UFC 242 takes place Saturday morning/afternoon from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It is the first UFC pay-per-view event held in Abu Dhabi since UFC 112 in 2010. The event is headlined by Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0) defending his UFC lightweight title against interim champion Dustin Poirier (25-5, 1 NC). This is Nurmagomedov’s first fight since he defeated Conor McGregor in the highest grossing event in the history of the sport.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
With his elite grappling, Khabib Nurmagomedov has built up an undefeated record in the toughest division in the sport. After a win over rival Conor McGregor, he is one of the biggest stars in the sport as well. He takes on Dustin Poirier, who has never been given anything over the course of the career. With his gritty offensive style he just kept winning and he earned this title shot by winning an interim title fight against featherweight champion Max Holloway. Now, Poirier gets the biggest opportunity of his career.
Round 1. Poirier opens with a couple leg kicks in front of the pro-Khabib crowd. Khabib shoots in for a takedown a minute and a half in. Khabib gets Poirier down but Poirier stands back up. Khabib gets him down again and this time takes Poirier’s back. Khabib transitions into mount up against the cage and then back to back control. He uses a neck crank briefly but gives it up. Khabib lands some punches from the top and goes for the choke. he can’t get the arm under the neck and Poirier stands back up. Khabib retains a clinch and they battle for position. Khabib pulls Poirier back down. Poirier stands back up but Khabib pulls him down again. Khabib gets some hard elbows from mount at the close. 10-8 Khabib.
Round 2. Poirier catches Khabib with a punch and moves in aggressively looking to capitalize. Eventually he slows down the pace as Khabib is fine. Khabib then scores another takedown. Khabib controls Poirier’s legs and lands some punches from the top. Poirier is bleeding. Poirier looks to stand back up. He eventually does but Khabib retains control of the body and prevents Poirier from getting any separation until the close seconds. 10-9 Khabib.
Round 3. A weathered Poirier throws a couple big punches that miss. Khabib goes for a takedown. Poirier grabs a guilotine that’s pretty tight. Khabib fights out from trouble and gets his head out. Khabib locks in a rear naked choke and gets the submission.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov, submission, round 3.
That was Khabib Nurmagomedov at his suffocating best. Once he gets a hold of an opponent, it’s so difficult to escape. Dustin Poirier’s spirit never went away but he was simply overwhelmed over time by the best lightweight in the world.
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
Edson Barboza and Paul Felder are entertaining strikers and this figures to be an action packed affair. Barboza and Felder fought once before, with Barboza picking up the unanimous decision in 2015.
Round 1. Barboza lands a few leg kicks as Felder moves in. Felder clinches and looks for a takedown. He can’t get it and they break. Felder lands a hard punch to the body and Barboza answers in the same exchange with a hard punch to the head. Barboza attacks the body with a pair of kicks. Felder is bleeding high on the head from an accidental head butt, a problem spot since it will trickle down. Barboza lands two straight vicious left hooks. Felder has a great chin. Barboza lands a nice combination. Felder’s face is an absolute mess with what appears to be bleeding from a number of different points. Strong round for Barboza, close to a 10-8. 10-9 Barboza.
Round 2. Barboza attacks the leg repeatedly early. Felder lands a nice hook and Barboza responds by taking Felder down. Felder opens up a cut with an elbow from the bottom and Barboza is bleeding badly. Felder goes for an arm bar but Barboza pulls his arm out and then stands back up. Barboza connects with a strong hook in exchange. Both men are all busted up as a result of all the damage from this fight. Close round. 10-9 Felder.
Round 3. The pace slows in the third. As usual, Barboza mixes in strikes from different levels. He lands a nice looping right hand and then a spinning back fist. Felder connects on an elbow from short range. Barboza looks for a takedown late. He has him down briefly before Felder gets back up. Another close round. 10-9 Barboza, 29-28 Barboza.
Winner: Paul Felder, split decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27).
The crowd does not like the decision at all but that was a close fight that could have gone either way. A 30-27 for Felder is strange given how much damage Barboza did in that first round. This is a crucial win for Felder in his desire to work towards a title shot.
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Islam Makhachev is a top tier lightweight with a 17-1 record and 5 straight UFC wins. Davi Ramos doesn’t have the same level of overall MMA resume but he is a jiu jitsu world champion with four straight wins.
Round 1. Makhachev lands a punch and shoots for a takedown. Ramos prevents that. Both men are tentative, not throwing much nor going for takedowns. Ramos throws a little bit more towards the close. 10-10.
Round 2. Makhachev throws a head kick, then Ramos charges in with a series of punches and clinches. Makhachev brushes him off. The crowd begins to jeer as they stand in front of each other not doing much. Ramos stuns Makhachev with a punch. He starts to go down but recovers. Makhachev answers with a straight left hand and then another. Makhachev adds a knee. He’s finally getting going. Ramos charges in but eats a counter in the process. Ramos is bleeding. 10-9 Makhachev.
Round 3. Ramos charges in but Makhachev drops him with a knee. Makhachev lands a rapid series of punches on the ground looking for the stoppage. The referee elects not to stop the fight and Makhachev ends up on top on the ground. Makhachev lands some elbows from the top and Ramos isn’t able to set up any submissions. Makhachev lands some additional punches as the fight comes to an end. 10-8 Makhachev, 30-27 Makhachev.
Winner: Islam Makhachev, unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26).
Islam Makhachev demonstrated the skill there that has earned him such an impressive record. On the flip side, his style hasn’t earned him a strong fan following and that was another fight that is unlikely to leave fans clamoring to see him against top names.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Curtis Blaydes is one of the top rated heavyweight contenders with his only career losses coming to the scary knockout artist Francis Ngannou. He is 5-1 in his last six bouts. Shamil Abdurakhimov is also 5-1 in his last six, all in the UFC and Blaydes would likely be his biggest win to date.
Round 1. Blaydes shoots for an early takedown. He gets Abdurakhimov down but Abdurakhimov stands back up. Blaydes slams him back down and has side control. Again, Abdurakhimov works his way back up. After a brief standup period, Blaydes shoots for another takedown and gets it. In the final 20 seconds Blaydes gets mount and he really opens up with big punches until the round concludes. 10-8 Blaydes.
Round 2. Blaydes goes right back to the takedown and takes down Abdurakhimov to start the second round. As Abdurakhimov looks to stand up, Blaydes really opens up with punches and Abdurakhimov has to give up standing to defend. Blaydes then lands a brutal elbow to the nose that busts open Abdurakhimov. Abdurakhimov turns his head and covers up, leading the referee to stop the bout.
Winner: Curtis Blaydes, TKO, round 2.
That was a convincing victory for Blaydes. Blaydes utilized his superior wrestling, kept Abdurakhimov in his domain, and relied upon his power to get the stoppage once he had control.
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira
Mairbek Taisumov and Diego Ferreira are two of the most underrated fighters in the UFC. They’ve both thrived against top competition but haven’t gotten to fight stars that would get them more noticed. Ferreira has four straight UFC wins while Taisumov’s UFC winning streak stands at six.
Round 1. After a bit of a feeling out process, they pick up the pace. Ferreira pushes forward, throwing plenty. Taisumov is throwing his combinations as well. With two minutes left, Taisumov stuns Ferreira with a right hand by the ear. Taisumov looks to capitalize on the opportunity but Ferreira recovers well. Ferreira lands a two punch combination late and then follows it with another combination. Close round. Taisumov had the best shot of the round for sure but Ferreira was much more active on balance. 10-9 Ferreira.
Round 2. Ferreira lands a couple of strong punches at the start. Ferreira goes for a takedown but Taisumov reverses with a judo throw. Ferreira gets back up. Ferreira continues to pursue Taisumov and he’s landing more in addition to moving forward. Taisumov lands a straight right hand and Ferreira responds by going for a takedown but he doesn’t come close to securing it. Ferreira is bleeding from around the eye. Ferreira throws a spinning heel kick at the close. 10-9 Ferreira.
Round 3. Ferreira catches a kick and then lands a knee and a right hand. Ferreira is really pouring on the offense and consistently catching Taisumov right on the chin. Taisumov was firing back pretty well in the first and second but Ferreira is pulling away here in the third. Taisumov is just eating strike after strike. Taisumov can take a punch so he doesn’t look stunned at all but the action is one sided. Taisumov is bleeding badly from the middle of his face as Ferreira continues to batter him with strikes. 10-8 Ferreira, 30-26 Ferreira.
Winner: Diego Ferreira, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27).
That was a great win for Ferreira, who really took over against a high end fighter who had not lost in quite some time. There’s plenty of talent in the lightweight division and Ferreira deserves some well known opposition.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
Joanne Calderwood is a popular Scottish competitor who is one of the best women’s flyweight fighters. She has fallen short against the best of the best, preventing her from entering into the title mix. Andrea Lee is 3-0 in the UFC and rising as a contender.
Round 1. Lee comes out with a few strong punches. Calderwood is firing plenty too, throwing more kicks than Lee. Calderwood connects with a strong looping punch. It looks like both women are going to be content to stand and trade. Calderwood is bleeding from the noise. Calderwood gets a takedown but Lee gets right back up. At that point, Calderwood lands a hard elbow that reddens Lee’s eye. Lee responds by taking Calderwood down. She moves into side control and lands some elbows. 10-9 Lee.
Round 2. They come out throwing a lot again. Lee gets a takedown a minute and a half in. Calderwood gets back up and they trade elbows before separating. Calderwood gets a takedown in the final 30 seconds. Calderwood lands some punches there before Lee gets up at the end. 10-9 Calderwood.
Round 3. They start out striking again and they are very evenly matched on the feet. Calderwood backs Lee up with a solid combination. Calderwood looks for a takedown at the midpoint of the round. Lee prevents that. Lee then looks for a takedown and gets it. Lee attempts to take the back as Calderwood stands up but she cannot do so. They trade knees in the clinch late. They keep pushing right to the end. 10-9 Calderwood, 29-28 Calderwood.
Winner: Joanne Calderwood, split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).
That was a very well matched fight. Both fighters kept pushing throughout and it could have gone either way.
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
Zubaira Tukhugov is a Russian fighter with a 3-1 UFC record but he’s coming off his first UFC loss. Lerone Murphy is an unbeaten English fighter making his UFC debut.
Round 1. Murphy turns around Tukhugov with a hard low kick early. Tukhugov knocks Murphy down with a left hook and has him in big trouble. Tukhugov presses looking for the finish and lands a series of punches as Murphy looks to recover his senses. Eventually, Tukhugov is content to take top position up against the cage. Murphy looks to stand up but gets pulled back down. Tukhugov concentrates on trying to pass guard but he isn’t able to do so and eventually settles for landing some punches from the top. Murphy threatens with a kimura late. 10-9 Tukhugov.
Round 2. Murphy comes out aggressively in the second and has some success with his striking. Tukhugov responds by taking him down. Murphy attempts a guillotine choke from the bottom and it looks pretty tight but Tukhugov is able to work his way out, perhaps with the assistance of sweat in a hot environment. Murphy goes for the guillotine again but this time Tukhugov gets out more easily. Murphy gets up and appears to be the fresher fighter. Murphy lands a nice straight right hand and then an uppercut. Murphy lands a head kick before Tukhugov gets him back down with a takedown. 10-9 Murphy.
Round 3. Murphy opens with a couple of straight punches. He pursues Tukhugov with strikes and stuffs a takedown. Tukhugov is having to back up a lot against the clearly fresher man. Tukhugov goes for a takedown again. he gets it with two minutes left. Murphy gets up in the final minute. Tukhugov gets Murphy back down and Murphy stands up once more. Murphy lands a knee at the close. 10-9 Tukhugov, 29-28 Tukhugov.
Decision: Split Draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28).
Those scores likely mean one judge gave Tukhugov the first and third, one judge gave Murphy the second and third, while the third judge gave either Tukhugov the first and third with Murphy getting a 10-8 second or Murphy the second and third with Tukhugov getting a 10-8 first. The draw feels just. Tukhugov landed plenty of takedowns but Murphy was the better striker.
Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras
Liana Jojua is a UFC newcomer who has won mostly via submission. Sarah Moras has a 5-5 professional record and has lost 3 straight.
Round 1. Moras is more active early with her striking, relying principally on her boxing. Moras clinches at the midpoint of the round and wears on Jojua up against the cage. They are finally separated in the final minute and after a wild exchange end up back in the clinch. 10-9 Moras.
Round 2. Moras backs Jojua up early in the round, leading with her punches. Moras lands a knee and clinches again. Jojua finally gets the takedown at the midpoint of the round. Moras is more aggressive initially there, with punches an elbows from the bottom. Moras looks for a triangle or armbar but isn’t able to get anything. Moras then just pushes Jojua off and takes top position, a technique that rarely works at the UFC level. Moras then lands some elbows and punches from the top. 10-9 Moras.
Round 3. Jojua gets a takedown to start the third. Again, Moras is more active off her back than Jojua. Moras gets up and then takes Jojua down. Moras takes the back then gets full mount. She lands some punches there and the fight is stopped.
Winner: Sarah Moras, TKO, round 3.
That was an important win for Moras, who almost certainly would have been out of the UFC if she had lost. She dominated the fight throughout against an opponent who did not look equipped to fight at the UFC level.
Teemu Packalen vs. Ottman Azaitar
Teemu Packalen is an athlete from Finland who has struggled in the UFC thus far at 1-2. He takes on unbeaten UFC newcomer Ottman Azaitar.
Round 1. Azaitar comes out swinging wildly. Both men are connecting. Azaitar lands a heavy hook and he swarms on Packalen looking for the finish. Packalen is able to recover. As Packalen goes for a knee in the clinch, he gets dropped with a punch. However, he returns to his feet immediately. Packalen looks for a takedown but has it blocked. Azaitar knocks Packalen out cold with a right hand. Packalen falls in a heap and is twitching, a scary scene.
Winner: Ottman Azaitar, KO, round 1.
For however long Ottman Azaitar fights in the UFC, they’re likely to be replaying that finish. It was one of the most brutal knockouts of the year. Given the nature of the finish, UFC may elect to put Azaitar in high profile fights quickly to see how he does against well known fighters.
Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
Belal Muhammad has a strong 15-3 MMA record and the Palestinian-American is looking forward to fighting in the Middle East for the first time. Takashi Sato is 15-2 in his own right and won his UFC debut.
Round 1. The fighters trade jabs at the start. Muhammad connects with a nice hook. Muhammad lands a two punch combination to the body and head, then lands it again. Muhammad takes Sato down but Sato pops back up. Muhammad scores another takedown a minute later and quickly takes Sato’s back and locks in a body triangle. Muhammad lands punches and elbows there until the close. 10-9 Muhammad.
Round 2. Muhammad again has success attacking the body and then the head. Muhammad lands an inside left hand that connects well. Muhammad goes for a takedown but Sato prevents him from getting the fight to the ground. Muhammad continues to be active with his striking. Sato lands a nice uppercut but Muhammad fires back with an overhand. Sato scores a beautiful takedown in the final minute and has side control. 10-9 Muhammad.
Round 3. Both men come out firing. After a head butt and a punch, Sato is bleeding near the eye. Muhammad goes for a takedown but Sato blocks it well. Muhammad shoots again for the takedown and this time he gets it. Muhammad takes the back and gets his arm under the chin and gets the tap.
Winner: Belal Muhammad, submission, round 3.
That was an impressive victory for Muhammad. He aggressively pushed the pace standing and on the ground and picked up the finish at the end with the rear naked choke. He also had a lot of fan support, making this a memorable evening for him.
Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov
Nordine Taleb is a respected veteran with a 7-4 UFC record and wins over the likes of Li Jingliang, Danny Roberts and Erick Silva. He is now 38 years old. Muslim Salikhov has an impressive 14-2 MMA record and he is a finisher with stoppages in every fight except one.
Round 1. Salikhov throws a few leg kicks with great power behind them. Salikhov lands a crisp spinning back kick. Salikhov connects with a right hook. Both men are landing leg kicks but Salikhov has been more successsful when it comes to other techniques. Out of nowhere, Salikhov knocks Taleb out with a brutal looping right hand. After being out on the ground, Taleb tries to stand up and has difficulty doing so.
Winner: Muslim Salikhov, KO, round 1.
Muslim Salikhov has made a career out of stopping opponents and he showed why there with devastating one punch power.
Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings
Omari Akhmedov is one of many Dagestani fighters competing on this card. The sambo expert has a 6-3-1 UFC record, generally fighting under the radar. Zak Cummings fits a similar profile, earning an impressive 8-2 UFC record with his ground oriented approach.
Round 1. They feel each other out early in the standup. Cummings knocks Akhmedov down with a left hook but he gets up quickly. There is a cut on the cheek of Akhmedov. Akhmedov grabs a double leg and slams Cummings to the mat impressively. Cummings does a nice job of tying up the hands and preventing Akhmedov from landing anything. When Akhmedov postures up for a big attempt, Cummings slips out and returns to his feet. Close round. 10-9 Akhmedov.
Round 2. Akhmedov connects with a right hand early. Both men are tending to throw one strike at a time rather than relying on greater volume. Akhmedov lands another right punch as Cummings is throwing a low kick. Akhmedov catches a kick and clinches. Akhmedov throws a few knees in the clinch. Cummings’ facial expression suggests frustration with how the fight is going. Cummings grabs a guillotine choke and pulls Akhmedov down but Akhmedov pops his head out on the way down and lands some punches on the ground. 10-9 Akhmedov.
Round 3. Both men continue to not land much in the standup. In particular, Akhmedov is just moving out of the way of a high percentage of Cummings’ punches. Akhmedov quickly shoots in with two minutes left but Cummings stuffs it well. Akhmedov gets a takedown in the final minute. Akhmedov lands some solid punches at the close. 10-9 Akhmedov.
Winner: Omari Akhmedov, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
The pace was slow and there wasn’t a lot of action, but Akhmedov definitely earned the win on the strength of a couple takedowns and good striking defense.
Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam
Don Madge is a South African competitor who won his UFC debut with a head kick knockout. He takes on UFC newcomer Fares Ziam. The French fighter took the fight on short notice and has won five straight.
Round 1. Madge closes distance, clinches, and works for a takedown. Ziam successfully defends against the initial attempt. They end up in a stalemate, trading knees to the legs and body. The referee finally breaks them up with around a minute and a half left in the round. Madge moves back into the clinch and goes for the takedown again. Ziam prevents that and they end up back in the clinch. Nothing happens there until the round mercifully comes to an end. 10-10.
Round 2. Madge throws a couple punches and returns to the clinch. Ziam lands an elbow in the clinch. Madge breaks and Ziam immediately opens up with a couple combinations so Madge returns to the clinch. Madge goes for the takedown again and once more Ziam successfully prevents it. They break off briefly before Madge lands a punch and returns to the clinch. The referee breaks them with a minute left. They clinch and Ziam goes for a takedown but Madge blocks that so they end up back in a clinch by the cage. Madge finally gets a takedown with less than 20 seconds left. He lands a few punches and the round ends. 10-9 Madge.
Round 3. Madge goes back to the clinch. Madge looks for a takedown but doesn’t make much headway. Ziam goes for a kimura but Madge rolls through and they’re back in the familiar clinch stalemate. Madge gets a second takedown with a minute and a half left. Madge lands a few strikes inside the open guard. Madge mounts briefly but loses it. 10-9 Madge.
Winner: Don Madge, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28).
Don Madge picked up the judges’ decision, largely by preventing much in the way of action from transpiring.