UFC Lightweight Championship: Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) (27-0) vs. Dustin Poirier (ic) (25-5)
Luke Irwin: It’s all fun and games until Khabib fights a fighter you actually like. Poirier has a style that could frustrate Khabib if done correctly. His grappling, his movement, his gas tank, his game-planning, all things Conor McGregor has none of. His grappling won’t let him get in a position to get submitted, nobody’s takedown defense is going to be 100% against a machine like Nurmagomedov. If his shots can buzz Khabib, and frustrate or stun him, he can knock him off his game and his balance. If he can steal a round or two, it could be the difference between a title and not. I just can’t pick against Nurma yet, not in his robotic wrestling dominance. Poirier has as good of a shot as anyone. I didn’t give McGregor a chance because he was so one-dimensional. Not the Diamond. It’s gonna be close. Nurmagomedov via SD.
Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza (20-7) vs. Paul Felder (16-4)
Luke: THERE WAS A FIREFIIIIGHT! This is a rematch over four years in the making, since their Fight of the Night performance on FOX. They tore the house down and rounds 4-6 are next. In the fight, Barboza was the victor and the fight maybe turned when Barboza hit a thunderous body kick that left Felder peeing blood afterwards. Felder won’t put himself in that position, again, and he’s a much more well-developed fighter than he was then. Still, I think he’ll be a tad more gunshy and will keep one eye on that leg as to not turn his insides to pulp again. That will allow Barboza to outpoint him and bank some rounds. Barboza via SD.
Lightweight Bout: Davi Ramos (10-2) vs. Islam Makhachev (17-1)
Luke: Both guys are submission aces. The difference is that Makhachev can actually finish with his strikes, which he will. Makhachev via R2 TKO.
Heavyweight Bout: Curtis Blaydes (11-2) vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-4)
Luke: Here’s the thing about Shamil, he has a submission game, but he hasn’t used it in seven years. Like many, many older fighters, they fall in love with their hands, but that won’t work with Blaydes. If he tries to grapple, he has a shot, but he won’t, so Blaydes will eat him up. Blaydes via R1 KO.
Lightweight Bout: Carlos Diego Ferreira (15-2) vs. Mairbek Taisumov (27-5)
Luke: A combined ten wins in a row for these two gentlemen in the most crowded division in the UFC. It’s always hard to make headway at lightweight in that shark tank, but the winner here will clearly be on track to be in serious contention. Both are well-rounded enough that this isn’t as simpler as calling this a striker vs. grappler matchup. But it is their greatest strength, respectively, and I think Taisumov fares better against Ferreira’s grappling than Ferreira will against Taisumov’s striking. Ferreira got laid out cold by Dustin Poirier in one of his last losses. No shame there, and Taisumov isn’t in Poirier’s league as a striker, but he’s not too far out, either. Taisumov via R3 TKO.
Women’s Flyweight Bout: Andrea Lee (11-2) vs. Joanne Calderwood (13-4)
Luke: Picking against Joanne breaks my goddamned heart, but it’s time to face facts. She had such promise in Invicta, and her style with her kickboxing background was fantastic to watch, but it’s time to face facts. She isn’t going to be a world champ, she didn’t capitalize on her strengths, but fought pensive, passive, and looked to use her newfound submission game when her old style would have done. Meanwhile, KGB is very much in her prime, and putting together a fantastic UFC career. Jojo is little more than a gatekeeper at this point. sigh. Lee via UD.