. 

UFC president Dana White said “[Poirier] had that thing deep” and that “most people would have tapped or gone to sleep,” which just goes to show how confident Nurmagomedov is in his wrestling.

Nurmagomedov now moves to 12-0 in the UFC, tying his lightweight counterpart Tony Ferguson, who is also on an active 12-game win streak. 

Nurmagedov is the seventh fighter ever to do so and the second ever to do it in his first 12 fights, the other being Anderson Silva. Nurmagomedov’s current 28-0 record now moves him past his fellow Russian icon Fedor Emelianenko’s 27-match undefeated streak from 2001 to 2009. 

Nurmagomedov dominated a man many thought would be his toughest matchup and staked his claim to both the lightweight “greatest of all time” title, as well as the top pound-for-pound fighter. 

In stark contrast to Nurmagomedov’s last fight, there was a great deal of respect for both parties. Post-fight, Nurmagomedov commended Poirier by saying that he “is one of the best in the world, not just champion of state or champion of country. He’s one of the best in the world.”

This was the first time Nurmagomedov’s father was one of his cornermen. Nurmagomedov said that when he “goes to the cage with [his] father, [he goes] to the cage with a lion [by his side.]”

The next fight for Nurmagomedov is certainly going to be against Ferguson, who he has had a long history with, having had four failed bookings, as well as being the one to strip Ferguson of his own interim championship last year after Ferguson pulled out due to an injury. 

Ferguson called Nurmagomedov’s performance “boring, lazy” and hopes to bring the fight to him as early as December and he hopes to be the one to finally take him down. “I believe my style is actually the one that could out-smart him and out-think him and out-move him, out-maneuver him and put him in places where he’s not familiar.”

The legendary hypothetical match between retired Georges St-Pierre and Nurmagomedov has often been the topic of discussion, as St-Pierre is seen as one of the best in UFC’s history and Nurmagomedov enjoys the same presence in UFC’s present. 

White does not seem to like the idea, though he did give it more thought at the post-match conference of UFC 242 than he has in the past, replying with a curt “sure” after some seconds of deliberation when the question was brought up, giving fans something to look forward to besides the unlikely Nurmagomedov-McGregor rematch.