The UFC continues its international tour with a stop at The Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for UFC 242. The main event takes place in the lightweight division where Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier will unify the UFC lightweight championship.
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to taste defeat. His last fight was almost one year ago at UFC 229 where he defeated Conor McGregor via fourth round submission. Of the Russian born fighters twenty-seven victories, eight are via (T)KO to go along with nine by submission. This will be the thirty-year-old’s twenty-eighth professional fight.
Interim UFC lightweight champion Dustin Poirier enters the fight riding a modest four-fight win streak. His most recent victory occurred at UFC 236 where he defeated Max Holloway via unanimous decision to win the UFC lightweight interim championship. Nineteen of his twenty-five career wins ended inside the distance. This will be the thirty-year-old’s thirty-second fight.
We stay in the lightweight division for the co-main where Edson Barboza takes on Paul Felder. This will be the second time these two will meet in the cage. They first fought back in 2015 at UFC on FOX 16. Barboza won that via unanimous decision.
Edson Barboza has lost three of his last four, but the losses were against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin Lee and most recently Justin Gaethje. He was finished in two of the three losses. The win was against Dan Hooker. Thirteen of his twenty victories ended inside the distance. At thirty-years-old, Barboza will make the walk for the twenty-eighth time.
Paul Felder is 4-1 in his last five. After losing to Mike Perry at UFC 226, Felder bounced back in his most recent fight with a unanimous decision win over James Vick at UFC on ESPN 1. The thirty-four-year-old makes the walk for the twenty-first time when he steps into the cage opposite Barboza on Saturday. Eleven of his sixteen wins failed to make it to the judge’s scorecards.
The third fight on the main card takes place in the lightweight division where Islam Makhachev takes on Davi Ramos. Makhachev enters the fight riding a five-fight win streak. His most recent fight was a hard-fought victory over Arman Tsarukyan at UFC Fight Night 149. Ten of the Russian born fighter’s seventeen career victories ended inside the distance; seven via submission. Makhachev will make the walk for the nineteenth time on Saturday.
Thirty-two-year-old Davi Ramos has won his previous four fights in a row. His most recent win occurred at UFC Fight Night 152 where he beat Austin Hubbard via unanimous decision. Eight of the Brazilian’s ten career wins ended inside the distance. This will Ramos’ thirteenth pro fight.
Also, on the main card Curtis Blaydes goes up against Shamil Abdurakhimov and Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira.
UFC 242 broadcast information
The early prelims will stream on ESPN+ beginning at 5:00 AM (CST) with the prelims airing on FX starting at 7:00 AM (CST). The main card will stream on ESPN+ PPV at 10:00 AM (CST).
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
UFC 242 Main Card
Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (25-5) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Nurmagomedov -440; Poirier +315
Pick: Nurmagomedov by decision.
Everyone is aware of Khabib’s wrestling, but he’s also an underrated striker. Poirier is the better striker, but unfortunately, he doesn’t possess one-punch knockout power. If Poirier is to win this fight, I think he has to overwhelm Nurmagomedov with strikes within the first seven to eight minutes of the fight.
Eventually Poirier is going to get taken down. The question is, how strong are his get-up skills? And, how many times will he be forced to work back to his feet until he gasses out and can’t do it anymore? I think Khabib’s suffocating style will eventually wear Poirier down. It’s possible we see Khabib get the finish, but Dustin is tough, so I’ll go with Nurmagomedov via clear decision.
Edson Barbosa (20-7) vs. Paul Felder (16-4) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Barboza -150; Felder +120
Pick: Barboza by decision.
Edson Barboza has been in more than a few wars in his career. He’s also taken a bit of punishment. So, a concern of mine is whether these fights have softened the chin of Barboza. He’s by far the older fighter in terms of cage time and has been finished in two of his last three fights.
Now, all of that aside, Barboza should win this fight. He’s the faster fighter and uses kicks to effectively maintain range. Felder must be able to crash the distance, get inside and dirty the fight up. If he can’t cut the cage off and he just chases Barboza around, then it’s going to be a bad night for him.
Islam Makhachev (17-1) vs. Davi Ramos (10-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Makhachev -340; Ramos +265
Pick: Makhachev by decision.
The odds on this fight are too wide in my opinion. Ramos has a path to victory. If he can get Makhachev to the ground, the fight becomes wrestler vs. BJJ. Makhachev’s wrestling is very good, but Ramos’ BJJ is better and he’s relentless when it comes to looking for submissions.
Considering the ground game of both fighters, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this fight play out primarily on the feet. If that happens then I favor the striking of Makhachev over that of Ramos. However, Makhachev would be wise to respect Ramos’ power. Ramos also has ridiculous cardio which could be a factor.
Curtis Blaydes (11-2, 1 NC) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-4) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Blaydes -500; Abdurakhimov +350
Pick: Blaydes by (T)KO.
Curtis Blaydes is the faster, more athletic fighter. He’s also one of the best wrestlers in the heavyweight division, which I think will be the difference here. Look for Blaydes to use his wrestling a lot here. Abdurakhimov has skills, but Blaydes is a big leap in competition. I can see Blaydes finishing a tired Abdurakhimov via ground and pound late in the fight.
Mairbek Taisumov (27-5) vs. Diego Ferreira (15-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Taisumov -265; Ferreira +205
Pick: Taisumov by (T)KO.
Taisumov is the more technical and the better striker in my opinion. That said, Ferreira is aggressive on the feet and wants to out-volume his opponents. Ferreira’s game plan should be to take Taisumov to the ground where he has a clear advantage. The problem is he has strayed from his ground game in favor of his striking lately. If he brings that same mentality to this fight, then it’s going to be a long night for him.
Joanne Calderwood (13-4) vs. Andrea Lee (11-2) – Flyweight 115 lbs.
Current Odds: Lee -220; Calderwood +180
Pick: Lee by decision.
Andrea Lee is solid on the feet and Calderwood is very hittable. Lee is also the stronger, more physical fighter so if the fight goes to the ground, I think she’ll have the advantage there as well. Calderwood uses her kicks well and that could become a factor the longer the fight goes on. She also has fought the better competition and has experience on her side. I expect a close competitive fight, possibly even a split decision.
Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4) vs. Lerone Murphy (5-0) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Tukhugov -400; Murphy +300
Pick: Tukhugov by decision.
This should be fun striking affair. Tukhugov is bit more technical, but Murphy has one-punch knockout power. Murphy will want to keep the fight standing because he really doesn’t have much of a ground game.
Liana Jojua (7-2) vs. Sarah Moras (5-5) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Jojua -150; Moras +120
Pick: Moras by decision.
Jojua has good BJJ and is solid overall on the ground. However, her striking still needs improvement. She’s young and raw when it comes to her stand-up. This is also her UFC debut so there’s always the possibility of jitters.
Moras record doesn’t impress on paper, but she’s fought some very tough women. Like Jojua, she is better on the ground than on the feet. But she is a better striker than her opponent. I can’t help but question the odds here. Moras has fought better competition and has UFC experience. I’m considering a play on the underdog in this spot.
Ottman Azaitar (11-0) vs. Teemu Packalen (8-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Azaitar -225; Packalen +185
Pick: Azaitar by decision.
Azaitar is making his UFC debut. He’s primarily a striker with huge power. Packalen on the other hand will do whatever it takes to get his opponent to the ground where he can work his submission game. Six of his eight wins are via submission.
This is a tough fight, and one I’m staying away from when it comes to a betting perspective. One fighter is making his promotional debut and the other fighter hasn’t fought in two years. Hard pass for me. My official pick however is Azaitar.
Belal Muhammad (15-3) vs. Takashi Sato (15-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Muhammad -370; Sato +295
Pick: Muhammad by decision.
Belal Muhammad doesn’t do anything great, but he’s a well-rounded fighter who does everything well. He likes to push a pace and is always moving forward. He is hittable though.
Sato prefers to fight at range, but his striking defense is suspect. I can see both fighters having success on the feet. Muhammad has the more impressive resume and I think ultimately his toughness will win out.
The odds on this one are way too wide in my opinion. For those backing Sato I can certainly understand why you would do so. I’m passing on the fight. I think Muhammad should take this one, but I’m not confident in it.
Nordine Taleb (15-6) vs. Muslim Salikhov (14-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Taleb -120; Salikhov -110
Pick: Taleb by decision.
Taleb has power in his hands and his legs. If he gets off early and mixes in his kicks to keep Salikhov at range I think he’ll be able to out-volume the Russian fighter. I also think he’s better on the ground. Salikhov is a very good striker with ridiculous power. So, if Salikhov has success getting inside he can put Taleb’s lights out. I lean towards Taleb here, but I haven’t decided if I like him enough to bet him.
Omari Akhmedov (18-4-1) vs. Zac Cummings (23-6) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Akhmedov -120; Cummings -110
Pick: Akhmedov by decision.
This is a tough fight to predict. If Akhmedov has his cardio issues resolved I think he’ll be able to out-volume Cummings over three rounds. Cummings has poor striking defense, but the guy doesn’t quit. I see this fight going the distance.
Don Madge (8-3-1) vs. Fares Ziam (10-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Madge -165; Ziam +135
Pick: Madge by (T)KO.
Madge’s three losses are to the same fighter. I think he’s better on the feet than Ziam. Add to it Ziam is making his UFC debut and I think Madge will be too much for him at this stage in his career.
Enjoy the fights!
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