The UFC brought the fights to Abu Dhabi for a scorching UFC 242 and with it came a title unification bout with the return of Khabib Nurmagomedov against Dustin Poirier. An undisputed champion was crowned in a fight that leaves only one option left in the coming year. However, there was a lot to take in for UFC 242; here are seven takeaways from the event.
Protect the main event at all costs
Fans got concerned during fight-week when Nurmagomedov announced that he was done with media for the week during fight week for UFC 242. Given the location and the time of year, the heat was already dangerous enough for fight night. Dominick Cruz who was calling the fights cageside said that he had not stopped sweating since he arrived in Abu Dhabi. It was something that was hard to ignore as the event went on, but considering how often it was brought up, that was likely the right move.
Dustin Poirier still a diamond at lightweight
Poirier was able to withstand Nurmagomedov’s grappling for almost three rounds. Nurmagomedov was respectful before and after the fight but when they faced off, Nurmagomedov showed that his grappling is probably the meanest in the UFC lightweight division. “Maybe I could have done more,” Poirier said in the post-fight press conference, “for the rest of my life I’m going to wonder why I didn’t jump full guard” referring to the guillotine he held that seemed like it was sunk in. Regardless of the loss, Poirier has evolved in every fight, win or lose and this one is no different.
Coverage not so easy in Abu Dhabi
The UFC absolutely plans on returning to Abu Dhabi but the outlets fans are used to going to, not all of them could get there because it is not a cheap trip to make. Of course the go-to larger outlets were there with ESPN, MMA Junkie, and even Reuters but that was it. So why go there? White said at the post-fight press conference that with what is currently being built there as far as it is a luxury destination, the UFC wants to be a part of that. So, save your money if you plan on going.
About that heat
While no “Fight of the Night” bonus was awarded, there were some decisions that deserve honorable mention. The heat was brought up enough during the event and looking at how it affects fights likely played a role in the “split” decisions and draw from the event. Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy was competitive enough that it was ruled a split draw (28-29, 29-28, 28-28), and if you pay attention to the submission attempts from Murphy, a lot of those escapes were due to sweat. Felder’s armbar was also locked in, which is why Barboza went for a slam before Felder wisely let go. However, with the top leg being locked behind Barboza’s head, the only reason the finish was not there sooner, was likely because there was no traction to finish the submission.
The Irish Dragon does his homework
One thing about fighters that are active competitors on any promotion’s roster that gets to call fights cageside is that they get to do their homework, which seems to help them improve their own performances in the cage. Felder lost to Barboza in the past but even though he won the rematch by split decision, there were moments where Felder’s evolution in the fight game was on display. Outside of letting go of the armbar to avoid the slam, early in round one Felder checked two leg kicks from a fighter known for having devastating leg kicks which shut them down from coming later in the fight. Nice work for Felder.
The elephant in the arena
Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov was in attendance for UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi. A lot has been written on him and he is a fight fan and a very big fan of the lightweight champion. Dana White was asked during the post-fight press conference if he knew who Kadyrov was, or that he was in attendance. White replied, “I don’t know him, and I didn’t see him.” Fans that follow Karim Zidan’s work over at Bloody Elbow can read how he relates to MMA, or this piece written by The Washington Post to know why his name came up so much on social media during the event.
All that’s left is Tony Ferguson
Dana White said Ferguson gets the next shot at the title. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been scheduled many times before but with two fighters that keep racking up wins the way the two of them do, the fight has to happen. Before Nurmagomedov said he wanted to take time off when speaking with ESPN, he also said Ferguson would be next if he got past Poirier. Who doesn’t want to see that?