Khabib Nurmagomedov is the undisputed lightweight king.
The time off in between fights, the nonstop pressure of being champion, and the challenges interim champion Dustin Poirier presented were all non-factors for Nurmagomedov. The reigning UFC Lightweight champion forced Poirier to tap in the main event of UFC 242 in the heat of Abu Dhabi.
The victory was a methodical, systematic breakdown by Nurmagomedov. He withstood the few bursts of offense from Poirier, then wore out the interim champ with his advanced grappling. Nurmagomedov has now won 28 fights in a row and has yet to taste defeat, though a looming fight against Tony Ferguson is another test for supremacy atop the division.
Nurmagomedov looks as close to unbeatable as anyone ever has in this sport. If he beats Ferguson, I don’t know who stands a chance after that.
The UFC 242 co-main event featured an impressive victory for Paul Felder against Edson Barboza.
Barboza believed he had done enough to win the fight by split decision, but the edge went to Felder after an impressive third round that saw him land several significant strikes. The win sets up a trilogy fight between the two, as each now has a win over the other.
But the story of UFC 242 was the dominating performance in the main event by Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov is a different type of fighter than anyone has ever seen. There are no good options to mirror him in a camp, and his cardio and pressure are the best we’ve ever seen. Poirier is a black belt and an incredible striker, but looked completely overwhelmed the minute Nurmagomedov grabbed him.
There is no question now, nor a need for an interim champion. Khabib Nurmagomedov is now undisputed in his claim to being the best in the world.
Follow below for Sports Illustrated's UFC 242 Live Blog:
Opening Fight: Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira (lightweight division)
Mairbek Taisumov opens the 242 main card against Diego Ferreira, who is a very entertaining fighter but not nearly as dangerous as Taisumov.
Taisumov will need to contain Ferreira’s jiu jitsu. His speed and power should be too much for Ferreira, and his footwork is the better of the two. The shorter the fight, the better for Taisumov, and a longer fight should favor Ferreira.
2:36 p.m. ET
Through two rounds, Taisumov and Ferreira each need a definitive third round to win this fight.
Ferreira is laying constant pressure on Taisumov, but he also took some brutal shots, especially one that led to a cut above his left eye. Ferreira will look to deliver a combo of hooks to put away Taisumov, but that’s easier said than done.
Clearly, the heat is adversely impacting fighters and altering game plans, so it will be interesting to see how that continues to play out.
2:40 p.m. ET
After going three rounds, Carlos Ferreira was declared the winner by unanimous decision. He now has a five fight win streak.
Ferreira forced Taisumov to deal with constant adversity.
The longer fight benefited the cardio of Ferreira, who looked like he was ready for five rounds instead of three.
This is the most meaningful win of Ferreira’s career. His nonstop offensive assault was too much for Taisumov.
2:48 p.m. ET
The lone heavyweight fight is up next, as favorite Curtis Blaydes takes on Shamil Abdurakhimov.
A pressing side plot to 242 is the oppressive heat, and we’ll see how that affects the heavyweights.
This show was supposed to be “inside” due to the special build, but the AC units did not get up and running, which is a massive miss by the UAE and UFC. With a temperature of 99 degrees, we’re being told it feels closer to 120 in the venue. All in charge will continue to take heat over this, especially depending on how the rest of the card plays out.
Heavyweight Fight: Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Curtis Blaydes wins the fight by TKO in round two.
The fight ended by referee stoppage, and Blaydes controlled every moment of action. A vicious elbow to the nose of Abdurakhimov ended the fight, and the win puts Blaydes back into the discussion of top heavyweights in the UFC.
The heat continued to play a role, and the heavyweights worked almost entirely off the mat. Even in ideal conditions, heavyweight fights are quick, so it made sense that the heat would wear out both fighters.
Lightweight Fight: Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
The fight between Islam Makhachev and Davi Ramos should give the crowd a great look at two dominating ground games.
Makhachev is a training partner and close friend of UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. The crowd should also be behind Nurmagomedov, and this has the potential to be a very entertaining bout.
3:38 p.m. ET
Makhachev and Ramos go the distance, and the official decision was Makhachev by unanimous decision.
Makhachev dominated, especially the third round, and this marks his seventh win in the UFC in eight fights.
Team Khabib—which includes Zubaira Tukhugov, who fought Lerone Murphy to a draw during the prelims—now has its first win at UFC 242. The win creates further opportunity for Makhachev, who said in the post-victory interview that he wants the winner of Edson Barboza-Paul Felder.
Ramos is an extremely physical opponent, and Makhachev showed an elite level of skill and counter-ability in that win.
Lightweight Fight: Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
Two of the best kickboxers in the world meet in the only UFC 242 fight with close odds.
Edson Barboza is the slight (-125) favorite, and he won the first meeting against Paul Felder four years ago.
This fight features a much more mature, polished, and improved Felder. I am looking for an upset here to even the score between the two lightweights.
3:55 p.m. ET
Felder, who is undefeated since his move to lightweight, came out throwing in the opening round. Barboza answered with extremely fast-paced kicks, and his speed is bound to be a constant problem for Felder.
Barboza busted Felder open. The first round clearly belonged to Barboza, though Felder spoke about weathering the storm and eating shots early on in order to gain an advantage later in the fight.
4:01 p.m. ET
The speed at which Barboza moves is stunning, which is why Felder knows that he needs to tire him out.
Felder hit Barboza hard in round two, busting his forehead open with led to Barboza bleeding profusely.
By far, this has been the fight of the night. It’s important to note that the pace of this fight has slowed slightly, which is an advantage for Felder.
Both fighters are hurting, each has won a round, and this fight will be decided in the third round.
4:12 p.m. ET
And we have an upset.
Paul Felder defeats Edson Barboza by split decision, easily the biggest win of his UFC career.
I had Felder 29-18… and anyone judging 30-27 is flat-out wrong. But that was a fantastic fight, easily the best bout thus far on the card.
Felder landed heavy blows, but Barboza’s incredible footwork has been the difference in the fight. His left kick caused a problem early on for Felder.
Significant strikes were a slight edge to Barboza in the opening two rounds, but that was a dominating performance in round three for Felder.
Barboza wasn’t penalized for a first round headbutt, but it was smart of Felder to let everyone know his cut was due to a headbutt so the judges don’t count that as “significant damage”–that probably saved him on their cards.
Felder was emotional following the win, and he was clear that he wants top, elite opponents in the lightweight division. The Barboza camp was clearly bothered by the decision, and the win by Felder now opens up a window for a third fight against Barboza.
4:19 p.m. ET
For the first time since last October, there will finally be some closure and clarity in the lightweight division .
Nurmagomedov’s suspension following his win against Conor McGregor opened the door for Poirier to become interim champion, and now is the opportunity for one of these two men to prove that he is the elite fighter in the deepest division in mixed martial arts.
Will the heat be a factor? Or the time off for Nurmagomedov?
All questions are about to be answered.
4:50 p.m. ET
Nurmagomedov continues his undefeated streak, forcing Poirier to tap after locking in a rear naked choke.
Nurmagomedov completed dominated the first round, mauling Poirier on the ground.
Poirier had practically no offensive in the opening round with only six significant strikes.
The second round offered some hope for Poirier, as he had success landing a couple stiff punches. That is clearly his way to win–keep this off the ground and piece Nurmagomedov up. But Nurmagomedov is mauling him on the ground. With the heat, Poirier ran the risk of gassing out.
Round three saw Nurmagomedov break free from a dangerous guillotine that clearly tired out Poirier. The neck cranking from Nurmagomedov proved to be too much, and his dominating grappling ultimately spelled the end for Poirier.
The fight was almost entirely one-sided. Forcing Poirier to tap courtesy of a rear-naked choke only adds to Nurmagomedov’s legend, especially the way in which he wore Poirier down and delivered a dazzling display of mixed martial arts grappling.
Nurmagomedov ended up in the crowd again following the fight, but unlike the melee that ensued after his victory against Conor McGregor, this time was for a celebration.
Next up for Nurmagomedov: a fight against Tony Ferguson.