Predictions & Matchup for Khabib vs Poirier Fight
It’s finally official: the undefeated UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will try to defend his title against an interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 event on September 7, 2019. We’ve heard these rumors a while ago that Khabib is planning to fight on September 7 and then again with quick turnaround on December 21st but there was no official statement from the UFC until now.
In their most recent bouts, Nurmagomedov defended the title against ex-champ Conor McGregor; Dustin Poirier became an interim champion by dominating Max Holloway at UFC 232.
The question a lot of us are wondering is how big of a treat is Poirier to Nurmagomedov? “The Diamond” made huge progress in the past few years but can he actually be the first guy to beat “The Eagle” and become a new UFC Lightweight champion? Let’s take a look at Poirier vs Khabib matchup and see if Dustin has the tools to beat Nurmagomedov.
It’s an elite striker vs elite wrestler fight
Khabib vs Poirier is going to be yet another great example of a wrestler vs striker matchup.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is very well-known for his superior ground game. He grow-up wrestling since he was a little kid and he is considered to be one of the most skilled wrestlers/grapplers in the UFC.
In his previous fights, Khabib dominated everybody on the ground and he is looking to do the same against Poirier. The Dagestani fighter on average lands about 5 takedowns per fight which puts a lot of pressure on his opponents.
Dustin Poirier is one of the best and the most technical boxers in the Lightweight division. He’s been very impressive as of late with his wins over Alvarez, Gaethje, Pettis and Max Holloway. “The Diamond” hasn’t lost since 2016 when he was defeated by Michael Johnson. Since moving up from 145 lbs to 155 lbs division, Poirier has a 9-1 record (and one “no contest” in his first fight against Alvarez).
As history shows, an elite wrestler usually has an advantage in a matchup against an elite striker in today’s MMA – it’s a fact. A lot of people say that the fight starts when both guys are on their feet and blah blah… And a striker is always has a chance to land a shot before he gets taken down. It’s not wrong because there is always a chance of a lucky punch. But in most cases, wrestlers do have an advantage against strikers as long as they fight smart, follow the plan and don’t get caught early.
So how will Khabib vs Poirier bout will play out? Khabib already has an experience of fighting elite strikers and he was very successful against them all. He destroyed guys like Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, and Conor McGregor.
Is Poirier a lot better or a lot different than any of those guys I mentioned? Don’t think so. I think Johnson’s striking has more power than Dustin’s, and by the way, Johnson did test Khabib’s chin and we know he didn’t get rocked or affected by it. Edson Barboza’s has some of the most dangerous leg kicks in the game but he forgot how to use it because he was pressured by Khabib so much.
I would say stylistically “The Diamond” is very close to Conor McGregor who was Khabib’s last opponent. I wouldn’t really compare Dustin and Conor simply based on their fight from 2014 because Poirier made enormous progress since then. But Poirier’s and McGregor’s striking and boxing is pretty much on a similar level. They are both great technically and timing-wise.
Is Poirier’s elite boxing going to be a problem for Nurmagomedov? Not according to the way Khabib vs McGregor fight went. At times, Khabib was actually pressuring Conor in the stand-up and almost knocked him down with an overhand right.
You can tell Khabib is working on his striking a lot and we can actually see the progress he makes from fight to fight. It will be interesting to see how much is Khabib going to be striking against Poirier because in one of the recent interviews Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov (Khabib’s father and coach) said that they are planning to fight Poirier “mostly in stand-up”.
Now, what about Dustin Poirier’s ground game and takedown defense? Nurmagomedov right away will have an advantage because Poirier never faced a wrestler of Khabib’s caliber and it’s going to be unknown territory for him. Khabib is by far the hardest opponent for “The Diamond” so far – it won’t the same as exchanging shots for 5 rounds like he did with Max Holloway.
Dustin’s ground game is above average compared to the best grapplers in the division (he has a BJJ black belt) which is good news when you face a guy like Nurmagomedov. For example, I would put Poirier’s grappling skills above McGregor’s and “The Notorious” was doing a pretty good job defensively in the first few rounds versus Khabib. But a huge problem for Dustin is going to be takedown defense – right now it is only at 69% considering he mostly fought strikers and never faced a guy with Khabib’s takedown skillset.
So what will happened when they face one another in Abu-Dhabi? You betcha, Khabib will take Poirier to the ground numerous times. Whether he will be able to finish him early or it will go into later rounds or a decision is a different question.
My prediction for Khabib vs Poirier fight
Khabib definitely has lots of advantages and he is a highly favorite to beat Dustin Poirier according to bookmakers.
Like I said earlier, the biggest advantage I see for Khabib is that he already fought elite strikers like Poirier so he can use a similar game plan and strategy and adjust it just a little bit.
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov said that they might keep it on their feet more and I bet we will see more of Khabib’s striking and exchanges in stand-up. This will give more opportunities for Poirier and the undefeated champ will have to be very careful exchanging shots. It will be a huge mistake for Khabib to underestimate Dustin and his stand-up skills. Max Holloway underestimated Poirier’s striking and we saw what happened there (Khabib’s boxing is obviously not as strong as Holloway’s).
Once Khabib starts pressuring Poirier and goes for takedowns and once it goes on the ground, I don’t see Dustin winning a fight. Even if he defends well and escapes a few takedowns, Khabib’s wrestling and pressure will gas him out. This fight can only go one way on the ground that’s why Poirier has to try to keep it standing as much as possible (that’s what pretty much all Khabib’s opponents try to do without much success).
To win against Nurmagomedov, Poirier, in my opinion, has to go all out and try to finish champ early in the 1st or 2nd round. I think he will need to open up and hope Khabib will go into one of the exchanges where he will make a mistake and get caught really bad. It’s a risk for Poirier because he will be screwed if this plan doesn’t work but realistically, he is screwed either way.
He should go all in – try to KO Khabib before “The Eagle” takes the fight to the ground. Dustin will have a mental advantage as he has nothing to lose – it’s most likely his only shot at the title. Besides this scenario, I just don’t see how Poirier can beat Khabib. On the ground, Nurmagomedov is going to dominate 100%.
We already saw how Khabib destroyed elite strikers like Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, and Conor McGregor. Will the same thing happen to Poirier or he will surprise the MMA world and be the first guy to beat the undefeated Russian champ? We will find out soon enough on September 7.
What do you guys think and what are your predictions for Khabib vs Poirier fight at UFC 242 event in Abu-Dhabi? Your feedback and comments are more than welcome below this post.