UFC 242 takes place tomorrow in Abu Dhabi and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Main Card (PPV)
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
Khabib finally returns to the Octagon for the first time since his famous victory over Conor McGregor and he now finds himself in an excellent fight with the very talented, in-form Poirier.
Poirier presents some interesting challenges for the champion with his well-rounded skillset. He’s a well versed, high volume striker who puts together combinations effectively and as such generates finishing opportunities, but he’s also comfortable on the mat too with good scrambling and submissions.
Of course everyone knows Nurmagomedov’s gameplan as he’s a sensational wrestler with relentless takedowns, dominating top control, hard ground and pound and endless cardio.
In recent times Khabib has also had some success on the feet and even knocked down McGregor. He’s not really the finished article by any means as a striker though and Poirier is the more dangerous, dynamic man on the feet here. Khabib is smart about how he chooses to engage though, generally waiting until he’s already sapped his opponents strength and cardio with his ground game before he opts to strike.
It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out against Poirier though, since he also has a very good gas tank, so he could remain dangerous in the striking exchanges even later in the fight.
That being said, Khabib does seem to have a knack for taking the fight out of opponents and that’s likely not just due to his wrestling strength, but also his ground and pound too and as much as I admire Poirier’s fighting game I do still feel he’s going to struggle to keep ‘The Eagle’ from doing what he does best on the mat, which will result in the champion successfully defending his title on the scorecards.
Khabib Nurmagomedov wins by decision.
Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder
These two talented strikers fought once before, with Barboza emerging victorious by decision on that occasion, but that was back in 2015, early in Felder’s UFC run, so he’ll be looking to prove he’s made improvements since then and can get revenge in the rematch.
Felder has done well since then and at close range and in the clinch he’s evolved and will be looking to test Barboza there.
However, overall I still feel like Barboza is the better striker and in particular is the more effective and creative kicker, so if they are trading blow for blow with leg kicks for example, the Brazilian is going to win the day.
Barboza also remains the quicker fighter and I think that’s going to be a problem for Felder. On the other hand Barboza has been stopped by strikes in recent times, so the more durable Felder will fancy his chances, but I still feel he’ll come out on the wrong end of the decision here.
Edson Barboza wins by decision.
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos
Makhachev is a teammate of Khabib and a very talented one at that, showing a similar skillset with strong wrestling and perhaps a slightly better striking game to go with it.
Ramos on the other hand is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist so that should make for an interesting battle for supremacy on the mat.
Makhachev will certainly have to be careful here as Ramos is very slick off his back, but I think his stifling wrestling could still win out here.
The less risky option however would be to simply use his defensive wrestling to keep this one standing more often than not as while he’s not the most refined striker he should still have the edge over Ramos there and could work in takedowns where necessarily to help win rounds and ensure he gets the nod from the judges after fifteen minnutes of fighting.
Islam Makhachev wins by decision.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
Both of these heavyweight’s have put together fairly solid runs in the UFC, though Blaydes has been the more impressive, with only his nemesis Francis Ngannou having defeated him (twice) in his 14 fight career to date.
Abdurakhimov can’t claim to have the same kind of punching power as Ngannou, (few can!) but he has demonstrated he’s got heavy hands in some of his recent outings and so Blaydes will have to be wary of engaging with him on the feet, even although he’s not out-of-his-depth there.
It’s really Blaydes wrestling that’s his strongest suit though and I think that will pay dividends here as he repeatedly brings Abdurakhimov down and wears on him with ground and pound for much of the fight, paving the way for a third round TKO stoppage.
Curtis Blaydes wins by TKO in Rd3.
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Visa issues have hampered Taisumov’s UFC career so far, but when he has got a chance to show what he can do in the Octagon he’s demonstrated ferocious punching power and has a slew of KO and TKO victories to his name.
This should be a fun fight as Ferreira is an aggressive action fighter who will throw the higher volume of strikes on the feet as he presses forward, while his ground game is very good and would be his best chance of emerging victorious here.
However, Ferreira enjoys striking a little too much and I think that the defensive holes in his game are going to be a real problem here as Taisumov is a talented counter-puncher and with his power I think that’s going to eventually lead to a TKO stoppage here sometime in the first ten minutes of the fight.
Mairbek Taisumov wins by TKO in Rd2.
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy
Liana Jojua vs. Sarah Moras
Teemu Packalen vs. Ottman Azaitar
Prelims (Fight Pass/ESPN+)
Belal Muhammad vs. Takashi Sato
Nordine Taleb vs. Muslim Salikhov
Omari Akhmedov vs. Zak Cummings
Don Madge vs. Fares Ziam