Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nurmagomedov are set to headline a card heavy on international talent as the UFC heads to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates with UFC 242 on Saturday.
The main event features the long-awaited return of lightweight champion Nurmagomedov in his first action since his memorable blockbuster against Conor McGregor. In his time away from the cage, Dustin Poirier has emerged as the interim lightweight titleholder.
He'll get an opportunity to unify his belt with the actual crown, but he comes in as a fairly large underdog.
Nurmagomedov remains undefeated, and the odds reflect that fact.
Another lightweight matchup, between Paul Felder and Edson Barboza, will serve as the co-main event, and four of the five main card bouts will take place in the division. Who will shine at 155 pounds is just one of many questions that will be answered on Saturday night.
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)
- Carlos 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 Moras (+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
Can Dustin Poirier Continue His Streak?
Poirier has long been a player in both the lightweight and featherweight divisions. He has been fighting under the UFC banner for the better part of a decade, but he's just recently become a legitimate title contender.
And he has looked impressive doing it.
His five-fight win streak started with a decision win over Jim Miller in a Fight of the Night performance in February 2017, but it's become more impressive with every appearance since. He's beaten former champions in Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez and Max Holloway.
Adding Nurmagomedov to that list would make it one of the most impressive runs in MMA history, but that's a pretty big task.
The Eagle is undefeated for a reason. No one has been able to match his unparalleled grappling and pressure game. He uses his Sambo background well against opponents and usually dictates the pace and position the fight takes place.
Poirier will need to do his best to change to have a shot. When this fight is on the feet, Poirier is just as dangerous as anyone Nurmagomedov has fought. He has the power to turn the lights off with one well-placed strike.
That's easier said than done, though. This isn't the first time Nurmagomedov has seen someone with power, and it hasn't mattered so far.
Prediction: Nurmagomedov via fourth-round TKO
Which Lightweights Will Stand Out?
The main card is a showcase of lightweight talent, with three other bouts on the pay-per-view at the weight class.
None of the fights are tied into the title picture, but all three give an opportunity for someone to shine and take a step up.
The co-main event features Felder and Barboza in a bout that won't determine a No. 1 contender in the division but could keep one of them in the running. Both are top-10 fighters, but a loss in a division as loaded as lightweight could officially eliminate one of them.
The other two lightweight bouts feature up-and-coming prospects who will have a chance to make a name for themselves. Mairbek Taisumov and Carlos Diego Ferreira kick the card off. Taisumov is on a six-fight win streak, while Ferreira has put together four straight wins, including a win over Rustam Khabilov his last time out.
Then there's a chance for Nurmagomedov's training partner Islam Makhachev to shine. He has put together a five-fight win streak and will have the opportunity to put his skills on display on the big stage. He'll get an interesting grappling matchup with Davi Ramos, who has proved to be an intriguing submission artist with seven to his name.
It's a three-pack of fights that don't feature the biggest names, but someone is going to come away with a memorable performance.
Can Andrea Lee Take Another Step to a Title Shot?
One of the most important fights of the night doesn't even take place on the main card. The undercard main event of Andrea Lee and Joanne Calderwood has major stakes for the women's flyweight division.
Both are top-10 fighters, and Lee would be a fresh face in the upper echelon of the division. KGB is a perfect 3-0 since coming to the UFC, and the wins have come against increasingly impressive competition.
Calderwood will be her toughest test to date. She's 2-1 since moving back to flyweight from strawweight and has proved to be a good barometer for where fighters rank throughout her career. She's never been able to emerge to the status of title contender herself, but she's a cagey veteran.
Both are high-output strikers with enough grappling chops to handle themselves if the fight hits the mat. It should be an entertaining affair, and Lee's ability to use her length to keep JoJo at bay will be a key to the fight.
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision