Could there be a new No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov's reign of terror continued as he steamrolled interim titlist Dustin Poirier to become the undisputed king of the lightweight division with a third-round submission in the main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
Nurmagomedov improved to 28-0 with yet another dominant performance as he utilized his wrestling and grappling to suffocate Poirier throughout the championship showdown. After a minute of the fighters feeling each other out, "The Eagle" closed the distance and dragged the battle to the canvas. Poirier tried to escape, but Nurmagomedov smoothly transitioned and advanced position whenever Poirier sought to explode. Nurmagomedov nearly finished Poirier the exact same way he submitted Conor McGregor when he trapped Poirier in a neck crank. Poirier escaped and managed to survive the opening frame.
Clearly distraught and searching for answers, Poirier saw a glimmer of hope in the second round when he landed some hard combinations to open the round. But Nurmagomedov snuffed out the attack and once again took the fight to the canvas. From there, it was yet another hopeless round for Poirier as he attempted to find a trap door. Unfortunately, Nurmagomedov closed all the exits.
"I can't get him off me," Poirier said to his corner between rounds as his team urged him on.
Throwing caution to the wind, Poirier attempted to open the toolbox but found Nurmagomedov glued to him yet again in search of a takedown. Knowing that he would be on his back, Poirier went for a desperation guillotine choke as the fight hit the mat. With the crowd in a hush, a composed Nurmagomedov wiggled his way out of the submission attempt and turned on the pressure.
The 30-year-old quickly transitioned from mount to Poirier's back. This time, Nurmagomedov attacked Poirier's neck and seamlessly sunk in a rear-naked choke that elicited the tapout at the 2:06 mark.
With the victory, Nurmagomedov's dominance over competition continues as he awaits the next challenger. The likely scenario would be a showdown with former interim champion Tony Ferguson, who hasn't lost a fight in nearly a decade.
For now, the focus of the MMA world will shift to whether Nurmagomedov is the best in the world.
Here's how it all went down.
UFC 242 live results, updates
(All times Eastern)
Khabib Nurmagomedov dominates, chokes out Dustin Poirier to unify titles
Result: It was total domination by Nurmagomedov as he used his wrestling to keep the upper hand throughout the fight. A failed Poirier guillotine ended up spelling out his demise as Nurmagomedov swiftly moved to Poirier's back and sunk in a rear naked choke. That was all she wrote and Poirier tapped out at the 2:06 mark.
Round 3 (4:44 p.m.): Khabib with a right hand. Poirier sinks in a guillotine. It's tight. He's got Khabib trapped. But Khabib escapes! Khabib right back on top of Poirier. Khabib looking for the neck crank again. He's got it sunk in. Forget it. Tap. Khabib chokes him out!
Round 2 (4:41 p.m.): Khabib goes for a flying knee and misses. Lands a combination. Poirier connects and has Khabib backing up. Poirer pouring it on. Khabib needs to stop playing with the standup. Khabib with the takedown to stop all of Poirier's momentum. Falls right into side control. Not where Poirier wants to be. Khabib doing what Khabib does best and just smothering Poirier all over again. Khabib bunches him up on the fence. Takes his back...again. Poirier is cut over the left eye. Poirier gets to his feet but Khabib is still glued to him. Another takedown. Poirier trying to defend but Khabib is too much. Poirier briefly escapes but Khabib sucks him right back in. 10-9 Khabib (20-18 Khabib)
Round 1 (4:35 p.m.): A minute of feeling each other out and finding range. Khabib with a combination and shoots for a takedown. Poirier holding firm. Down he goes. Khabib is on his back. Khabib is all over Poirier. Sinks in a neck crank. Pounds away and Poirier. Just working Poirier over. Another neck crank. That's tight. The same thing that he had McGregor with. Poirier escapes and gets to his feet but Khabib is still on him. Poirier trying to find an escape but Khabib is wearing him like his skin. Poirier tries to sweep and Khabib is still in a dominant position. A one round domination by Khabib. 10-9 Khabib
4:15 p.m.: It's time for the main event. UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to the Octagon for the first time since the defeating Conor McGregor and having to serve a suspension for the melee that ensued. Across the Octagon will be Dustin Poirier, who punched his ticket by defeating Max Holloway for the interim lightweight title. The odds favor Nurmagomedov but it's been an interesting year in combat sports. Can Poirier pull off the upset?
Paul Felder evens the score with controversial split decision over Edson Barboza
Result: This was a close fight but a 30-27 scorecard for Felder was egregious. Nevertheless, Felder's pressure proved to be the difference as he wore on Barboza as the fight went on. Barboza was crisp but Felder was relentless and refused to take a step back. No idea how Felder earned a clean sweep but a trilogy should certainly be in order. Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 for Felder and 30-27 for Barboza.
Round 3 (4:06 p.m.): Felder wastes no time charging in and landing hard shots. Felder continues to land. Barboza is clearly slowing down. Barboza with a left counter but Felder walks through it and lands a left hand. Spinning backfist by Barboza lands. Felder lands a step in short elbow that connects. Right hand by Felder. Right hand by Felder and Barboza is in a bit of survival mode. Felder traps him on the fence and lands an elbow. Barboza spins off and the two are in the center of the cage. Felder connects with another combination. Strong round but too little, too late. 10-9 Felder (29-28 Barboza)
Round 2 (4:01 p.m.): Felder continues to pressure Barboza. Barboza stops him breifly with a roundhouse to the body. Left hook to the body by Barboza. A takedown by Barboza. A Felder elbow from the bottom chops up Barboza as blood streams down his face. Felder doing excellent work off his back. Lots of elbows and an armbar attempt by Felder. He's cinching it in. Barboza escapes but the are back to their feet. Felder back to pressing forward and lands a left hand. Barboza is slowing down. Counter left by Barboza. Felder lands a short elbow again. Body shot by Felder and he presses Barboza along the cage. Barboza escapes. Felder lands a combination. Failed takedown attempt by Felder. 10-9 Barboza (20-18 Barboza)
Round 1 (3:55 p.m.): It doesn't take long for Felder and Barboza to get going. Barboza firing leg kicks at Felder and the Irish Dragon looking to counter. Barboza is chewing Felder's leg up. Both are busted up early. Felder presses Barboza against the cage and lands a short elbow. Big body kick by Barboza. Felder is bleeding from the head. Barboza is sharp. A clash of heads is the reason for Felder's cut above the hairline. The action is stopped for a moment. Felder lands a short elbow and misses a roundhouse. Barboza with another body kick. Combination by Barboza. Felder keeps coming forward and cutting off the cage. But this is a Barboza round. 10-9 Barboza
3:35 p.m.: Islam Makhachev and Davi Ramos engaged in a careful affair where a top tier wrestler and an elite grappler end up neutralizing one another's biggest strength. What ended up happening was a primarily standup affair where Makhachev was the more accurate striker and nearly secured a late stoppage to take a unanimous decision with scores of 29-27, 30-26 and 30-26. Makhachev was careful not to get into a firefight or make a mistake and his poise proved to be the difference as he improved to 18-1 in his MMA career.
3:03 p.m. : Curtis Blaydes proved that he's a top tier heavyweight against anybody not named Francis Ngannou when he thoroughly dominated Shamil Abdurakhimov to earn a 2nd round TKO. Blaydes wasted little time taking the fight to the mat as Abdurakhimov was completely unable to stop anything that Blaydes had to offer. Blaydes had full mount at the end of the first round and rained down punishment until the bell saved his opponent. Abdurakhimov didn't have that opportunity in the second frame as Blaydes dragged him to the canvas again, mounted and destroyed Abdurakhimov with an elbow to the nose. Time of stoppage was 2:22.
2:38 p.m.: Maribek Taisumov suffered his first loss since 2014 when Carlos Ferreira endured the exhausting conditions to wear the Russian down and earn a unanimous decision. Ferreira was aggressive throughout after Taisumov started off quickly in the first round. But, once again, the heat seemingly sapped the energy out of Taisumov in the later rounds as the Brazilian took control with effictive striking and landed several head kicks to yield scores of 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27 from the judges.
2:05 p.m. : Joanne Calderwood pulling off an upset against Andrea Lee in women's flyweight action closed out the prelims with yet another grueling fight under the bright lights and searing weather in Abu Dhabi. As we head toward the main card, word is that it feels like it is 120 degrees. The sun is going down but we'll have to see how it plays out as the arena fills up.
1:25 p.m. : It's evident that the heat in Abu Dhabi is going to play a factor in the fights tonight. Zubaira Tukhugov and Lerone Murphy battled to an exhausting split draw during the prelims where both — especially Tukhugov — were suffering from fatigue late in the fight. Tukhugov started off quickly with exceptional wrestling but began to fade as the fight wore on in an excellent featherweight showdown. Hopefully, the rest of the fighters have prepared for the humidity like they did their opponent.
12:15 p.m: Ottman Azaitar set the tone for the night with an absolutely vicious one-punch knockout of Teemu Packalen in the opening fight on the UFC 242 prelims on FX. Surely this will be mentioned when it comes to the best knockouts of 2019. This one was downright scary.
UFC 242 fight card
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs. Dustin Poirier (ic) in a Lightweight title unification fight
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder; Lightweight
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos; Lightweight
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov; Heavyweight
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira; Lightweight
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee; Women's Flyweight
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy; Featherweight
Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras; Catchweight (138 lbs.)
Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalén; Lightweight
Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato; Welterweight
Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov; Welterweight
Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings; Middleweight
Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam; Lightweight
UFC 242 latest news
— Khabib Nurmagomedov is considered by many the best fighter in the world. But is he as good as people think ? Sporting News breaks it down.
— Twenty-seven have tried and twenty-seven have failed. Dustin Poirier tells SN that feels he's the one to crack the code .
— Nurmagomedov skipped the UFC 242 media day on Thursday to the chargrin of many. To his displeasure , the UFC made him talk on Friday.
— Heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes is excited for his UFC 242 fight , but he looks to be more thrilled to see Nurmagomedov return to the octagon.