UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier – The big questions answered as ‘The Eagle’ returns

It has been a long time coming, but at UFC 242 Khabib Nurmagomedov will make his return to face lightweight rival Dustin Poirier.

The eyes of the MMA world will be locked on Khabib Nurmagomedov when he makes an eagerly awaited return at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

It has been 11 months since Nurmagomedov last fought in Las Vegas, where his excellent victory over Conor McGregor was marred by an ugly post-fight melee.

But Nurmagomedov remains one of UFC’s greatest attractions and the battle for supremacy in the lightweight division is on when he goes head-to-head with interim champion Dustin Poirier.

Ahead of the bout, we take a look at some of the key questions for what promises to be a blockbuster main event.


What happened at UFC 229?

Oh boy…where do you start with this one? The build-up to this was fight was, let’s dilute this a little, ugly. Back in April 2018, McGregor was involved in an attack on a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and other fighters. McGregor would eventually be forced to undertake community service and an anger management programme over the incident. So, naturally the scene was set for a red-hot build-up that had many barbs that crossed the line. After Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round the bad blood spilled over, with the Russian launching himself over the cage to fight members of his rival’s team, leading to a mass brawl. It was all rather unpleasant, unsavoury and unnecessary, and in truth not a great look for UFC.

What’s Khabib been up to since?

The fallout from the ruckus landed McGregor and Nurmagomedov hefty fines and sizeable suspensions, with the latter having been banned for nine months. But it has been a busy year nonetheless. There has been parenting advice from Vladimir Putin, an airport opening with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a meeting with Vladimir Vasilyev, the head of the Republic of Dagestan. There was also time to call out boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr – who has also fought McGregor – and take in trips to watch AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Will he fight McGregor again?

In the world of combat sports you should definitely never say never. Nurmagomedov said this year that McGregor does not deserve a rematch and the Irishman’s lack of activity in the octagon raises legitimate questions about whether we will see him in UFC again. But money talks and if the stars align and the finances are right then it is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility these great rivals will dance again.

What’s Khabib’s record like?

In a word: formidable. Nurmagomedov has had 27 fights and earned 27 victories. In a world of the finest margins it is a phenomenally dominant record.

What is his style?

Nurmagomedov is one of the best wrestlers in UFC and no one has been able to defend against his extraordinary grappling and takedown skills. But there are several more strings to his bow, as McGregor found out to his detriment when caught with an awesome overhead right in their bout. Trying to find a weakness in his game is tough.

Who is his opponent Poirier?

Hardcore fight fans will need no introduction to Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Poirier. The American has notable victories over big hitters like Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway on his resume – a second win against the latter seeing him named interim lightweight champion in April. ‘The Diamond’ collected aluminium cans and picked pecans prior to getting into the fight game, landing in MMA having first looked into the possibility of boxing. Poirier is a talented grappler and also has decent stand-up. He is sure to be a tricky customer.

What’s been said in the build-up?

There has been no repeat of the ill-tempered baiting prior to the McGregor dust-up, but Nurmagomedov insists the respect he has for his opponent ends on fight night, saying: “Generally, I only have respect for him. That will stop as soon as I enter the octagon. That’s where we’ll have to fight. If you get into the octagon and you see your opponent, then that’s it. You have to compete.” Few are tipping Poirier for the upset, but the man himself is full of confidence: “I’m mentally ready for 25 minutes of bleeding and sweating and being uncomfortable. The fans can expect me to put Khabib in positions you haven’t see him in. And to hurt him.”

Who will win the fight?

At 30, Poirier is a seasoned campaigner and you do not compete for a decade in UFC unless you are highly talented. But Nurmagomedov is as fearsome a fighter as the MMA world has ever seen and will be chomping at the bit to make up for lost time.

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