UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to the octagon to face interim lightweight king Dustin Poirier for the undisputed lightweight title at the main event of UFC 242 at the du Arena in the United Arab Emirates on September 7, 2019.
Nurmagomedov is coming off a nine-month suspension that stemmed from the UFC 229 post-fight brawl which he instigated by jumping out of the octagon to confront Dillon Danis. Poirier meanwhile is riding high on his masterful five-round domination of bantamweight titleholder Max Holloway.
The bout is still over two months away but because of its magnitude, the early odds are already out since last month. Let’s take a look at the early numbers and we’ll give you our early take on this lightweight title fight.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is the reigning UFC lightweight champion and is the first Russian to win a UFC world title. Nurmagomedov owns the current longest winning streak in MMA at 27 victories and counting. He is ranked #3 in the UFC’s pound for pound rankings and his UFC 229 bout against Irish superstar Conor McGregor fetched a record 2.4M PPV buys, the most in UFC history.
The Eagle stands 5-10 and has a reach of 70 inches while fighting out of the orthodox stance. 30-year old Dagestani has a perfect professional MMA record of 27-0 with 8 knockouts and 9 wins via submission. In his most recent bout, Nurmagomedov submitted Conor McGregor in the 4th of four one-sided rounds (in his favor) during their title bout at UFC 229 last October 6, 2018. He hasn’t fought since that match after serving a suspension in connection with the brawl that happened after UFC 229.
Nurmagomedov is a sensational grappler and wrestler. He averages 5.09 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 44% accuracy. He also has an 84% takedown defense which makes him very dangerous when it comes to grappling. On his feet, Khabib connects on an average of 4.29 significant strikes per minute while absorbing only 1.7 significant strikes per minute.
Odds from Bet365 as of 6/19/19.
Dustin Poirier won the interim UFC lightweight title by defeating Max Holloway two months ago. The Diamond is the promotion’s #8 ranked Pound for Pound fighter and is one of the most exciting fighters in the Octagon today, owing to his fan-friendly fighting style. Poirier has four post-fight performance bonuses in his last six bouts.
Poirier is an excellent striker who lands an average of 5.75 significant strikes per minute at a 49% accuracy. The Diamond, however, also absorbs an average of 4.08 significant strikes per minute and has a striking defense of just 56%. On the ground, Poirier is averaging just 1.63 takedowns per 15 minutes at an accuracy of just 37%.
The Diamond stands 5-9 with a reach of 72 inches while fighting as an orthodox fighter. The Lafayette, Louisiana native has a record of 25-5 with one no-decision. He has 12 knockouts and 7 wins via submission. In his most recent bout, Poirier outstruck bantamweight champion Max Holloway in a five-round war at UFC 236 last April.
When the UFC betting lines opened, Khabib opened as a significant -240 favorite against Poirier who was pegged at a +220 at BetOnline.ag. Those numbers have been pushed farther in their respective directions in the period since the lines opened. Khabib is now a hefty -350 favorite and Poirier as a sizeable +275 underdog.
Poirier has been an impressive 9-1 since moving to the lightweight division. He’s currently on a four-fight winning streak against a murderer’s row of opponents in Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Max Holloway. Three of those fighters are former or current UFC champions. Gaethje was a former champion at the WSOF promotion. But despite Poirier becoming a champion killer as of late, he isn’t considered as such against Khabib.
Nurmagomedov has been unbeatable in his MMA career and near-flawless in his stint in the UFC where he’s won 11 straight fights. Although he only has five stoppages in those 11 bouts, Nurmagomedov has easily wiped out his opposition and has probably lost just a handful of rounds during his run.
Poirier’s game is centered on his striking. The Diamond has power in his fists and he can throw punches in bunches. He is also an excellent counter-striker who has a very high fight IQ. The thing with Poirier is that he’s lost before and he knows what it is to be on the other side. He’s been an underdog for so long that he doesn’t even think about the odds when he fights. When he’s inside the octagon, it’s just pure focus on beating his opponent.
But when you look at Khabib, the guy has mauled three elite strikers in his last three bouts in Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta, and Conor McGregor. McGregor was considered to be the best striker in the game but Nurmagomedov took his down rather easily and beat him up on the ground. Khabib also did the same with Barboza as well as Iaquinta. There were moments in the Iaquinta fight though where Khabib was lured into a striking affair and he got clipped several times by Raging Al.
Poirier hopes that he can get Khabib to fight on his feet the way he did against Iaquinta. If Raging Al could touch Khabib in the stand-up, then Poirier could knock him out. But Nurmagomedov may be too smart for that. And like we saw in the McGregor fight, his stand-up game has improved.
No one’s counting out Dustin Poirier. As a heavy-handed striker, he will always have his puncher’s chance here the way Bisping did against Rockhold. We’ve seen some big upsets in fight sports lately so it’s not bad to think about Poirier beating Khabib. However, given how good and how consistently dominant Nurmagomedov has been inside the octagon, it’s difficult to bet against him. Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov