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  • Who holds the edge in UFC 242's co-main event? Former UFC champ Chris Weidman analyzes Khabib Nurmagomedov's long-awaited return to the octagon against Dustin Poirier.
By Justin Barrasso
September 05, 2019

Saturday’s UFC 242 pay-per-view is a chance for the fighting world to catch another glimpse of the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov (27-0) has plowed through the competition en route to the UFC's lightweight title, and he looks to push his current winning streak to 12 on Saturday in the main event against interim champion Dustin Poirier in a title unification fight.

Poirier (25-5-1) presents a significant challenge for Nurmagomedov. He delivered the most impressive performance of his career this past April at UFC 236 when he defeated Max Holloway by unanimous decision to win the interim title. Alas, there is no recent fight for Nurmagomedov. He last stepped into the cage 11 months ago at UFC 229 for a win, followed by the infamous post-fight controversy (and nine-month suspension) with Conor McGregor. The fight ended in the fourth round when Nurmagomedov made McGregor tap, continuing his incredible undefeated streak. 

Longtime UFC star Chris Weidman can relate. The current light heavyweight won the first 13 fights of his career, winning the UFC middleweight title in the process. He has kept a close watch on Nurmagomedov’s dominance, and Weidman thinks Saturday’s fight will come down to whether the current champ can break Poirier’s will.

“Khabib beats you physically and mentally,” said Weidman, who is training for his UFC on ESPN main event on Oct. 18 against Dominick Reyes. “He keeps pushing, pushing, pushing. He’s fun to watch, especially since we both come from a wrestling background. The way he grapples on the cage, pulls guys down, keeps them down, and his ground-and-pound, I look at all that and I try to emulate a lot of it.”

While Weidman studies the mercurial Nurmagomedov, Poirier will need to find a way to defeat him.

“Dustin looked really good against Max Holloway in his last fight,” said Weidman. “The way Dustin put his combinations together was amazing. He showed his heart and cardio against a guy who really never gets tired, and landed huge shots. We’ll see if he can do that again against Khabib.”

Unlike Nurmagomedov, Weidman also knows the sudden emptiness of the end of a winning streak.

“I’ve had some losses, obviously, but in every single one of those fights, I was winning before I lost,” said Weidman, who has dropped four of his past five fights. “I know the mistakes I’ve made, and that’s part of the game."

A change in weight class and a victory over the undefeated Reyes would position Weidman into contention for a fight against light heavyweight champ Jon Jones.

“I want to break my opponent, and that’s my goal against Reyes,” said Weidman. “Jon Jones should watch. I’m here to prove something to the world, I’m going to be the world champion someday.”

Weidman is looking forward to a break in his training regimen as he watches and analyzes Nurmagomedov-Poirier this Saturday.

Poirier has essentially grown up in the UFC, clawing his way into the promotion eight years ago. Now he is the interim champ, fighting the best fighter on the planet. People are so familiar with Poirier and have watched him fight for so many times over the years that his elite skill level is sometimes forgotten. He is an elite fighter, as he proved in the Holloway win, but Nurmagomedov is a beast in the cage yet to be tamed.

“Anybody can beat anybody in this sport, I’ve learned that,” said Weidman. “We’ll see what happens. This should be interesting, Khabib has been off for a while. I’m excited to see the fight.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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