The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates was home to a great afternoon of fights. The card saw four (T)KOs, two submissions and seven decisions, including one split-draw and two split-decisions.
Performances of the Night: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Ottman Azaitar, Muslim Salikhov, Belal Muhammad
Khabib Nurmagomedov outclassed Dustin Poirier from beginning to end. Poirier fought at range instead of pressuring and cutting off the cage, and Khabib made him pay for it. Nurmagomedov was able to take Poirier down almost at will, and he kept him there, either punishing him with strikes or seeking submissions, and when they were clinched up, Khabib controlled the distance there, as well, landing hard knees to Poirier’s legs before dumping him to the mat.
There was a brief period in the second round where Dustin pressed him and landed quite a few stingers, but the Eagle was able to dump him back down and spent nearly nine minutes in control. Between the second and third rounds, Poirier told his corner that he just couldn’t keep Khabib off him, and the third round told the tale. Khabib took him down, and after searching for the sub, finally got the rear-naked choke at the 2:06 mark. Aaron Bronsteter released some unofficial stats and they were completely lopsided in Khabib’s favor.
Ottman Azaitar defeated Teemu Packalen via one of the nastiest knockouts in recent memory, landing a thunderous right that face-planted Packalen. The two traded shots, but Packalen’s lack of defense allowed pretty much everything Ottman threw to land. At the 3:33 mark of the first round, Packalen paid the price, and the image of his leg twitching as he lay lifeless was scary, indeed.
Muslim Salikhov scored the first knockout of the day when he starched Nordine Taleb at the 4:26 mark of the very first round. The crushing overhand right came after a period of trading hard kicks and a spinning attack from Azaitar. Taleb responded with a nasty groin kick that netted him a warning from Herb Dean. A few more kicks are traded, then Muslim backed Taleb up, launched a heatseeker overhand right and put Taleb down. He followed up with one more and the fight was called.
Judo stud Takashi Sato’s game just wasn’t up to snuff against Belal Muhammad, who put on a masterful performance and secured a submission win after punishing Sato with a constant assault of double legs and sharp left hooks. Sato wasn’t just lying down for this punishment, though, and kept up a fluid jab throughout the fight and even managed to score a trip takedown that put him in side control to close out the second round. It just wasn’t enough, though, and at the 1:55 mark of round 3, Belal got the rear-naked choke sunk in deep, forcing Sato to tap.
There was no Fight of the Night bonus awarded. Dana White also said they didn’t control the gate, so no numbers for that are available, either.