Under a year ago, Khabib Nurmagomedov put on a dominant performance over Conor McGregor. The fight was stopped after four rounds, with McGregor tapping out to a rear naked choke. It was set to be a triumphant moment at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA for the Russian fighter who had just made his first Lightweight Championship defense, but that’s only the first half of the story. Right after his win, Nurmagomedov jumped out of the cage and lunged at McGregor’s corner. Despite the phenomenal performance, it was the fight after the fight that made headlines across the world. That was the last time Nurmagomedov competed in the octagon, as many people from his camp, including him, were handed suspensions and fines.
The lightweight landscape has changed since then, and while many names could arguably get a title shot, the man who’s next in line is Dustin Poirier. The fight will take place on Saturday, with the special location giving the event an early start time. Live from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, UFC 242 has the Lightweight Championship will be on the line as the current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will face the interim champion Dustin Poirer. The show also includes 12 other fights, with the prelims starting at 10:15 AM Eastern, and the main card beginning at 2 PM EST.
Bout 1: Don Madge (8-3-1) vs. Fares Ziam (10-2) (Lightweight)
The evening will begin in a contest between two lightweight prospects in Don Madge and Fares Ziam. Madge came into the UFC earlier this year, earning a victory against Te Edwards. The South African fighter has an 8-3-1 record, although is on a hot five fight winning streak. His opponent, Fares Ziam will be fighting in the UFC for the first time ever, also currently on a five fight victory streak. Ziam has been around the European scene for most of his career.
Bout 2: Zak Cummings (23-6) vs. Omari Akhmedov (18-4-1) (Middleweight)
In the first fight of many more on the card featuring Russian fighters, middleweight Omari Akhmedov faces Zak Cummings. Holding a 6-3-1 recording within the UFC, Akhmedov recently went to the scorecard against Tim Boetsch, getting back in the win column after going to a scorecard draw against Marvin Vettori. With an 8-3 win-loss record within the promotion, Zak Cummings has had a good past year, defeating Trevor Smith and Trevin Giles. Neither fighter is currently ranked, but chances are a win for either one could put them on the list.
Bout 3: Nordine Taleb (15-6) vs. Muslim Salikhov (14-2) (Welterweight)
Coming off over a year of a layoff, Muslim Salikhov will return to face Nordine Taleb. Salikhov has only fought twice in the UFC, experiencing victory and defeat. With much more experience in the UFC, Nordine Taleb is returning after a May loss to Kyle Prepolec. The Tristar Gym fighter holds a 7-4 promotional record, although half of the losses came in his last three fights.
Bout 4: Belal Muhammad (15-3) vs. Takashi Sato (15-2) (Welterweight)
Finishing off the UFC Fight Pass Early Prelims will be a prospect fight in the welterweight division. Takashi Sato made his UFC debut back in April, getting a TKO victory over Ben Saunders. Previous to then, he had made a name for himself within the Japanese MMA promotion Pancrase, being a consistent finished in his fights. Belal Muhammad has only been in the UFC since 2016, although he has already attained a record of 6-3. While not being much of a finisher, Muhammad has been favoured frequently on scorecards. His recent win was in April against Curtis Millender.
Bout 5: Teemu Packalen (8-2) vs. Ottman Azaitar (11-0) (Lightweight)
Starting off the preliminary card on FXX and ESPN+, Teemu Packalen will return to the UFC after a large absence to face a debuting Ottman Azaitar. Packalen lost to Marc Diakiese in 2017, and currently has a 1-2 UFC record. Azaitar is an undefeated MMA fighter, being experienced in regional promotions, frequently finishing his fights via strikes. Both fighters still have to prove themselves to the UFC fanbase.
Bout 6: Sarah Moras (5-5) vs. Liana Jojua (7-2) (Bantamweight()
Recently, Canadian fighter Sarah Moras evened her win and loss column, getting her third loss in a row in May. In a real must-win situation, Moras will face Liana Jojua, who will be looking to impress in her UFC debut. Jojua has fought all around the world, including notable promotions like Kunlun Fight League and Fight Nights Global, currently on a five-win run. The fight is the first of two female fights on the card.
Bout 7: Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4) vs. Lerone Murphy (8-0) (Featherweight)
On Saturday, Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t be the only America Kickboxing Academy fighter on the card. Holding a record of 3-1 in the UFC, Tukhugov will look to bounce back from his first big-league loss, which was against Renato Moicano. He will also attempt to make it a hard promotional debut for Lerone Murphy, who has attained an undefeated 8-0 record through the British MMA scene. Only debuting as a professional in 2017, Murphy has attained numerous first round stoppages.
Bout 8: Joanne Calderwood (13-4) vs. Andrea Lee (11-2) (Flyweight)=
Concluding the preliminary portion of the card, Joanne Calderwood will fight Andrea Lee in a women’s flyweight contenders match. Joanne Calderwood recently lost to Katlyn Chookagian, with wins over Ariane Lipski and Kalindra Faria before then. Andrea Lee has had a much better recent track record, being undefeated since her UFC debut. On a 7-0 run, with three of those fights in the UFC, it’s safe to safe the Lee is on a run. Both fighters are highly ranked in the division, and chances are the winner of this fight will be discussed as one of the next in line for a title shot.
Bout 9: Mairbek Taisumov (27-5) vs. Diego Ferreira (15-2) (Lightweight)
The pay-per-view section of the night will begin with experienced fighters in Mairbek Taisumov and Diego Ferreira. Ferreira will be attempting to extend his four-fight winning streak, recently going to the scorecards against Rustam Khabilov. While that recent tear is impressive, Taisumov’s six-fight winning streak blows it out of the water. While the record is impressive, Taisumov has been absent for a year, with his last win coming from September 2018 against Des Green.
Bout 10: Curtis Blaydes (11-2) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-4) (Heavyweight)
In the only heavyweight fight of the evening, Curtis Blaydes will face Russian talent Shamil Abdurakhimov. Both fighters have been at a high level of the heavyweight division for some time now. Blaydes recently came back from a loss, defeating Justin Willis via decision. Shamil Abdurakhimov is on a three-fight streak of wins, although it’s worth noting that the first win in that series came in late 2017, so Abdurakhimov isn’t fighting as frequent as others.
Bout 11: Islam Makhachev (17-1) vs. Davi Ramos (10-2) (Lightweight)
For the rest of the night, it will be lightweights taking the stage. In the first fight of three lightweight fights, ranked fighter Islam Makhachev will face up-and-coming Davi Ramos. Ramos has picked up four wins recently, with three of them via rear naked choke. A win over Makhachev would likely put Ramos in the top 15 lightweights. Makhachev hasn’t lost since 2016, recently beating Arman Tsarukyan in April.
Bout 12: Paul Felder (16-4) vs. Edson Barboza (20-7) (Lightweight)
In a rematch, Paul Felder will face Edson Barboza in the co-main event of the show. Their last meeting was in 2015, with Barboza getting the better of the matchup. Going to decision, Barboza won, ending Felder’s undefeated record at the time. Felder has been 6-3 since then, with Barboza having a record of 4-4 within the same period of time. Felder is ranked #10 in the lightweight division, with Barboza currently holding the #7 spot.
Bout 13: Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5) (UFC Lightweight Championship)
In the main event of the card, UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will seek to take the interim belt off of Dustin Poirier’s shoulders. While Nurmagomedov has won the belt and defended it once, he’s never had a real crowning moment with the belt being placed around him inside the octagon. He will strive for that this weekend when facing Dustin Poirier. His last win came against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in a complete dismantlement of the MMA icon. It was clear in the fight that while McGregor was struggling to compete in stand-up, that Nurmagomedov was clearly the better fighter on the ground. This was proven definitely when McGregor tapped to a rear naked choke in the fourth round. Not only will Nurmagomedov’s Championship be put on the line, but just like every fight in his life, it will be putting his undefeated record on the line as well.
While there’s many names in the lightweight division that could give Khabib Nurmagomedov a good fighter, with Tony Ferguson being a prominent name on that list, Dustin Poirier earned this fight. Defeating Max Holloway in a decisive five round battle in April, Poirier was crowned the interim Lightweight Champion. “The Diamond” will be in the biggest fight of his career on Saturday.
After UFC holds their PPV in The United Arab Emirates, a week afterwards the promotion will head to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for UFC on ESPN+ 16. Live from the Rogers Arena, the show is currently scheduled to be headlined by Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin Gaethje.