UFC 242 Results: The Real Winners and Losers
The air is rarefied for Khabib Nurmagomedov.
You have Jon Jones. You have Amanda Nunes. Maybe you have Henry Cejudo or Demetrious Johnson. Other than that, no one besides Nurmagomedov has a stronger claim to MMA's iron throne, the distinction of being the world's pound-for-pound best.
In Saturday's main event at UFC 242, Nurmagomedov put his UFC lightweight title and undefeated 27-0 record on the line against Dustin Poirier, who just defeated Max Holloway to capture the interim lightweight strap. When a fighter as great as Poirier is in the underdog house this deeply, that tells you all you need to know about the opponent.
The Dagestani Russian made the most of the opportunity, fighting in front of a friendly crowd at The Arena on Yas Islan in Abu Dhabi, capital city of the United Arab Emirates.
And this was just the main event of a 13-fight card, which aired Saturday afternoon in the United States. Did you miss something? Did someone say Edson Barboza? You're in the right place, because the final stat lines don't reveal all. These are the real winners and losers from UFC 242.
For the literal-minded among us, full results appear at the end.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov
And still. And now 28-0. Nurmagomedov inched closer to Jones and Nunes by submitting a game Poirier in the third round.
The first frame was classic Khabib. He hit one of his signature, lightning-fast takedowns, pushed Poirier back to the fence, and proceeded to clinch, trip and top-control Poirier all over the place. There were no choke attempts, but that vicious neck crank he used to submit Conor McGregor last October was plenty in evidence. Maybe it was just me, but Poirier looked a little like a kid who walked in to find a bear sleeping in his bed.
The second was much the same: another quick takedown, followed by Poirier pinioned in MMA purgatory. Just an endless parade of different positions designed to exhaust Poirier along the fence and on the ground and methodically help him forget why he had ever wanted to be there in the first place.
In the third, Nurmagomedov again went to the takedown well, but this time he had to fend off a serious Poirier guillotine-choke attempt. The Dagestani went on to take Poirier's back, wrap up a body triangle, soften Poirier with a few body shots and then sink in the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
Afterward, in an obvious recall of his infamous post-UFC 229 brawl, Nurmagomedov dove into the crowd—but this time, to hug UFC President Dana White. Nice touch.
Poirier had his moments. There was a big right hand in the second, plus the guillotine attempt. But the guy was outgunned. Just like everyone else Nurmagomedov has ever fought.
Who's next for Khabib? Tony Ferguson (finally)? That would be nice, but when asked afterward, the Dagestani demurred.
"Last two years have been very busy for me," he told play-by-play man Jon Anik in the cage after the fight. "I want a little bit relax. I have too much pressure on my shoulder. Give me a little time, maybe so I can rest."
Fair enough. Regardless, the next bout should be another big matchup for one of the best to ever do it.
Winners: Paul Felder and Edson Barboza
The first time these two fought, in 2015, Barboza tenderized Paul Felder with kicks to take a decision win. The back-and-forth, mutually bruising affair netted them a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus.
Was it really a big surprise that the rematch was just as rugged? Probably not, even though there were a few key differences. This one went the distance, for example. Also, this time Felder came out on top, taking a split decision after a scrap that was just as two-sided as the original.
In the first round, a cut opened along Felder's hairline—with an accidental head butt to blame. In the second, Felder drew blood, slicing open Barboza's forehead with an elbow from bottom position while the two were on the ground.
Barboza exacted his usual toll with snapping kicks to the legs and body, with Felder returning suit. As the second round wound down, Barboza began to make some hay with counters, landing big hooks more than once as Felder charged in.
Down the stretch, both men landed clean shots on the other, although there was no dramatic moment. It was two tough strikers just, you know, striking.
A case could be made that Barboza should've been the victor as much as Felder. But that in itself indicates it's probably not a robbery either way. The judges' 27-30, 29-28, 30-27 scores show you how scattered the action was. I don't know about a 30-27 in either direction—much less both directions—but the ultimate verdict isn't all that egregious.
With that said, let's make them both winners in this space after another terrific bout. Anyone for a rubber match?
Loser: Snow Lovers
At the beginning of the main card, Anik announced that the temperature inside the arena was 123 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Anik reported, the temperature outside the arena was a mere 99 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make no misake: that’s hot. Those are high temperatures. It’s just good Dominick Cruz didn’t keel over mid-commentary. Hopefully no fighters or anyone else was affected by the extreme conditions, but writer Shaheen Al-Shatti of The Athletic, who was sitting cageside, sounded a cautious note, tweeting that "there's no way this doesn't play a major role in the fights tonight."
As the card ended, no apparent heat-related incidents had occurred, but if it was indeed a factor it will probably come to light sooner or later.
Winner: Curtis Blaydes
Was this the most impressive win of Curtis Blaydes' career? Nah. Shamil Abdurakhimov was a walking sack of potatoes, almost happy to be planted time and again onto the ground, as if the potatoes inside him were willing him to return home.
That's one potential explanation of Blaydes' dominant ground-and-pounding of Abdurakhimov in a bout that ended halfway through the second when Blaydes pulverized the Russian's nose with a murderous elbow. You could almost hear the crunch. Kudos to referee Marc Goddard for noticing the strike, which was followed quickly by the whoosh of Abdurakhimov's fighting spirit exiting his body.
So it wasn't the stiffest competition, but this was still Blaydes' sixth win in seven contests. Francis Ngannou is the only man to ever beat him. Time to get this guy a contender bout.
Loser: Teemu Packalen's Modeling Prospects
This is how you make a first impression.
In his UFC debut, Ottman Azaitar flattened veteran Teemu Packalen. The lightweight pushed forward from the get-go and ultimately crushed Packalen with an overhand right. Packalen was out almost instantly and then face-planted nervelessly on the mat.
Azaitar moved his pro record to 13-0. It’s hard to imagine him not getting at least one more chance to extend that record in UFC waters.
Winner: Belal Muhammad
Arguably, no undercard fighter got a bigger pop from the crowd than Belal Muhammad.
Muhammad kept the pressure on Takashi Sato, who other than the odd takedown had nothing substantial to offer in return. Muhammad battered him around the cage with punches until Sato finally broke in the third round, ultimately succumbing to a rear-naked choke.
That was Muhammad’s sixth win in his last seven contests in the wild and woolly welterweight division. After the fight he called for a ranked opponent in his next bout. That is in no way unreasonable.
UFC 242 Full Card Results
Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Dustin Poirier by submission (rear-naked choke), 2:06, Rd. 3 (for UFC undisputed lightweight championship)
Paul Felder def. Edson Barboza by split decision (27-30, 29-28, 30-27)
Islam Makhachev def. Davi Ramos by unanimous decision (29-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Curtis Blaydes def. Shamil Abdurakhimov by TKO, 2:22, Rd. 2
Carlos Diego Ferreira def. Mairbek Taisumov by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)
Joanne Calderwood def. Andrea Lee by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)
Zubaira Tukhugov vs Lerone Murphy ruled a split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Sarah Moras def. Liana Jojua by TKO, 2:26, Rd. 3
Ottman Azaitar def. Teemu Packalen by KO, 3:33, Rd. 1
Belal Muhammad def. Takashi Sato by submission (rear-naked choke), 1:55, Rd. 3
Muslim Salikhov def. Nordine Taleb by KO, 4:26, Rd. 1
Omari Akhmedov def. Zak Cummings by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Don Madge def. Fares Ziam by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Scott Harris covers MMA and other sports for Bleacher Report.