clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier - Winners and Losers

On a night that will be remembered for extreme conditions at UFC 242, some wilted under the intense heat. Others rose to the occasion to leave their mark in Abu Dhabi.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

UFC 242 was a mixed bag. While it will no doubt be most remembered for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successful title defense against Dustin Poirier, those live at the event will probably remember the extreme weather conditions in the arena, the fighters essentially fighting in a sauna due to the combination of heat and humidity. It made for some sloppy performances and made others appear more impressive due to their ability to persevere through the extremes. There was also another classic showdown between Paul Felder and Edson Barboza – which somehow inexplicably evaded a FOTN bonus – that saw Felder take a controversial decision, though it should be noted it realistically could have gone either way. As for the rest of the card, well, just keep reading.


Khabib Nurmagomedov: Given how often Poirier had proven the doubters wrong, it was hard not to think this might be the end of Khabib’s dominant reign. Instead, Khabib went out and did exactly what a dominant champion is supposed to do: he smothered Poirier and left zero doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the best in the world at 155 pounds. Many are going to question Poirier’s strategy – including Poirier himself, as he has already stated – but I’m wondering how much difference it would have made. Khabib never panicked, even when Poirier briefly put the champion on his heels to open the second round. Perhaps even more impressive was the calmness Khabib showed when he escaped from Poirier’s tight guillotine in the third. There was never any squirming or erratic movement. Just calm and effective maneuvers to eventually wiggle his way out of a near finish. Given Khabib’s lack of panic, he didn’t let us know how close that choke was to ending the fight until after the fight was over during interviews. Ladies and gentlemen, Khabib may not be the GOAT yet, but he is inching ever so close to that status.

Bonus points for the T-shirt swap and Khabib announcing off he’s auctioning off the Poirier shirt and donating it to Poirier’s charity of choice. Very classy move.

Paul Felder: Whether you believe Felder deserved the win or not, it was a gutty performance from the UFC broadcaster. After clearly falling behind Barboza in the first round – at least that was apparent to all but one judge – Felder bit down on his mouthguard and doubled down on his efforts to be the busier fighter. A razor thin second round followed with Felder clearly taking the final round thanks to his volume… save one judge again. I’ll get to that later. Meanwhile, Felder finally secured a signature win and the elation was obvious in his reaction. Largely an afterthought when signed to the organization, he has developed into one of the toughest fighters on the roster in addition to an intelligent broadcaster. While my humble opinion is that Barboza deserved the win, I’m happy to see Felder break through.

Islam Makhachev: It’s a near miracle Makhachev made it here given how bad the first round went between him and Davi Ramos. However, Makhachev rebounded enough in the final round – a dominant round for him – to make meel feel justified in calling him a winner. The strategy appeared to be to wear out Ramos a bit before taking the BJJ wiz to the mat and pounding him out from there, proving Makhachev is clearly out of Ramos league. Given Makhachev had every reason to overlook Ramos and didn’t, I’ll give him credit. Maybe now he can finally, get a ranked opponent, though that seems to be a common theme with many in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.

Curtis Blaydes: It was reported Blaydes showed up to Abu Dhabi late, leaving some to doubt how well he’d adapt to the extreme weather. It didn’t matter. Blaydes did what he always seems to do: take his opponent down and maul them. Shamil Abdurakhimov was the victim this time around, unable to stop a single takedown from the former NJCAA champion. Blaydes’ two losses to Francis Ngannou ensure he won’t get a fight against anyone at the very top of the division, meaning it feels like he’s going to continue treading water for some time. Nonetheless, Blaydes reestablished his reputation as a force to be reckoned with in brutal fashion.

Carlos Diego Ferreira: I don’t feel too badly about sleeping on Ferreira as I wasn’t the only one who was. But major kudos to him for pushing a hard pace for 15 minutes in what was essentially a sauna. His opponent, Mairbek Taisumov was able to counter him effectively in the first round, but was unable to continue to do so after that when his energy levels suffered a major letdown. Ferreira began to fade late himself, though the Brazilian was able to push through to remain effective until the end. I would say he’ll be entering the rankings off this win, but I feel like I say that with every fringe lightweight – or welterweight – on the fringes and it only happens about half the time. Regardless, I won’t be sleeping on Ferreira anymore.

Joanne Calderwood: A tweak here and another tweak there and Calderwood was able to make the strategy that didn’t work against Katlyn Chookagian work against Andrea Lee. Sure, Calderwood benefited from the heat – it seemed to take more out of Lee than Calderwood – but Calderwood’s activity level was the biggest separator down the stretch. Plus, she showed better strength in the clinch this time around, a bit surprising given she had problems with that against Chookagian. The win doesn’t put Calderwood into title talks, but she isn’t too far off from that. One more win might be all she needs.

Lerone Murphy: No, he didn’t secure a win, fighting the heavily favored Zubaira Tukhugov to a draw. But let me repeat that with some additional emphasis. He fought the heavily favored Tukhugov to a draw in Abu Dhabi, essentially Tukhugov’s home turf. There were any who thought the idea of Murphy winning a decision as an impossibility. The young Englishman showed great heart and resilience, two characteristics many weren’t sure he had given his days on the regional scene were largely spent crushing cans. Keeping in mind it was he – not Tukhugov – who took the fight on short notice and was the fresher fighter at the end. Keep an eye on Murphy. He looks to have a very bright future.

Ottman Azaitar: Whether you believe it was favorable matchmaking or Azaitar is just that big of a badass, there’s no denying how impressive his KO of Teemu Packalen was. A single right hand behind the ear put Packalan to sleep, resulting in his leg twitching while he was out cold. While I lean towards Azaitar benefited from who his opponent was more than anything – meaning I won’t put too much stock into this win – I’ll also admit he couldn’t have had a better debut.

Belal Muhammad: I had a feeling Muhammad would feel plenty motivated to be fighting in the Middle East and the Chicagoan proved me right. Mixing up his strikes beautifully and timing his takedown entries perfectly, Muhammad put on the best performance of his UFC career, culminating in a RNC that Takashi Sato was unable to escape from. While the likelihood of Muhammad ever becoming a title contender remains remote due to his physical limitations, he continues to improve and climb the welterweight ladder. I fear he may not get Jingliang Li next, whom he called out after the fight as many believe Li deserves a ranked opponent next. However, I’d like to see that one go down.

Muslim Salikhov: There was a lot of trepidation we were going to be in for a long day of fights after the way the card opened. Then Salikhov obliterated Nordine Taleb with a HUGE right hand and had everyone out of the seats, finally giving people a reason cheer. Even if Taleb isn’t quite what he once was, he still counts as the best victory in Salikhov’s career. Nobody expects him to become a contender at 35, but there’s no reason to believe Salikhov can’t produce a few more highlights before his career comes to an end.


Dustin Poirier: I hate putting Poirier here. The dude is so damned likeable and classy that my heart broke for him when interviewed immediately after the fight. However, eliminating all sentiment, this is the right place to put him as he utilized a questionable strategy against the champion. Despite that, Poirier was damn near in the right place, at the right time as his guillotine came close to eliciting a tap out of Khabib. Still, I can’t help but feel Poirier would have been more successful if he had been less inclined to allow Khabib to do his thing from the top and exercise a more offensive approach. Can he fight his way back into another shot at gold? While Poirier is only 30, he has 25 fights under the Zuffa/WME banner and that is a lot of wear and tear on a body. I’ve doubted him before only for him to prove me wrong before, so I refuse to say no, but I will acknowledge I anticipate it being a very hard road to traverse.

Davi Ramos: There wasn’t a more disappointing performance on the card. Though it will be Poirier’s lack of activity that will be remembered from this card, he doesn’t hold a candle to Ramos in that regard. The Brazilian never made an earnest attempt to get the fight to the mat despite that being his wheelhouse. If you read that without having watched the fight, you’d think Ramos was trying to throw fisticuffs. Well, he did a lot of stalking and punching air, but little that actually connected or really came close. If this was the strategy of his coaches, he needs new coaches. If he did this on his own, well, maybe he still needs new coaches. These ones clearly aren’t reaching him. Very poor showing from Ramos.

Shamil Abdurakhimov: I get the feeling the UFC brass doesn’t much care for Abdurakhimov. There are several heavyweights ahead of him in the rankings he would have stood a better stylistic chance of beating than Blaydes. In fact, it could be argued he stood a better chance against any other heavyweight ranked ahead of him. Abdurakhimov’s takedown defense has long been his Achilles heel and this loss did nothing to dissuade that notion. While I don’t see Abdurakhimov any differently than I did entering this contest, the lopsidedness of this contest will make the UFC hesitant to pit him against tougher opposition. It looks like Abdurakhimov is going back to being a gatekeeper….

Mairbek Taisumov: I get the feeling Taisumov was quick to sign when presented with the opportunity to fight in Abu Dhabi. I also get the feeling he won’t be quite so anxious to do so if given the opportunity to do so again. Taisumov looked sharp early, arguably taking the opening round despite Ferreira scoring more volume as Taisumov’s strikes had a lot more zip to them. After that, there wasn’t any zip. I’d love for Taisumov’s visa issues to be resolved so we can get more consistent quality of opposition in front of him as this performance feels atypical – and it was for many – but there is no doubt he’s no longer the hardcore fans shiny new toy the public doesn’t know about as this toy has lost it’s shine.

Andrea Lee: There’s a part of me that feels like I need to cut Lee some slack. She had the right strategy: land powerful punches and bully Calderwood in the clinch. 90% of the time, I think it would have worked. However, the heat and the humidity of Abu Dhabi sapped her of her energy levels late and she faded badly down the stretch. I don’t know how much Lee factored in the weather during her preparation, but however much she did, it clearly wasn’t enough. While the loss ensures Lee won’t get a title shot anytime soon – there was an outside chance she could have received one with a win here – she’s young enough in her career that I could see this being a learning experience to help her get down there further down the line.

Zubaira Tukhugov: On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be a good reason why Tukhugov let his contest with Murphy slip away. He was the one with a full camp. He was the one with the crowd behind him, perhaps even the judges should the crowd’s reactions sway them in a certain direction. All of that in his favor and Tukhugov still couldn’t pull out the win. It’s not like Murphy didn’t have to fight in the extreme conditions. I know some will say he’s coming off a three year layoff due to a pair of suspensions, but given Tukhugov’s talent level, this still should have been his fight. Perhaps he’ll bounce back in an arena that isn’t so hot….

Liana Jojua: Call it a case of too much, too soon as Jojua wasn’t really competitive with Sarah Moras… and Moras has been the fighter the UFC has been throwing at fighters in need of a win. I still like Jojua’s talent, but she beat cans on the regional scene and looks like she’s too small to be fighting at bantamweight at this level. She may be able to salvage this UFC run, but I think she’ll end up being released with a strong possibility of coming back further down the line when she’s picked up experience.

Teemu Packalen: Packalen had advertised on social media that he was a new fighter after his two year layoff. That didn’t appear to be true. His striking was still awkward and he still couldn’t secure a takedown for the life of him. It just felt like a matter of time before Azaitar put him to sleep and that’s exactly what happened. I’d be shocked to see Packalen get a return bout.

Takashi Sato: Sato had a few nice moments, but it never felt like he had a realistic chance to win given how motivated Muhammad was. Part of that can be attributed to Sato’s poor defense as Muhammad had free reign to attack wherever the hell he wanted. Sato is still young in his career and defense is usually the last thing to come along, so he’ll be fine. In fact, this loss could prove to be good for his long-term career development as there is a lot he could take out of this. For now, his stock is taking a hit.

Nordine Taleb: There had been indications Taleb’s durability isn’t what it once was. Getting obliterated with a single punch by Salikhov confirms that notion. Given that has long been one of Taleb’s hallmarks, it’s hard to believe he’s got much mileage left in his career. Taleb has nothing to be ashamed of as he was never a great athlete, relying on his size, technique, strength, and – you guessed it – durability. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get one more fight, but there’s little reason to expect it to go his way.

Zak Cummings: Aside from his knockdown of Omari Akhmedov, Cummings had little to feel good about. Akhmedov was reluctant to throw, knowing it would give Cummings an opportunity to get his timing down. Thus, Cummings ended up throwing even less than Akhmedov and he never discovered his range. Fortunately, Cummings didn’t appear to be shot as I feared he may have been, but it also appears the strategy to beat him is now well-established.

Don Madge and Fares Ziam: Madge may have gotten the win, but probably killed all the hype he had surrounding him coming into the contest. After an impressive debut where he kicked Te Edwards’ head into the rafters, Madge opted to play Sandman this time around, putting viewers to sleep by holding Ziam against the cage and doing little else. Given Ziam was unable to stop him, he’ll shoulder some of the blame as well. Bottom line: it’s hard to find a worse way to open up the card than the way these two did, especially given the rep Madge earned in his UFC debut.

Judges for Felder-Barboza: I’m not disputing the decision. It was close enough it could have gone either way. But how anyone could have scored the contest 30-27 for either fighter was beyond me. And yet, both Felder and Barboza were each awarded a 30-27. Did those judges completely miss Barboza’s volume in the first round? Or Felder’s in the third? MMA judging still has a long way to go. Then again, if boxing is any indication, this is a problem that will never be fixed.

The live audience: I can’t imagine sitting in that heat was enjoyable, particularly for those in suits as Felder acknowledged in his post-fight interview. Perhaps many in the audience are used to that type of weather, but I still can’t imagine they wouldn’t have preferred a cooler environment. As for me, I was happy enjoying the fights in a cooled basement.

The fighters: Only because they had to fight in the extreme weather. Some made the loser’s list because of the weather anyway, but when the broadcast acknowledged the conditions were comparable to it being 125°F, it was hard not have some concern about the fighters health as that’s extreme conditions. While I’ve been critical of all of their performances – positively critical in some cases, negatively critical in others – all of them deserve our respect for being willing to fight in that as that undoubtedly sucked.


Edson Barboza: Given there were many – myself included – if Barboza’s days as a top ten lightweight were over given the brutal beatings he has received against the divisional elite, Barboza proved at the very least he can remain competitive with that caliber of fighter. Like many others, I believed Barboza did enough to edge out Felder, but the judges saw otherwise and I can live with that. What I’m most excited about is knowing Barboza isn’t finished. He took some heavy punishment from Felder and dealt out plenty of his own in the process. Now 22 fights into his UFC career – and having dropped four of his last five – it appears obvious Barboza can’t hang with the big boys. But gatekeeper to the top ten? You better believe it, and there isn’t anything shameful in that at this stage of his career. Here’s hoping the UFC is wise in their booking of him in the future. In other words, lets avoid the wrestlers of the world against Barboza if we can.

Sarah Moras: I really wanted to put her in the winner’s category, but her inability to make weight forced my hand. Nonetheless, Moras used her obvious size advantage well, bullying the much smaller Jojua until she forced the referee to intervene when Jojua couldn’t respond. The win probably does save Moras’ job – thus why I wanted to put her in the winner’s column – but I’m still prone to believe Moras comes up short against the majority of the division.

Omari Akhmedov: I don’t want to be too harsh on Akhmedov as he fought a smart fight against Cummings, but he entered the cage at a time when viewers badly needed some excitement and that didn’t happen. Nonetheless, the days of Akhmedov being a reckless power striker appear to be long over as he was patient – probably too patient – in his attack on Cummings, including great timing on his takedowns. Three fights into his return to middleweight and he’s still undefeated. Not too bad.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bloody Elbow Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your MMA and UFC news from Bloody Elbow