Curtis Blaydes laid claim to his spot in heavyweight title picture with a shutout of Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
The American took the Russian down at will before landing the TKO stoppage two minutes into the second round, after a vicious elbow broke Abdurakhimov’s nose.
Ranked number four in the division, ‘Razor’, finds himself only beaten by fellow contender Francis Ngannou in the Octagon
In the main-card opener Diego Ferriera put on a show to defeat Russian Mairbek Taisumov by unanimous decision. The Brazilian faced some early adversity but was able to dictate the pace of rounds two and three with a barrage of accurate strikes for the biggest win of his UFC career.
Scotland’s Joanne Calderwood enhanced her flyweight prospects with a split decision win over America’s Andrea Lee. Jojo started an underdog but was able to get the better of a crucial third round to claim her third win in four and inch closer to the 125lbs title picture.
Zubaira Tukhugov and Lerone Murphy lit up the undercard with a 15-minute war in the featherweight division. Russian Tukhugov impressed with his suffocating wrestling style early on but Murphy’s conditioning saw him boss proceedings on the feet as the fight progressed. The judges couldn’t find a winner with scores of 29-28, 28-29 and 28-28 resulting in a draw.
Sarah Moras had earlier made history by becoming the first female fighter to step into the Octagon on UAE soil. The Canadian had weighed in three pounds over the 135lbs bantamweight limit for her clash with Liana Jojua, and proved too strong and powerful for the Georgian stopping her by TKO in the third round.
“”It feels so good to be the first female to win a UFC fight in Abu Dhabi,” said ‘Cheesecake’ post-fight. “It’s amazing. It means the world to me and I hope it means the world to the people here. I hope more people can get into the sport and it opens their eyes.”
Elsewhere on the prelim card, there were wins for Ottman Azaitar, Belal Muhammad, Muslim Salikov, Omari Akhmedov, and Don Madge.
Khabib Nurmagomedov says he is ready for war when he meets Dustin Poirier to unify the UFC lightweight division at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi tonight.
Undefeated Khabib will put his title on the line against interim champion Poirier at The Arena on Yas Island as he returns to the Octagon for the first time in almost a year.
Poirier is getting a lot of backing to upset the 27-0 Dagestan native, especially from the Amercian media, particularly after what looked to be a tough weight cut for Khabib – something he denied at yesterday’s weigh ins suggesting it had been the best of his life.
Poirier (25-5-1NC) comes into the fight in the form of his life, riding a six fight undefeated streak, a standout win over Max Holloway to take the interim crown, and what his camp is describing as ‘some of the best conditioning they have ever seen’ – from any fighter.
Khabib has been full of respect for The Diamond in the build up, and is fully prepared to go deep when the opening bell comes.
“I am focused on five rounds, I cannot think about second round or third round I am going to finish him, I am focused on a five round war,” he said following the ceremonial weigh ins.
Much has been made of Khabib fighting in Abu Dhabi – a location that allows many more family, friends, and fans to attend from Russia and the Middle East compared to what he used to fighting on American soil.
He admits it does bring extra pressure, but in the confines of the Octagon, that all disappears.
“You are always going to feel pressure,” he said. “He has pressure, I have pressure – it doesn’t matter. When the cage closes I am going to fight – this is the easiest part in this sport, this is what I do all my life.
“What is different between champions and normal fighters is that you can control the pressure. I can control this and have shown it many, many times. I feel pressure, but it doesn’t matter. When the cage closes the pressure is finished and I am going to just fight.”
Poirier has two losses on his record inflicted by Khabib victims Conor McGregor and, more recently Michael Johnson. It is widely recogised how much Poirier has evolved since these blotches – something Khabib echoes, but also points to his own growth ahead of their showdown.
“Right now is a different time and a different Dustin from before, I am different too and you are going to see that.”
UFC 242’s main event is official after Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier made weight.
Both fighters we right on the 155lbs mark when they took to the scales in Abu Dhabi this morning.
The two men will unify the UFC’s lightweight division, with champion Nurmagomedov facing interim champ Poirier at The Arena on Saturday night.
In the co-main event, Paul Felder (155lbs) and Edson Barboza (155.5lbs) also made the lightweight mark.
The remaining fights on the main card will also all go ahead as planned with Islam Makhachev (155lbs) and Davi Ramos (156), Shamil Abdurakhimov (257lbs) and Curtis Blaydes (251lbs), and Diego Ferreira (156lbs) and Mairbek Taisumov (156lbs) all making their respective limits.
History will also be made in Abu Dhabi with the first women’s UFC fights to take place in Abu Dhabi. Joanne Calderwood and Andrea Lee both weight in at 126lbs for their flyweight clash. However, Canada’s Sarah Moras weighed in three pounds over the 135lbs bantamweight limit and will be fined 20% of her purse, but here fight with Liana Jojua (134.5lbs) will still go ahead.