UFC 242 (TV: Early Prelims ESPN+, Prelims ESPN+, Main Card ESPN+ PPV)
Saturday, September 7th 12:00 PM ET The Arena, Yas Island (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza (20-7) vs. Paul Felder (16-4)
Fight odds: Edson Barboza -150 Paul Felder +120
Lightweight Title Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5)
Fight odds: Khabib Nurmagomedov -500 Dustin Poirier +350
UFC 242 Pick Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
UFC 242 will take center stage in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The UFC will return to the country after 5 years having last held an event there in 2014. One of the reasons the UFC is returning to the UAE is because Khabib Nurmagomedov is headlining the card. Nurmagomedov represents a great hope for MMA for Arab countries. He is a worldly fighter and devout Sunni Muslim that speaks Avar, Russian, English, Turkish and Arabic. Nurmagomedov hopes that MMA can become the number one sport in Arab countries and the presence of the UFC in the UAE will help to inspire the next generation of fighters across the world. The crowd will be behind him and Nurmagomedov is poised to give the fans another championship performance.
The Co-main event features Edson Barboza against Paul Felder. Barboza is 33, 5’11 and 155 lbs with a 75 inch reach. Felder is 35, 5’11 and 155 lbs with a 70.5 inch reach. Barboza is one of the most versatile strikers in the UFC. Barboza can effortlessly string together kicks and punches to overwhelm his opponents with his striking capabilities. Felder is a decent fighter, but is a bit weaker than Barboza in all aspects of MMA. This will be a rematch as Barboza fought Felder previously in 2015. Barboza won by unanimous decision by using his striking and wrestling to wear down Felder. Felder is no doubt reviewing the tape from their previous fight to try and find any holes in Barboza’s game.
Felder does have decent power and a solid chin, with 10 of Felder’s 16 wins coming by knockout. Felder will have a tough time matching Barboza in the striking department. Barboza has the advantage in speed, striking and defense. Felder is slightly stronger physically and can match Barboza in the wrestling department. Barboza throws unorthodox strikes like spinning kicks and flying knees that Felder may not see coming. Both fighters have improved since their fight in 2015 and this will be mostly a stand up fight. Felder doesn’t throw strikes at the rate that Barboza can, and may struggle to keep up with the pace that Barboza sets.
Barboza is coming off a 1st Round knockout loss to Justin Gaethje. Barboza got caught in a brawl against a great brawler and Gaethje caught him with a few too many overhand rights to get the knockout. Barboza will need to be wary of getting into a brawl against Felder and learn from his mistakes. Barboza is a great striker, but has struggled against elite competition losing most recently to Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin Lee and Justin Gaethje. A win against Felder would help Barboza rise up the ranks in the lightweight division. Barboza should get the win because of superior speed and striking. Felder is coming off a unanimous decision victory over James Vick. Felder will need to close the distance and ugly up the fight. If Felder stays on the outside and tries to match striking, he will get picked apart by Barboza’s powerful kicks and have a tough time generating his own offense.
UFC 242 Pick Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
The Main event will be for the undisputed Lightweight Title between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier. Nurmagomedov is 30, 5’10 and 155 lbs with a 70 inch reach. Poirier is 30, 5’9 and 155 lbs with a 72 inch reach. An amazing fighter and a well versed human, Nurmagomedov is out to prove why he might be the best pound for pound fighter in the UFC. Poirier’s story is one of true perseverance and discipline. Since losing to Michael Johnson by 1st Round knockout in 2016, Poirier has been on a tear and risen up the lightweight ranks. Poirier knocked out great fighters like Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez to set up his chance to fight for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship. There was a belt on the line because Nurmagomedov was suspended by the UFC following his regrettable actions after his 4th Round submission victory over Conor McGregor. Nurmagomedov inexplicably hopped the octagon fence to fight someone in the crowd. It was a bizarre moment that cost Nurmagomedov the chance to defend his belt sooner.
Poirier took full advantage of the opportunity and won the interim Title after beating Max Holloway by unanimous decision. Holloway, the 145 pound champ moved up to 155 lbs in an attempt to become the double champion. Poirier was the bigger and stronger fighter against a slighter Holloway. Poirier used a mix of wrestling, clinch work and striking to wear down Holloway. It was an exciting fight, but Poirier got the better of the exchanges and proved why he was next in line to fight Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov is an elite wrestler and a decent striker. He might be the best wrestler the UFC has ever seen. With the ability to stick to opponents like glue and wear them down with his body weight, Nurmagomedov is a scary opponent to face.
Poirier showed he is a decent wrestler against Holloway and has 7 career wins by submission. Poirier will want to keep this fight standing, while Nurmagomedov will want to make it a wrestling match. Nurmagomedov is undefeated in 27 fights with 8 knockouts and 9 submission wins. The main barometer to see how this fight will play out will be how effective Poirier can be in mitigating Nurmagomedov’s takedown attempts. It is difficult to train for Nurmagomedov because of his unconventional Sambo and Judo background. The way he mauls opponents and breaks their will makes him nearly unbeatable.
Poirier will need to get the knockout win in order to dethrone the champion. Nurmagomedov has the advantage in wrestling, fundamentals and stamina. Poirier has the slight advantage in size and striking. Nurmagomedov has improved in striking since his debut in the UFC and Poirier will need to be wary of his punches that he uses to set up his takedowns. Nurmagomedov is the best in the UFC at controlling his opponents with his grappling and at times making them look helpless and wanting to quit. Poirier should put up a great fight, but the superior grappling skills and his granite chin will make it another successful Title defense for Nurmagomedov.