The UFC lightweight title is on the line on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Headlining UFC 242 is undefeated reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who will look to successfully defend his belt against interim champion Dustin Poirier, who has won four straight bouts against a gauntlet of elite competition. In the co-main event, longtime lightweight contender Edson Barboza rematches Paul Felder in what should be another entertaining scrap between two high-level strikers.
Due to the time zone difference, this will be a rare afternoon pay-per-view for fans to enjoy, and there’s every reason to be stoked about the main event. Before the action kicks off in the Middle East, let’s take a look at some of the UFC 242 fighters who are poised for a big evening and high scores for your DraftKings teams.
Dustin Poirier ($6,900) vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov ($9,300)
The run that Poirier has been on has been nothing short of phenomenal. His winning streak consists of stopping former UFC champions Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez, ex-WSOF champ Justin Gaethje, and he won the interim LW title with an instant classic thriller over current featherweight champion Max Holloway. On the flip side, Nurmagomedov has been a dominant force his entire MMA career, sporting a 27-0 record. Last year, in the biggest fight in UFC history, he submitted Conor McGregor in a hotly contested grudge match that was followed by the infamous post-fight brawl. Solving the Khabib puzzle has proven difficult not just for McGregor, but also the likes of Edson Barboza, Al Iaquinta and Rafael dos Anjos.
Khabib may be a heavy favorite, but I think there’s an upset brewing here. While Khabib is a supremely gifted wrestler and grappler with menacing ground-and-pound, Poirier is a BJJ black belt who’s shown himself to be difficult to takedown. Poirier is best served fighting in open space than clinching or fighting Khabib near the fence. On the feet, Poirier has a distinct advantage with his high-volume combination striking and willingness to go to the body. Poirier’s cardio is just as great as Khabib’s, which is vital in a bout that figures to be grueling and likely to go 25 minutes. I believe Poirier will limit Khabib’s damaging shots if it goes to the ground, and turn the fight in his favor with his striking. I’m going for Poirier to win the undisputed title.
Number of Note: 3. Since moving up to lightweight, Dustin Poirier has only been taken down 3 times out of 16 attempts. Nurmagomedov will be his stiffest test yet, as he took McGregor and Iaquinta down a combined 9 times out of 22 attempts.
Paul Felder ($7,700) vs. Edson Barboza ($8,500)
Barboza is looking to bounce back from a brutal first-round KO against Justin Gaethje back in March. His lone win over the past four bouts was an absolute thrashing of the tough but overmatched Dan Hooker last December. Barboza gave Felder his first pro defeat in their fight of the night thriller in 2013, but Felder has gone 6-2 at lightweight since then. “The Irish Dragon” bested James Vick this past February, and notably scored knockout finishes against Charles Oliveira and Stevie Ray in 2017. His close defeat to Mike Perry at UFC 226 was a short notice bout taken at welterweight.
This is a tough one to call. Barboza is one of the most dangerous strikers in all of MMA even when badly hurt, but he has taken some serious damage in recent times. He is at his worst when pressured, and Felder showed vs. Vick that he’s a better pressure fighter now than when he first fought Edson. If it stays at mid-range or distance, Barboza can take it behind his lethal kicks, but I suspect Felder will make the necessary adjustments to pick up the biggest win of his career. Expect this one to be the fight of the night.
Number of Note: 363. Barboza has absorbed a whopping 363 significant strikes over his past five fights, with 318 of those to the head. That damage adds up, and Felder will be keen to capitalize.
Curtis Blaydes ($9,400) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov ($6,800)
Blaydes was on the rise as a potential title challenger entering last November, but Francis Ngannou quickly knocked him out and halted his four-fight winning streak. The powerful wrestler has since rebounded with a dominant decision over Justin Willis, as Ngannou remains the only opponent he’s ever lost to. Abdurakhimov has quietly racked up three straight wins, including knockouts over Chase Sherman and most recently Marcin Tybura. The Russian also boasts decision victories over Walt Harris and former champion Andrei Arlovski.
While Blaydes is prone to getting caught and hurt on the feet, he is prolific with his takedowns and should have a distinct advantage on the ground. I don’t think Abdurakhimov will be able to handle Blaydes’ punishing top control, and Blaydes has impressive cardio for a heavyweight that will lead to Shamil steadily getting worn down. I believe Blaydes gets a dominant win, if not a stoppage outright.
Number of Note: 40. Over nine UFC fights, Blaydes has scored 40 takedowns, including 7 in his win over Willis. Francis Ngannou (in their rematch) and Daniel Omielanczuk are the only opponents he’s failed to get to the ground.
Andrea Lee ($8,800) vs. Joanne Calderwood ($7,400)
If there’s a woman who has the potential to at least be competitive with current champion Valentina Shevchenko, it’s “KGB” Lee. She’s won her last seven bouts, including all three inside the Octagon. Her one-sided decision over Montana De La Rosa solidified her status as a contender. Calderwood made the move back to flyweight last year, surprisingly submitting Kalindra Faria in the opening round. A win against Ariane Lipski set her up for an important contender matchup versus Katlyn Chookagian, but the Scot lost a unanimous decision.
Both women have shown consistent high-volume striking, with Lee having the edge at range and Calderwood superior in the clinch with her Muay Thai. I suspect Lee’s strength, wrestling, and grappling will help propel her to a win, as I see Andrea as the more well-rounded and more potent offensive fighter than Calderwood.
Number of Note: 136. Lee’s significant strike differential is +136, as she’s out-landed her opponents 240-104 in her brief but highly promising UFC career.
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