Khabib Nurmagomedov will go for 28-0 in the main event of UFC 242 as Dustin Poirier goes to Abu Dhabi to attempt to give the champion his first loss.
The Eagle will be returning for the first time since his win over Conor McGregor in October 2018. Nurmagomedov defended the lightweight strap against The Notorious with a fourth-round submission victory at UFC 229 and has been serving a suspension for his actions after the fight since.
During the champion's time away from the cage, Poirier has emerged as the most deserving challenger in the lightweight division. The former featherweight has been on a tear, capturing the interim title over Max Holloway to cap off a five-fight win streak.
It's a major title fight to complete a lightweight-dominated main card. Four of the five featured bouts are set to take place in the 155-pound division.
Main Card (ESPN+ PPV 2 p.m. ET)
- Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (-440; bet $440 to win $100) vs. Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier (+350; bet $100 to win $350)
- Edson Barboza (-160) vs. Paul Felder (+130)
- Islam Makhachev (-320) vs. Davi Ramos (+260)
- Shamil Abdurakhimov (+350) vs. Curtis Blaydes (-500)
- Diego Ferreira (+210) vs. Mairbek Taisumov (-260)
Prelims (FX 12 p.m. ET)
- Joanne Calderwood (+180) vs. Andrea Lee (-220)
- Zubaira Tukhugov (-550) vs. Lerone Murphy (+375)
- Liana Jojua (-165) vs. Sarah Moraes (+135)
- Ottman Azaitar vs. Teemu Packalen
Early Prelims (Fight Pass 10 a.m. ET)
- Belal Muhammad (-370) vs. Takashi Sato (+290)
- Muslim Salikhov (-110) vs. Nordine Taleb (-120)
- Omari Akhmedov (-105) vs. Zak Cummings (-125)
- Don Madge (-180) vs. Fares Ziam (+150)
Odds via Caesars.
Poirier Out to Prove He's the Best Lightweight Ever
For Dustin Poirier, this fight is about a place in history. He's only the interim champion, but in his eyes, a win over Nurmagomedov would make him the best to ever do it in his division.
"It's huge,” Poirier said, per Damon Martin of MMA Fighting. "It's history. When I go out there and beat Khabib, it's not a question of am I the best UFC lightweight? It's a question of am I the best lightweight to ever fight in mixed martial arts with the run I'm on."
While his championship reign is nonexistent right now, it's hard to argue he's on a great run. His win streak includes three former champions in Holloway, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis. The other is Justin Gaethje, a former World Series of Fighting champion and all-around tough out for anyone in the division.
Nurmagomedov is a different animal, though.
The champion is undefeated for a reason, and the unrelenting pressure he puts on his opponents is hard to emulate in training or other fights.
The Diamond's run has been impressive, but none of those opponents have prepared him for what Nurmagomedov brings to the table. The fight will be interesting when it is on the feet. Poirier has the kind of power to spring an upset.
But once The Eagle gets it to the ground, Poirier will look a lot like the other people who have failed to give Nurmagomedov a loss.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via fourth-round TKO.
Paul Felder Looking to Showcase Evolution in Edson Barboza Rematch
Paul Felder hasn't fought Edson Barboza for more than four years, but he still vividly remembers the result.
The Irish Dragon lost a unanimous decision to the Brazilian in a memorable Fight of the Night matchup. Several years later, and they are still among the most fun fighters in the division.
Since the loss Felder has been training with renowned coach Duke Roufus. It's a move the 35-year-old believes will make the difference because Barboza will see a much different version of Felder.
"Duke is a mastermind," he said, per Peter Carroll of MMA Fighting. "I've just been adding more clinch and more takedowns and working with my jiu-jitsu coaches. I'm so much more well-rounded and so much more composed. I was so violent and aggressive when I first fought him. I was all balls and pressure. It was just get in there and scrap. Now it's the same mentality with more versatility."
Both fighters are still top-10 guys, but the lightweight division is loaded with contenders. The winner of this fight can easily insert themselves back into the mix, but a loss will be devastating for either side.
Barboza is just 1-3 in his past four fights while remaining relatively active. Felder, on the other hand, hasn't been nearly as active but looked impressive in a win over James Vick last time out in February.
Felder's more versatile attack should earn him the decision here.
Prediction: Felder via unanimous decision.