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UFC 302: Makhachev vs Poirier - Jun 1 🇺🇸


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Posted (edited)

Next up on the PPV schedule and we’re back in Sopranos territory. Newark, New Jersey hosts this lot…

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PPV MAIN CARD
Islam Makhachev©️vs Dustin Poirier - Lightweight Title

Sean Strickland vs Paulo Costa 

Kevin Holland vs Michal Oleksiejczuk

Niko Price vs Alex Morono 

Randy Brown vs Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos 

ESPN PRELIMS
Roman Kopylov vs Cesar Almeida

Jailton Almeida vs Alexandr Romanov

Grant Dawson vs Joe Solecki

Phil Rowe vs Jake Matthews

ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS
Mickey Gall vs Bassil Hafez

Joselyne Edwards vs Ailin Perez

Andre Lima vs Mitch Raposo

 


OK, not a mega strong card overall for a PPV but there’s enough on there that I like. I’m invested in the main event, the co-main could be awful or hilarious or very satisfying or a mix of the lot. And there’s bits and bobs lower down the card that I’m really looking forward to. It’ll do. One thing of note for this card in particular…

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They’re debuting the new gloves on this card. Be interesting to see if it makes any immediate noticeable difference but I doubt it. I can’t really see anything that’s gonna limit eyepokes and, let’s face it, that’s the main issue that needed tackling with a new glove design. Not sure I like the gold gloves for title fights either. I get wanting to set them apart and differentiate but I’m just not keen on how they look there. Oh well. Just thought it was noteworthy to highlight they’re rolling these out on this card.

 

 

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Islam Makhachev vs Dustin Poirier headlines. Not the fight I think anyone really expected but circumstances have led us here and, while it’s not the most interesting fight for Makhachev, I don’t hate it. I’m a big fan of Dustin so I’m happy for him that he’s getting another shot at UFC gold. And also, a lot of the incessant crying from Makhachev haters about ‘he hasn’t defended against a Lightweight’ and ‘he only fights in Abu Dhabi’ etc will be put to bed here. Fucking Newark, New Jersey is hardly home field advantage, is it? There’ll still be whinging, there always is from a section of the fanbase, whatever Makhachev does. But it seems he’s not going anywhere for a while yet so everyone’s gonna have to get used to it. I’m expecting him to win but hopefully Dustin can at least make a good fight of it.

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We last saw Makhachev at UFC 294 in October, knocking out Alexander Volkanovski just 3 minutes into their rematch with a vicious headkick. Obviously, the short notice for Volk is a factor but to go 2-0 over the guy most of us considered the pound-for-pound top fighter in the sport, and to do it in back-to-back fights in the same calendar year, you have to give him his due. Again, I see all sorts of shite from his detractors trying to downplay it but even if you had him losing to Volk the first time (it was an epic but I had Makhachev winning), even just to have such a great and close fight with a beast like Volk, you have to be one of the top fighters in the game. I don’t know what it is with Makhachev but I find the hate he gets really fucking weird. Maybe it’s because he’s been beating fan favourites like Volk and Charles Oliveira but even before those fights there seemed to be unwarranted vitriol towards him. And it’s not even like he seems a prick in his personality. He mostly shows respect to his opponents and actually seems quite likeable and sometimes funny in interviews. Maybe it’s the Khabib connection. A lot of fans seem to resent Khabib for getting out of the game early, like he owed them something. Plus McGregor arse lickers, and there’s a ton of them, are naturally gonna hate anyone close to Khabib. Whatever.

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Like it or not, Makhachev is a great fighter. He’s 25-1 now, on a 13 fight winning streak and the lone blip was a KO loss to Adriano Martins back in 2015. One of those losses that just looks weirder and weirder as time goes on and Makhachev keeps racking up the wins. Kind of like Stipe Miocic getting knocked out by Stefan Struve before going on to become maybe the Heavyweight GOAT. It makes no sense in hindsight but these things happen sometimes in the crazy world of MMA. 

Like I said, Dustin Poirier being the next in line wasn’t something I think anyone really saw coming next. If you asked me at the start of the year who I thought Islam’s next opponent would be I’d have said an Oliveira rematch or Justin Gaethje. Now they’ve both lost at UFC 300 to Arman Tsarukyan and Max Holloway respectively, so they’re out of the running for the time being. Then I thought maybe Tsarukyan would be next but apparently he was offered the fight and turned it down because of the quick turnaround. Fair enough. Holloway’s jaw dropping KO against Gaethje instantly threw his name into the mix but he seems more focused on going back down to 145 to challenge Ilia Topuria. I’m fine with that! That really only left one option…

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Yeah, it’s not ideal. Poirier is 2-2 in his last 4 fights and comes into this fight off one win. But as I’ve covered above, the way things have played out, there weren’t a ton of options. Makhachev could’ve waited for the Abu Dhabi card in August and fought Tsarukyan or something. But fans would still bitch about him not being active enough/only fighting in Abu Dhabi and so on. For the sake of Makhachev staying busy and given who was available in the timeframe they had, this was the fight to make. And to be honest, considering Dustin stepped up at UFC 299 in March and took on a high risk fight against a lower ranked but dangerous Benoit Saint Denis when other big names wouldn’t have, it’s nice to see him get rewarded for that.

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What a granite hard bastard. People like to throw around the word ‘warrior’ in combat sports to the point it’s lost a lot of its meaning, it should be reserved for fighters like Dustin Poirier. Just an absolute dog. Saint Denis was giving him all he could handle early but, like always, Poirier refused to go away, stayed in his face and basically just out-toughed him. It was even sweeter because it felt like the ‘UFC machine’ wasn’t exactly behind him for that fight. For one, matching him up with Saint Denis felt like they were trying to build the new guy up off Poirier’s name. Then there was that whole weirdness in the lead up to the fight where it was off, then back on again. Definitely felt like there was some butting of heads behind the scenes between Poirier and the UFC there. Then during the fight Rogan was practically cheerleading Saint Denis. And even after he got the finish, Dustin made a point of going over to Dana at cageside and saying “You want me to fight these young motherfuckers? This is what happens”. I like Saint Denis but it was satisfying seeing Poirier mess plans up and basically give a big ‘fuck you’ to the doubters. Like I say, he’s getting this title shot purely through circumstances. He obviously wasn’t the UFC’s first choice because they offered it to Tsarukyan. As much as I like Makhachev, it would be amazing if Dustin can find a way to somehow to pull this off.

He’s also strongly hinting that this could be his last fight…

“It could be my last fight. I haven’t made an official decision yet, but it could be. I’ve said this over and over again, I still have a lot of tread left on the tires. I can beat these young guys, I just did it. I still feel good, my body feels good, but it’s just like, how much do I want to give to this sport? Because you don’t ride for free. I just want to be a father. I missed my daughter’s final cheer placement thing on Sunday. That was a big deal to her. All the family went, it sucked to be here and not be there to watch it. I just miss out on a lot of stuff. I have a whole other life outside of fighting. So, I’ve put in my time and earned my stripes. I don’t wanna make any decisions just off of the way I’m feeling. I need to go out there and fight.”

“We’ll see. Destiny doesn’t make mistakes. If I’m supposed to be the world champion, I’ll have that belt wrapped around me on June 1st. All I can do is just pay attention to the work. What needs to get done right now. My mindset. The outcome is gonna happen so I just need to focus on the work right now. It’s been a long career. This is the final thing I need to cross of this list.” - Dustin Poirier

Honestly, I think Poirier is underrated as far as his interviews go. He’s got a way with words that makes his fights feel like the most important thing in the world and something you absolutely can’t afford to miss. Hell of a promo, as they’d say if he was a pro wrestler. It definitely sounds like he’s halfway out the door though and I’m not sure if that makes his chances better or worse. The usual logic is that if a guy is going into a fight already thinking about retiring, it’s bad news and he’s probably getting battered. But I don’t know. I think it can also provide extra motivation and if you know it’s your last fight and it doesn’t matter what’s next and it doesn’t matter where a win will put you in the rankings or whatever, it frees you up to just leave it all out there. In this case, I don’t think Poirier needs that. He goes for broke every time anyway! But at 35 years old, after a career full of wars and after 2 failed title shots, it has to end somewhere and he’ll know this is his last chance to become UFC champion. He had the interim but it’s not the same. The real thing has alluded him and it’s really the only thing he hasn’t accomplished.

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So what we thinking? It mightn’t have been the first choice for the UFC and it’s not the fight we expected. It’s a pretty fucking cool fight though. And a fascinating story if you’re a Dustin Poirier fan. It feels like a bad matchup for him, it’s basically a repeat of Khabib vs Poirier except now Poirier is older and more beat up and Makhachev is probably a more well rounded version of Khabib. It doesn’t feel like there’s gonna be a happy ending to this story for Poirier. But…what if? After coming up short in his 2 shots at the UFC belt, will it be third time lucky? Despite what he’s saying, if he does win then there’s no way he’s retiring right away. As champ he’d get PPV points and, if McGregor beats Chandler at 303, you know the UFC are gonna want to give Conor the undeserved title shot. With the history between Poirier and McGregor, as much as Conor getting a title shot would be complete bollocks, Poirier going in as champ and getting a cut of a huge PPV like that would be so deserved. Getting way ahead of myself though. He’s most likely not winning. Be interesting to see what Makhachev’s haters find to moan about if he wins again here. He’s fighting sooner than most expected, against a 155er and it’s not in Abu Dhabi. It felt a bit weird to me when this fight was first announced but I’m all in on this the more I think about it.

 

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Sean Strickland vs Paulo Costa is your co-main event. Gonna be 5 rounds as well apparently. Don’t know what to think about this. I just hope 1) Costa shows up and 2) absolutely bloody chins this prick. It’s been said countless times, I’ll say it again, Strickland is a total dogshit of a man. Zero redeeming qualities to him whatsoever. Once again, I’m not saying he’s a terrible fighter. He’s been effective at what he does, dominated Israel Adesanya and became UFC champion. That’s more than I ever expected him to accomplish. Fair fucks. That’s as positive as I’m gonna get for him though. He’s a pathetic edge lord wanker who targets and dishes it out to everyone, mocks dead people etc, then has a meltdown and cries when someone gives it back. Only has fans at all because there’s so many bigoted, homophobic, incel losers in the MMA fanbase who pretend to enjoy his arse water dull fighting style because they agree with his views on gay/trans people, guns etc. The only thing good about him winning the UFC belt was the fact that he then lost the thing to Dricus Du Plessis in January.

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It’s like some horrible fever dream. I refuse to even believe it really happened 🤮 It’s all photoshop. It’s AI. It’s fabricated. It never happened. On a serious note, MMA fans giving this boring fuck any kind of relevancy is unforgivable and proudly being a fan of his should automatically land you in counselling. Because if you actually like Strickland and can relate to the rancid twat in any way, you’ve got issues and something’s gone wrong in your life. Like Ice Cube said, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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Costa did actually show up for work at UFC 298 in February and had a banger of a fight with Robert Whittaker. He lost on points but he certainly got his share of digs in and had Whittaker badly hurt with a big spinning kick to the mush at one point. Such a fun fight to watch and a reminder that, when he actually fights, Costa is wildly entertaining. Frankly, he’s a breath of fresh air in a mostly lacklustre Middleweight division. The division could really do with him sticking around and staying more active but I’m not counting my chickens on that. I’ll be half surprised if he actually turns up for this fight just because we’ve been conditioned to expect that when a Costa fight gets announced, he’s inevitably gonna withdraw. Expecting him to fight twice in a 4 month spell seems hopelessly optimistic but we’ll see. Hope I’m wrong. As for the fight itself, fuck knows? I feel like Strickland can make him miss and take over, especially in a 5 rounder. I’m leaning towards him taking a decision. But there’s not many at 185 as powerful as Costa and, while Strickland can be awkward, he’s not unhittable. Heart says Costa, head unfortunately says Prickland. Hopefully Costa gets some quality ‘Secret Juice’ in camp and obliterates him though.

 

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Kevin Holland vs Michal Oleksiejczuk got added with just 3 weeks to go before show time. Not a blockbuster addition or anything but should be a fun one. We last saw both of them on the UFC 299 card in March and they both lost. Holland welcomed MVP to the UFC and dropped a decision to him in what I remember being a pretty shite fight. Oleksiejczuk fought on the prelims that night and got smoked in about a minute by Michel Pereira. So they’re both on the rebound here and after some redemption. I like the matchup, to be fair. They’ve both got their flaws, neither are the best when it hits the ground, although Holland is definitely better in that area than Oleksiejczuk is. But they both prefer to strike it out and I think that’s how it will play out here. Oleksiejczuk is very one-note but he’s dangerous and he’s got a thump on him so it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if Holland mixes it up in this one and tries to exploit the weakness in the grappling but we’ll see. It’d be the smart move though. They can both win on the feet. It’s pretty much a coin flip. On the ground I think Holland’s chances increase immensely. It’s one of them though where I can’t really see him going the takedown route unless Oleksiejczuk tags him with something particularly nasty, and by then it could be too late. Fun fight.

 

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Niko Price vs Alex Morono 2 is alright. No memory of the first fight but apparently it was in 2017, Niko initially won by KO but it got overturned to a No Contest because he tested positive for weed. Could be a solid enough scrap. Niko is never usually in boring fights so there’s no reason to expect that to start here. Of course, the last time we saw him he was part of one of the highlights of 2023. Unfortunately for him, he was on the wrong end of it.

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Yep. He got crushed in just 38 seconds by a retiring Robbie Lawler. An all time great UFC moment. Maybe the best single MMA moment of last year for me. Seeing a true legend and one of the most exciting fighters ever go out in style like that was just fantastic. The most feel-good of feel-good wins and, if the retirement actually sticks, might just be the loveliest sendoff in MMA history. The only negative is that it was a good egg like Niko on the receiving end. He’s been an entertaining fighter in his own right and, going in, that Lawler fight felt like a bit of a coin flip. Sounds mad now in hindsight knowing how it played out but before the fight it felt like a tossup. He’s no contender but he always brings it. Morono has had his moments as well but not as consistently as Niko Price. He’s coming off a bit of a lacklustre points win over a washed up Court McGee in April. Definitely pulling for Niko here. As elated as I was with the Lawler result, I did feel bad or Price. It’d be nice to see him get a W here.

 

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Randy Brown vs Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos is currently slated to kick off the PPV. Not the strongest fight for a PPV main card but I like the matchup all the same. Brown’s coming into this fight with a bit of momentum. He’s got a record of 18-5 and has won 6 of his last 7 with the only loss being against Jack Della Maddalena. Since then he’s bounced back with a decision win over Wellington Turman and then this beautiful knockout over Muslim Salikhov in February…

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Cracking finish that. Dos Santos is no spring chicken now at 37 but he’s no pushover and is usually a tough test for most. Him taking Rinat Fakhretdinov to a draw last time out backs that up. He also proper battered Benoit Saint Denis in 2021 in a fight that really should’ve been stopped but wasn’t for some reason only the referee knows. Logically, Brown should be winning at this stage of both their careers but you generally don’t get an easy win over Dos Santos so this could be a gruelling battle. Then again, I thought that with Salikhov and Brown iced him inside a round.

 

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Roman Kopylov vs Cesar Almeida is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** now. Was Tatsuro Taira vs Joshua Van but they’ve taken that away from us. I’m not as buzzing for this as I was for Taira vs Van but it’s a fun fight in its own right. It has all the makings of a really entertaining standup battle. Kopylov’s been great to watch for most of his time in the UFC. Didn’t get off to the best of starts but in 2022/23 he rattled off a 4 fight winning streak and ended all 4 fights in brutal fashion. His kicks especially are lethal, to the body as well as the head. I went from not giving a shite about him to him being one of my favourite 185ers to watch. Almeida just won his UFC debut in April, TKOing Dylan Budka in the second round. Wasn’t the most impressive or convincing performance and he’s only 5-0 in MMA, but he’s a Kickboxer with a 47-8-1-1 record in that game. Even went 1-2 in a trilogy with Alex Pereira. Him being predominantly a striker, this feels like the perfect matchup for him to show off his skills. And with Kopylov coming off that submission loss to Anthony Hernandez, he’ll be out to prove a point and redeem himself here. Expecting fireworks out of this.

 

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Jailton Almeida vs Alexandr Romanov fills the Heavyweight quota that for some reason always has to be met on these main cards. I don’t mind the matchup really but I’m not exactly in love with it. As Heavyweights go, these were actually two I was fairly high on until they both fizzled out horribly. Still think there’ll be better to come from Almeida but I certainly don’t see the potential in him that I did a year ago. His last couple of fights have kind of exposed him. Not that I expected him to be a future champ or anything before, he was only beating low level opposition in his first bunch of UFC fights and then Rozenstruik was his best win. The Derrick Lewis fight in São Paulo in November was rotten. Jailton won but it felt like his stock actually took a hit. Awful fight. Then at UFC 299 in March, he hit a brick wall in Curtis Blaydes and got stopped seconds into the second round. He’s 32 now, so young enough to come back from that loss. But I don’t know, I don’t like writing guys off after one loss but it just feels like he’s found his level. As thin as the HW division is, he’s gonna have to improve a lot to get to the top of that mountain. And Romanov, bless him, I was a big fan of him suplexing sods into oblivion early in his UFC run, and I’ll still pop for them if he busts them out in the future. I grew up watching the Steiner Brothers, I love a suplex! But his last few fights have been total shite and his performances have been pretty embarrassing. The fact he got himself in decent shape for one fight then just gave up, got back on the Greggs and reverted back to being a walking jelly, it just seems like he can’t be arsed.

 

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Grant Dawson vs Joe Solecki is an OK fight. Isn’t gonna stand out on a PPV but it’s not a bad bit of matchmaking. Well, if they both play to their strengths and grapple a lot anyway. I don’t think a striking match would be pretty. That type of fight won’t bring the best out of either of them. The problem is, they’re both coming off bad losses so I could see them possibly being a bit tentative, respecting each other’s ground games too much and avoiding it in favour of a subpar standup affair. Hope I’m wrong but we’ll see. Dawson is 20-2-1 now and was on a nice 12 fight unbeaten run before getting smoked by Bobby Green in October. And we last saw Solecki in December, getting powerbombed by Drakkar Klose and knocked out cold with his head bouncing off the canvas.

 

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Phil Rowe vs Jake Matthews isn’t bad but it’s just undercard filler. Not really feeling it, if I’m being honest. Maybe it’ll be a pleasant surprise. Rowe’s 10-4 and coming off a decision defeat to perennial gatekeeper Neil Magny back in June last year. Everyone knows Magny is the test for guys coming through at Welterweight and, well, Rowe flunked it. He’d stopped 3 opponents in a row before that loss but Magny was his step up and Rowe failed. Matthews is somehow still not 30 years old yet! Feels like he’s been on the roster forever. He’s found his level at this point. 19-7 record and 2-3 in his last 5. He’s coming off a points loss to Michael Morales in November. Not much fun to watch that one, as I recall. Yeah, no feelings on this really. It’s just there.

 

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Mickey Gall vs Bassil Hafez is kind of intriguing actually. Gall’s a guy who seemed like he had all the potential in the world at one point. Obviously the win over CM Punk meant fuck all as an actual meaningful win but it got his name out there and it really felt like he could’ve used that to propel himself into a great position if he could keep winning and keep the ball rolling. Then the win over Sage Northcutt felt like the perfect follow up but he couldn’t keep it going, Randy Brown handed him his first loss and he fizzled out rapidly after that. By the time 2019 came around and he got old manned and stopped by the ghost of Diego Sanchez, it was a wrap. He’s 7-5 now, coming off back-to-back losses and hasn’t fought since April 2022.

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And that’s how it ended. He got flattened in a round by Mike Malott and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. He’s from New Jersey so this is a homecoming for him and he’ll have the crowd support. But man, it feels like his next loss could be the nail in the coffin. Looking forward to seeing Hafez back in there. Just one fight in the UFC and he’s stuck in my memory. If you recall, he jumped in on just a few days notice against Jack Della Maddalena last July. He was brought in purely as a sacrificial lamb so Maddalena could stay on the card after his original opponent pulled out. Didn’t quite play out like that though. Hafez fought his arse off and not only went the distance with Maddalena, one of the judges actually scored the fight for him! I remember thinking Maddalena definitely won but it only raised Hafez’s stock. To come in as a last minute replacement and take a highly rated prospect like Maddalena to a split decision was impressive. He’s 32 years old and has a record of 8-4-1. Hardly outstanding. But regardless, that performance against Maddalena got my attention and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do after a full training camp.

 

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Joselyne Edwards vs Ailin Perez is shite. Don’t know if it’s gonna stay in the curtain jerk spot but it should. They’ve both fought in the UFC a few times now and I don’t recall enjoying any of it. Edwards is from Panama, 28 years old and 13-5 with 8 finishes. She’s coming off a points loss against Nora Cornolle on the Paris card in September. She doesn’t have any particularly impressive wins and even her losses were against mediocre opposition. Perez is Argentinian, 29 years old and 9-2 with 8 finishes. She’s took decisions off Ashlee Evans-Smith and Lucie Pudilova in her last two fights. Earth shattering stuff! All anyone remembers her for is her shaking her arse. She’s Bethe Correia 2.0. Beyond that, there’s nothing to see.

 

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Andre Lima vs Mitch Raposo then. I’m quite looking forward to seeing Lima back in there. He’s Brazilian, 25 years old and undefeated at 8-0 with 5 knockouts. He made his UFC debut on an Apex card in March against fellow Octagon newbie Igor Severino. If you need your memory jogged…

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Yep, that fight. Apparently Severino got hungry mid-fight because he just randomly started munching away on Lima’s arm halfway through the second round. Bizarre. It’s a shame because it was such a good fight before that and both looked like they might be genuine prospects worth keeping tabs on. I was really enjoying the fight before Severino went all Hannibal Lector. As you can see above, Lima didn’t hold a grudge. Many would’ve and no-one would blame them. Lima didn’t seem arsed in the slightest though. To the extent he immediately went and had the bite mark tattooed into his arm straight after the show! Raposo is stepping in on about 2 weeks notice, replacing Nyamjargal Tumendemberel. No, I did not make that name up, or sneeze while I was typing. Raposo is making his debut here, he’s also 25 and he has a record of 9-1 and 7 finishes. He got subbed by Jake Hadley on DWCS back in 2021 but has since bounced back with 4 straight stoppage wins and won his last fight in January by 4th round TKO in Cage Titans FC. He was also on TUF in 2021 apparently, losing in the Quarterfinals. This should be worth tuning in early for, to be fair. Lima looked promising in his debut.

 

 

That’s 302! 

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Edited by wandshogun09
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My ‘one to watch’ Tatsuro Taira vs Joshua Van is off 😢

Not even an injury situation either. They’ve just taken the fight apart, removed both guys from this card and now Taira is main eventing the June 15th Apex card against Alex Perez. And Van is fighting Tagir Ulanbekov the same night.

Both good fights and usually I’d have been more than fine with those bookings if they hadn’t teased me with Taira vs Van first! Oh well. Nice to see Taira getting a main event spot after being stuck on the prelims his whole UFC run up to now. It’s a big hit to this card for me though. Won’t make a difference to the success of the PPV but, for me personally, the card just lost maybe it’s best fight. 

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3 minutes ago, Bruce85 said:

Am I the only one who thought this was a rematch and Dustin had already lost to Islam?!

It's understandable, as Islam is sort of the next Khabib, I guess. 

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Pretty tasty card this having my mates over to watch and have birthday party and celebrations with them.

Not mentally prepared for this one being the last time we see Dustin in the cage and let's be honest losing to Islam but he did it and made that last climb before hanging it up.

Love the co main too is it mental I am routing for Strickland now after the year he's had. He's a terrible human on a microphone but I think I'm warming to him haha 

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5 hours ago, Bruce85 said:

Am I the only one who thought this was a rematch and Dustin had already lost 

I did too! I could have sworn Islam choked him out early :laugh:

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This is almost upon us then. Slight last minute change to the bout order, they’ve demoted the Jailton Almeida vs Alexandr Romanov fight to the prelims and bumped Niko Price vs Alex Morono up to the PPV main card. Seems random but sod the Heavyweights and I definitely think Price vs Morono will end up being the better actual fight to watch anyway, so I’m fine with it.

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Both Makhachev and Poirier made championship weight so no controversy there and that fight’s set in stone now. Intense face-off at the press conference yesterday…

For a fight that wasn’t the UFC’s first (or probably even second) choice, and a fight that I wasn’t massively excited about when it was first announced, I’m well up for this now. I’m seeing more and more people giving Poirier a strong chance as it gets closer. Some of that will be Dustin fans hoping for the fairytale ending for him, some of it’s probably Makhachev haters just wanting him to lose to anyone. But I definitely don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Makhachev wins. I’m picking Islam to win, I think he might do a lot better in the striking than a lot of people expect and I think he’s just gonna prove too much in the grappling. If Dustin can weather the storm and drag it into the later rounds, I can see him possibly finishing strong. Especially if he’s worked the body in the early rounds and the pace of the fight has been high. Makhachev’s in phenomenal shape and he can outwork and outlast almost anyone but we saw in that 5th round of the first Volkanovski fight, he was flagging and that ended up being the worst full round of his entire career. I definitely think Dustin’s tough enough to survive until the later rounds. But I think Makhachev’s gonna get to him before that and probably get the submission by about round 3 or 4.

Poirier’s got a better chance than I’ve seen some giving him though. And we know he’s not the type who’s gonna just fold if it gets rough. I’m a fan of both but I’d love to see Dustin pull this off. He’s too good a fighter to end his career never being UFC champion at least once. Makhachev can come back from a loss but for Dustin this is it. He’s doubled down on the retirement talk in the last week or so and he’s already said if he loses this fight, he’s not willing to climb the ladder again. This is his last chance so I’ve gotta root for him. It’s gonna be a bastard of a challenge though. Makhachev’s in the prime of his career right now and I think it’s fair to say, as good as Dustin still is he’s probably a little bit past his. If he can win this fight and dethrone a beast like Makhachev it’ll be a monster achievement and would cap off a stellar career beautifully. I think he’ll fight again if he wins this, as champion with PPV points, he’d be mad not to. But a title win over Makhachev would be absolutely career defining for him. 

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Brilliant stuff again Wand!

I'm not sure I've ever wanted someone to win a fight as badly as I have Porier here. Probably Couture when he fought Silva, but this is definitely up there. 

I'm under no illusion, I think this will go the same way as the Khabib fight, but I can only hope he learnt a lot from that, and I'm sure he will be as prepared as he can be. You definitely can't count him out. 

Porier has been my favourite fighter for a long time now, and if there's anyone that deserves to win the proper belt, for me, it's him. 

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Posted (edited)

Got the house to myself for a couple of hours so I’m gonna try and cram as much build up and hype stuff as I can for tonight’s card. I always neglect that stuff these days, just rarely get time to properly dive into it all like I used to. But I’m gonna try and watch pretty much everything this morning/afternoon. From the Countdown (genuinely can’t remember the last Countdown I watched) to the press conference to Embedded to the weigh in. And I’m gonna start with this…

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Wasn’t gonna do this but thought I might as well revisit Poirier’s fight with Khabib back in 2019. Haven’t seen it since around the time it happened, plus it feels kind of relevant to tonight’s fight because the Khabib fight was Dustin’s first title shot, tonight’s is almost certainly gonna be his last. Plus we obviously know the links between Khabib and Makhachev. I think it’s fair to say Makhachev is the closest thing we have to Khabib now and, in some ways, Poirier vs Khabib/Makhachev are similar fights stylistically as well. On paper anyway.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov©️vs Dustin Poirier©️ - Undisputed Lightweight Title

UFC 242: Khabib vs Poirier

September 7th 2019

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Yep, ‘undisputed’. If you remember back then, Poirier was coming off winning the interim title, beating Max Holloway in a 5 round war. The reason that interim title was created was because Khabib had been a bit naughty after crushing Conor McGregor in his previous fight. You all remember it. Jumping the fence, diving onto Dillon Danis at cageside, one of Khabib’s teammates jumping Conor in the cage etc. Just madness. Khabib was fined $500K and suspended for 9 months for his part in it. He wasn’t happy with the punishment from the NSAC and said he didn’t wanna fight in Nevada again. And as it turned out, he never did fight there again. That was the reason for the interim belt though. Looking back, it’s weird because you’d have thought that if there was gonna be an interim champion crowned in Khabib’s absence, surely a Conor McGregor vs Tony Ferguson fight would’ve been the way to go? With the winner facing Khabib on his return to unify the belts. But McGregor had completely unraveled after that Khabib loss and I think Ferguson was going through some shit himself at the time. Regardless, Poirier beating Holloway in a true FOTY contender and becoming interim champ solidified him as the next in line for Khabib. After taking the long, hard route and beating the likes of Miller, Pettis, Gaethje, Alvarez and Holloway along the way, this would be his first crack at the gold.

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The night arrived, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. There’s a really good pre-fight video package here, telling the story of Poirier being the scrappy underdog who’s clawed his way up to the title shot and done it the hard way. Then showing how dominant and scary Khabib had been throughout his career. Poirier even says “it’s like a Rocky movie” and it’s an overused comparison but there is a Rocky Balboa vs Ivan Drago feel to it all. I forgot how chilling Khabib was at this time, just stone faced matter of factly saying “when the cage closes, I’m gonna maul him”. And Poirier is a guy Khabib was vocal about respecting and liking! I’d hate to have been on his bad side. 

Commentary team is Jon Anik and Dominick Cruz. No Joe Rogan because he hasn’t cared in years and doesn’t bother travelling outside the US for fights anymore, even the big title fights. Surprised there was no Daniel Cormier though, especially with his ties to Khabib. Referee is Marc Goddard. And we’re off…

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Round 1: Nothing much going on for the first minute or so and you can just see Khabib is waiting for his opportunity to shoot in for a takedown. That opportunity arrives and Khabib’s got him pressed against the fence about 90 seconds in. Dustin’s resisting and not making it easy for him but a fresh Khabib is just overwhelming and he drags Dustin to the mat. Not even halfway through the round and Khabib’s got his back. Not good. He’s got Dustin in kind of a similar position to how he finished Conor here. He doesn’t have the arm under the chin where he can fully sink the choke in but he’s just cranking the forearm across the jaw and making life miserable for Poirier. There’s a legit look of shock on Dustin’s face during all this…

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I’ve seen a few fighters comment in the past that Khabib’s grappling strength and grip strength is insane. You can train your wrestling and BJJ all you want but, until you’re in there with him and feel it for yourself, you can’t appreciate what a helpless feeling it is. To his credit, Dustin is fighting it for all he’s worth and manages to get back to his feet. But Khabib’s still stuck to him like glue and bullies Dustin back down to the canvas every time.

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Lovely attempt at a switch from Poirier but, again, Khabib’s a step ahead of him and maintains top position. Just a nightmare of a round for Poirier this. He hasn’t taken a ton of damage but he’s been completely and utterly dominated from the second Khabib’s got his paws on him. Then as the round is coming to an end…

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Khabib opens up with the ground and pound and really puts an exclamation point on it. I had the round 10-8 for Khabib but apparently only one of the judges scored it that way. Regardless, it was an easy Khabib round however you chop it up.

Interesting back and forth between Poirier and Mike Brown in the corner after the round. You can hear Poirier saying he wanted to explode more in the grappling to escape but he knew Khabib was just waiting for that so he could dive on a submission. Mike Brown is telling him to attack more when they’re on the feet. Kind of sums up the fight in a nutshell really. The gameplan would’ve been to strike and that’s what Brown is focused on and trying to drill into him. But Khabib’s dominance in the grappling has Dustin thinking solely about his defence on the ground. Understandable but it shows once again how a strong grappler can really negate a dangerous striker and completely take them out of their comfort zone.

Round 2: Despite the concerns in his corner between rounds, Poirier comes out more proactive and aggressive in this round. He knows he’s gotta make every second on the feet count. Khabib whiffs on a shite jumping knee but you know it was just a distraction tactic because he wanted to shoot again. Khabib starting to exchange a bit now and he pays for it…

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Not a flush connection, more of a glancing blow, but it clipped the chin and definitely got Khabib’s attention. He did a good job of awkwardly avoiding the follow ups but that was the biggest moment of success for Poirier in the fight so far. Poirier does connect with a couple more punches but nothing particularly clean. Then Khabib gets the takedown, puts Poirier on the mat and that’s where the fight stays for the second half of the round. Again, Khabib doesn’t do much damage here, although Dustin gets cut around the eye somewhere in there, but he controls Dustin for a big old chunk of the round. Khabib with a hard knee to the face in the last few seconds of the round and that’s that.

Khabib 10-9. I’ve seen arguments over the years that Dustin won this round but that’s all based off that one punch. And while it was a good shot, I’m not sure it cancels out the entire second half of the round which Khabib controlled. And looking at this fight again now, 5 years after the fact, I don’t even think Khabib was that badly hurt. He clearly felt it. He didn’t like it. But I think it became a thing in Khabib fights where he was so rarely in any bother and so rarely tagged clean that any time he did take a dig, it got amplified and people would go nuts with the “HE GOT ROCKED” shite. The awkward way he moves in the striking adds to it. He looks like a mummy in there when he’s in striking exchanges. He got to the point where his striking was functional enough to get by, and he had some power himself as Conor found out. But it was never natural to him. Watching him strike compared to watching him grapple is like night and day. His striking had all the grace of a dragonfly clambering along your light shade.

Round 3: Both trading some strikes here as the round begins. Then it happens…

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Khabib shoots in, Dustin jumps the guillotine. It’s became a running joke but at this point, the guillotine to Dustin is his version of when Ric Flair would run down the apron and climb the turnbuckle. You know it’s gonna backfire but he’ll keep trying it anyway. In fairness, this was a solid attempt. It might’ve worked on a lesser grappler. But Khabib stayed calm, kept moving and defended well, never allowed Poirier to get more than half guard and then rolled onto his hip to stop Dustin applying full pressure. The second he popped his head out you could almost physically see the frustration and deflation oozing out of Poirier. He knew this probably meant another round on the bottom and now his arms were probably burning up from putting everything he had into that choke attempt. And to make matters worse, there was still almost 4 minutes left in the round. Within seconds, Khabib’s got Dustin’s back. Despite being clearly exhausted, Dustin’s trying to fight it but it’s not happening this time. Khabib’s got him.

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Christ! I forgot about Dustin’s face there. He knew in that moment it was over. No doubt the mind still wanted to fight, Poirier’s a warrior. But by that point, in that position, with his arms gassed out and his stamina flagging, the last thing you need is fucking Khabib on your neck. Dustin’s face says it all. He knew it was done and he couldn’t get out again. He fought so valiantly but it just wasn’t to be.

Winner - Khabib Nurmagomedov by submission. Round 3 - 2:06.

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I forgot they swapped shirts after the fight. Cool little moment. Apparently Khabib auctioned the shirt after the fight and donated 100% of the money to Dustin’s charity. It was all respect post-fight. And there’s never been any real beef between Dustin and the Dagestanis. There was a bit of needle between Dustin and Makhachev in the face-off at the press conference the other day when Poirier said “motherfucker” and Islam thought he literally said something about his old lady. But that was something of nothing and they’ve straightened it out since.

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No-one was to know at the time but this would also turn out to be the last time Khabib’s father Abdulmanap would be in his corner. He died less than a year later and obviously we know that led directly to Khabib’s retirement after his next win over Justin Gaethje.

Poirier’s had quite a run since the loss to Khabib. In his very next fight he won that barmy FOTY dogfight with Dan Hooker. Then he got locked into those chaotic back-to-back fights with Conor in 2021. Had his second failed title shot at the end of ‘21, again fighting valiantly but ultimately losing to Charles Oliveira (again by rear naked choke). In 2022 and 2023 he only fought once a year, won another FOTY contender against Michael Chandler then got knocked out by Gaethje in their rematch. Then of course, in March he bashed up Benoit Saint Denis in a fight where many were counting Dustin out going in.

What a career. At 35, and especially after the kind of fights he’s typically been involved in, you can see why he’s thinking about getting out. And this’ll be his 40th pro fight tonight. Seems as good a time as any to stop. But will he? If somehow gets it done, I feel like there’s no way he retires yet. If he loses though, I think this is probably it for him.

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In the end, I still think Makhachev wins tonight. And rewatching the Khabib fight has done nothing to change my mind. The main difference between Islam and Khabib though, is the striking. Like I said, Khabib had just enough functional striking to get by and to allow him to do what he really wanted to do, grapple. Makhachev has shown actual legitimate improvements in his standup over the years and, while the grappling will always be his main strength, he’s far from one dimensional. We’ve seen him stun Volkanovski with a punch in their first fight, we saw him stop Volk in their rematch, we’ve seen him drop Charles Oliveira. He’s a better striker than many give him credit for. But I don’t know if that’s gonna be a good or bad thing for him tonight. Of course his ability to strike is a positive and he doesn’t have to just bulldoze his way in and rely on his chin to get in grappling range like Khabib did at times. But him being more willing to stand and strike could/should also give Poirier more opportunities to have success. I think Khabib was a better pure grappler than Makhachev but I think Makhachev is the better all around fighter and I genuinely wouldn’t be shocked if he stops, or at least significantly hurts, Poirier on the feet tonight. He’s got more ways to win, whereas Khabib pretty much had one way that everyone knew about but nobody could stop.

Again though, as much as I’ve grown to like Makhachev, I can’t help but find myself rooting for Poirier here. Obviously him winning the belt and coming through on that one last accomplishment that’s eluded him would be an incredible moment. But also, there’s something about a fighter like him who’s so persistent and keeps bouncing back from setbacks that makes you wanna see them reach the top. I’ve seen Poirier’s run compared to Michael Bisping’s a few times this week and I definitely get it. Like Bisping, Poirier’s had some losses and lows in his career that would’ve permanent derailed a lot of fighters. Getting knocked out by McGregor in their first fight, getting knocked out by Michael Johnson, the failed title shots against Khabib and Oliveira etc. Then more recently, getting headkicked into oblivion by Gaethje and being written off, getting thrown in against a younger, dangerous, high risk/low reward fight against Benoit Saint Denis and answering the challenge by knocking him out. It’s easy to look back at that fight and say ‘well it wasn’t low reward because he got a title shot off it’. But that wasn’t the plan when they set that fight up. They made that fight to build BSD up off Dustin’s name and even after Dustin won, at that time you had Gaethje, Oliveira and Tsarukyan ahead of him for the title shot. This fight tonight was actually offered to Tsarukyan but he didn’t want the quick turnaround. Make no mistake, Dustin wasn’t meant to be in there tonight challenging for UFC gold again. If he pulls this off, whatever happens after that, it’s gonna be a special moment.

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Khabib
Oliveira
Third time lucky? 💎

Edited by wandshogun09
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It's really snuck up on me this here. Last chance saloon for Cool Dusty P. If he loses he'll seem like a nearly man, but it really isn't the whole story. He's been so good, for so long, in the best division in the sport in recent years and one of the strongest divisions that the sport has ever had. 

If he wins it'll cement him as one of the tippy top guys to ever do it. What a full circle story it'll be too. If he loses, no doubt he'll be disappointed to an incredible degree, but it won't hurt his current legacy in any way I don't think. This division is a shark tank, and at the sharp end of it almost any of them can beat each other on any given Saturday night. Yet Dustin wins many more of those than he loses, against top guys every time out. 

He's facing a real uphill battle here for sure, but he's a live dog and one I would never count out. It's just hard to imagine Islam not getting to him at some point, as Poirier likely won't be stopping too many of the takedowns. However if he can just avoid giving them away too easily, and doesn't get caught in a dreadful position from failed guillotine attempts, he might just get this to rounds 4 and 5. Right there my friends, is Dustin's wheelhouse. Get it to there and then he has a chance - providing of course he doesn't channel his inner Mike Bisping and go out there like he left the bath running. 

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1 hour ago, WeeAl said:

It's just hard to imagine Islam not getting to him at some point, as Poirier likely won't be stopping too many of the takedowns. 

This is gonna be one of the most interesting things about the fight to me. You’d think Islam will be looking for a predominantly grappling heavy fight tonight given his own strengths and the way Dustin lost his last 2 attempts at the title. I think he will look to mostly grapple. But there’s always that chance, because of the success Islam’s had in the striking in recent fights, that he might fancy standing more in this one. Like I said, I actually still think he could win a fight like that, or at least do well. But obviously if it’s more of a standup battle then Dustin’s chances improve greatly.

Anyway, here are the start times, the full card and my predictions…

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I hope that mooncat Paulo Costa batters Sean Strickland. It'd be funny, plus with a good win here he might decide to hang about a bit more and this MW division could do with an active Costa showing up and being the exciting weirdo that he is every 3-4 months, rather than every year and a half. 

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