Dustin Poirier was wearing Khabib Nurmagomedov’s T-shirt following their title unification fight Saturday in the main event of UFC 242 at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It was somehow appropriate since Poirier had Nurmagomedov on his back for most of their fight.
Nurmagomedov’s next-level grappling was far too much for Poirier, and he tapped to a rear naked choke at 2:06 of the third round. Only seconds before, Poirier had caught Nurmagomedov in a guillotine choke, which was deep, but Nurmagomedov coolly wiggled out and almost instantly choked Poirier out.
The victory raised his record to 28-0 and may wind up vaulting him into the top spot in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings.
He dominated Poirier from the early seconds of the first round. He took Poirier down repeatedly, forced Poirier to carry his weight and mauled him as he has done so often in the past.
Nurmagomedov, a Muslim fighting in the Middle East, entered the Octagon to a loud ovation, but he was clearly feeling the pressure. When he was asked after the bout who he wanted to fight next, he declined to talk.
“The last two years have been very busy,” Nurmagomedov said. “I want to relax. I have too much pressure on my shoulders. Give me a couple of days.”
When he performs like that, he can have all the time he wants. He’s clearly lapped the field in what is easily the UFC’s best and deepest division.
He’s not a thickly muscled guy, but he is so physically strong and his technique is so good that few opponents are able to deal with it. He was all over Poirier from the start and took little damage. Poirier hit him with a couple of kicks to the body and a good right hand.
In addition, there was the guillotine attempt, but that was it. Other than that, it was just about all Nurmagomedov.
Tony Ferguson, the one-time interim champion, figures to be next, but no matter who it is, it’s going to be very difficult to dethrone this champion.
Nurmagomedov spent a lot of time thanking his team, his coaches and his father, Abdulmanap, who hasn’t been able to corner him previously in the UFC because he’s had visa issues.
He took a swipe at Conor McGregor by referring to the respect he and Poirier showed each other and said it was not like with “that bullshit guy.”
“MMA is about respect, not about trash talking,” Nurmagomedov said.
McGregor taunted Nurmagomedov mercilessly prior to UFC 229 last year in Las Vegas and set up an explosive scene. After that fight ended with Nurmagomedov victorious by fourth-round submission, he leaped over the cage and got into a brawl with a McGregor cornerman.
This time, he wore Poirier’s ring walk shirt and said he’d sell it with all proceeds going to Poirier’s “Good Fight Foundation.”
With the pressure off of him starring in Abu Dhabi, who knows what he could be capable of doing. But he is showing no signs of slowing.
It will take the performance of a lifetime to dethrone him.
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