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  1. Right then. Saturday 7th September, the UFC is back in Abu Dhabi for 242. And it’s on fucking BT Sport Box Office again. It’ll be on at a nice time for us but still, fuck paying the greedy twats extra. PPV MAIN CARD Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier - Lightweight Title Edson Barboza vs Paul Felder Islam Makhachev vs Davi Ramos Curtis Blaydes vs Shamil Abdurakhimov Mairbek Taisumov vs Carlos Diego Ferreira FX PRELIMS Joanne Calderwood vs Andrea Lee Zubaira Tukhugov vs Lerone Murphy Sarah Moras vs Liana Jojua Teemu Packalén vs Ottman Azaitar ESPN+ PRELIMS Belal Muhammad vs Takashi Sato Nordine Taleb vs Muslim Salikhov Zak Cummings vs Omari Akhmedov Don Madge vs Fares Ziam Pretty solid card there. Of course, it’s all about the main event. Khabib vs Poirier is a hell of a fight. But I quite like the rest as well. So yeah, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier gets top billing. Big fight. Champ vs Interim Champ and all that bollocks. Really looking forward to this. Can’t see past Khabib winning but Poirier is always game and he’s really earned this shot so it’s cool to see it happening for him. Khabib is the man at 155 until proven otherwise though. 27-0 unbeaten. Hasn’t come close to being beaten as far as I can tell, although there were one or two decisions early in his career that were debated a bit. Whatever though. Over the last few years he’s been dominant at the highest level of the sport in the toughest division in the game. In 2014 he took Rafael Dos Anjos into deep water and drowned him. In 2016 he schooled and submitted Michael Johnson back when Johnson was in good form. In 2017 he crushed Edson Barboza for 3 rounds. And in 2018 he finally became the UFC lightweight champion when he took the vacant title with a one sided decision over Al Iaquinta. Simply put, Khabib is a fucking animal. Of course, his last fight is the one that got the most attention and will no doubt be a big part of the talk leading into this show. After a long and chaotic build up, Khabib and Conor McGregor finally met in the Octagon at UFC 229 in October. And as many predicted, Khabib utterly dominated him. Took him down at will, beat him up, talked shit to him, dropped him with a punch in the standup, beat him up some more, broke him to the point he was caught asking for mercy, beat him up more, then submitted him in the 4th round. ”Let’s talk now.” Point proven. But as we know, Khabib didn’t leave it there. He jumped the fence to twat Dillon Danis, and a big brawl broke out. Ugly scenes and certainly not a good look for the sport. But bloody hell, it was car crash viewing that you couldn’t look away from. Khabib been on the sidelines since. And McGregor has become a black-belt in tweeting and smashing phones (and allegedly raping) and seems to have had some kind of breakdown judging by his nonsensical, bitter and sometimes racist ramblings on social media. Khabib didn’t half do a number on him. In the meantime, the 155 pool was still full of sharks. And despite some absolute dopey talk about a potential Khabib vs McGregor rematch that was neither deserved by McGregor or warranted, two men stood out as the rightful next challenger. Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier. Unfortunately, Ferguson was going through some shit, both injury wise and mentally. So he took some time out. This allowed Poirier to really step up to the plate and seize his opportunity. Poirier has had an up and down career with some highs and lows. In 2016, you’d have been forgiven for thinking Poirier had probably reached his ceiling. He was clearly a skilled fighter but with stoppage losses to Conor McGregor and Korean Zombie it seemed like he’d hit a wall. Then he got one punch KO’d by Michael Johnson and it really felt like he was on the slide. From early 2017 on though, something changed and he’s been like a man possessed. Wins over Jim Miller and Anthony Pettis, in great fights as well, put him firmly back on track in a big way. Then in 2018, he stepped it up another level. He stopped Justin Gaethje in an absolute war which was pretty much the consensus FOTY last year. Then he put Eddie Alvarez away a few months later. This run of performances earned him a big fight. And with Khabib out suspended at the time, an interim title fight was set up for UFC 236 in April this year. Poirier would face 145lb King Max Holloway. While Poirier’s toughness and style was respected, I think most people felt like Holloway would outclass him with his technique, workrate and pace. But Poirier was having none of it. It was a great fight but Poirier beat Holloway up for a good chunk of it and by the end of it there was no doubt who’d won. He’d taken the hard route but Dustin Poirier finally had UFC gold. Yeah, it’s only an interim title but for the road he’d taken and the guys he’d beaten, I’d say Poirier’s interim title is a more legitimate actual title than any interim title we’ve ever had before. He can lay more of a claim in my eyes to being a proper champ than the past interim title holders. He really earned it through sheer persistence and pure hard graft. “In the words of Teddy Atlas, I knew I had 25 minutes to make life fair tonight. Nothing mattered. When I’ve been overlooked, knocked out, dropped fights in the past and had to climb back up. Nothing mattered but 25 minutes tonight to make life fair and be a world champion. I was willing to leave a piece of myself in there tonight, and I might have.” - Dustin Poirier Love that. Teddy Atlas had him on his podcast and everything off the back of this quote. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Again, there was some talk of McGregor potentially swooping in and stealing the title shot, which would’ve been complete and total bollocks, but thankfully the UFC did the right thing in this case. In June it was announced and made official. Khabib vs Poirier is on. And it’s going down in Abu Dhabi. You have to think Khabib is going to be treated like royalty over there with the Muslim population and, like before when the UFC have gone over there, they’re building a brand new arena specifically for this event. Here’s what it’s supposedly going to look like... They’ll probably pull it back down after the show as well. Money to burn. “This is real. I’m a world champion, as is he. This is a superfight to me. That’s what this feels like to me. We’re going to a sold-out arena that they’re building as we speak in Abu Dhabi. The middle of the desert and Princes and Sheiks will be there. It’s crazy. It’s a Rocky movie.” - Dustin Poirier I can’t wait for this fight. For me, the result isn’t in great doubt. You never know in MMA. And Poirier is the type of guy who you can never really count out. He’s not going to fold when it gets tough like McGregor did. He’ll be there to the bitter and bloody end. You never know with a guy like that. If Khabib gets tired or makes a mistake or whatever, Poirier swarming him and pulling off the upset wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. But I just don’t see Poirier as being that guy who’s going to end Khabib’s reign of terror. “I just want to maul people. This is what I want to do. Doesn’t matter Dustin, Tony or other opponents. It doesn’t matter. When I go to the cage, I maul my opponents all my life. 27-0. People talk about his 6 win streak. What about 27 win streak? 11 years undefeated.” - Khabib Nurmagomedov Terrifying. If you’re still somehow not excited about this fight yet, get this promo down you... Amazing. Like I said, my money would be on Khabib here but I think it’ll be exciting to watch regardless. Poirier isn’t going away easily. Hopefully the winner faces Tony Ferguson later this year or in early 2020. That’s the one. Edson Barboza vs Paul Felder 2 is the co-main event. Yeah, not the strongest PPV co-main. Like, if God forbid the main event falls out, you couldn’t really headline a PPV with this, could you? But that aside, it’s a great fight all the same. I’ve got no complaints about this one. The first fight was in July 2015 so it’s been a while. Barboza won on points that night and from my very hazy recollection it was a lot of fun. Barboza is looking to bounce back in style here after getting knocked out by Justin Gaethje in March. Felder outpointed James Vick in his last outing in February. Should be good. Style-wise you can’t really go wrong with these two. Expect plenty of ‘spinning shit’. Islam Makhachev vs Davi Ramos is a cracking fight that will probably go under a lot of radars. Makhachev’s a guy who I really think can be a player in the lightweight ranks. A few long layoffs slowed his roll but he’s getting back on track now and has been a bit more active over the last year or so. He’s still only 27 years old with a 17-1 record and is coming off 5 consecutive wins. He beat Arman Tsarukyan in a tremendous fight on the Russia card in April last time out. Ramos hasn’t had as many fights as Makhachev but I’ve really liked what I’ve seen of him so far. He’s Brazilian, 10-2, a BJJ black-belt and has subbed 3 of his last 4 opponents. He’s a bit of a tank as well so it’ll be interesting to see how Makhachev tackles this one against a high level grappler with the physical strength of Ramos. Curtis Blaydes vs Shamil Abdurakhimov is the heavyweight offering on this card. Can’t say I’m overly fussed about this. Blaydes rebounded from the Ngannou KO with a points win over Justin Willis. And of course, he has those big name wins over Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt on his resume. He’s still the right side of 30 as well. I could potentially see him getting back into the title mix before long. Abdurakhimov is 37 with a 20-4 record and coming off 3 wins. Beat Andrei Arlovski and Marcin Tybura in his last 2 fights. Not the worst fight, this, it’s just not doing much for me for whatever reason. Mairbek Taisumov vs Carlos Diego Ferreira is the main card opener. I like this one. Taisumov is 28-5 and riding a 6 fight winning streak. He’s also coming off a USADA suspension so there’s that. Solid fighter from what I’ve seen but it’s always interesting to see how a fighter looks coming back off a PED suspension. Ferreira is usually an exciting scrapper. Primarily a BJJ guy and he’s really good but he’ll throw down on the feet as well. He’s knocked out 2 of his last 3 opponents and has beat the likes of Rustam Khabilov and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Nice piece of matchmaking here. Joanne Calderwood vs Andrea Lee could be a decent standup battle. Calderwood is obviously a striker at heart, Muay Thai background and all that. And from what I’ve seen of Lee, she’s mostly a striker as well and showed some nice Boxing in some of her fights. She’s a black-belt in Kyokushin Karate. She’s also a BJJ brown-belt under Relson Gracie which could be an issue for Calderwood here as the grappling has been her weakest area. Calderwood needs a strong showing here. She’s definitely looked better since moving up to flyweight but she’s coming off that Chookagian loss so she needs a W here. Sarah Moras vs Liana Jojua might be worth a gander. Moras is nothing special. With a 5-5 MMA record and coming off 3 losses in a row, I think it’s safe to assume she’s pretty much fighting for her job here. It’s the UFC debut of Liana Jojua that makes this noteworthy. She’s Russia’s first ever female MMA champion, winning the FNG bantamweight belt in Moscow last year. She’s 24 years old, has a 7-2 record and is coming off 5 wins. Looks like she’s more of a submission artist with a heel hook and a bunch of armbar finishes in there. She hasn’t fought since February 2018 though for some reason. Teemu Packalén vs Ottman Azaitar is another fight I’m going in a bit blind on. I’ve seen Packalén fight once but it was the fight where Marc Diakiese scored a highlight reel KO on him in 30 seconds so can’t say I’m really familiar with him. Looking up his record he hasn’t fought since that loss, and that was March 2017. Azaitar is the intrigue here. He’s German-Moroccan and 11-0 with 10 finishes. Belal Muhammad vs Takashi Sato could be a bit of a wild one. This is one of those fights where you’ll look down a card and it won’t really jump out at you at a glance. But if you’ve watched these guys before you’ll know. Muhammad has been a bit of an undercard highlight for me over the last few years. He doesn’t really get much love from MMA fans but if you get time, go back through some of his fights on Fight Pass. Especially the Alan Jouban fight from 2016. He’s coming off probably his best win to date over Curtis Millender in April. Seems a good guy as well. Worth a follow on Twitter. Sato I’m a bit less familiar with but he’s 15-2 with 12 finishes and knocked the fuck out of Ben Saunders in his Octagon debut. Could be some fireworks here. Nordine Taleb vs Muslim Salikhov is another potential FOTN darkhorse, I reckon. Taleb has never been a contender but he always brings it. Tough guy and he’s up for throwing leather with anyone. Looking back at his record, he’s had his moments. The Erick Silva and Danny Roberts knockouts were probably his UFC highlights. He’s 38 now so probably not much time left in the sport. And Salikhov is from Dagestan and nicknamed ‘King Of Kung Fu’. Doesn’t come much more badass than that. He’s got an extensive Kickboxing background and is 14-2 in MMA with a hook kick KO over Melvin Guillard on his record. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t entertaining to watch. Zak Cummings vs Omari Akhmedov is just kind of there but it could be alright. Cummings is a tough grinder and has some tidy grappling. Reminds me a little bit of a modern day Matt Lindland, although he’s more of a BJJ guy than a wrestler. He’s coming off a couple of wins. Akhmedov is a hard cunt who looks like he’s made of bricks. Comes into this fight off a win over Tim Boetsch and has gone 3-0-1 in his last 4 outings. Like the combatants, this probably won’t be pretty but it could be a real gruelling battle. Magomed Mustafaev vs Don Madge could be yet another sleeper. Mustafaev is 15-2 and looks a bit of a handful. He lost to Kevin Lee back in 2016 and never returned until April this year. But he put Rafael Fiziev away in a round so he’s back in the game now. Madge I don’t know much about but he looks like the lovechild of Mirko Cro Cop and Khabib. That’s scary enough in itself. He’s South African, 8-3-1 and won his UFC debut against Te Edwards with a headkick KO in October. Think he’s a training partner of Cyborg as well. This could be an excellent fight. So that’s your lot for 242. If you’re just looking for ‘names’ this one doesn’t look that good once you get past the top two fights. But if you know a bit about the fighters on this card, there’s some real quality there throughout. Still not paying BT £20 for it but it’s definitely a card where I’ll be making the effort to watch it all from top to bottom.
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