Khabib Nurmagomedov marked his UFC return with a third round submission victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 to make it 28 wins from 28 fights.
The Dagestani fighter successfully defended his lightweight world title in his first contest since he defeated Conor McGregor almost a year ago.
Khabib’s win over McGregor in October was marred by a post-fight brawl which earned Nurmagomedov a suspension, but ‘The Eagle’ proved he still reigns supreme with a comprehensive victory over Poirier.
In the co-main event in Abu Dhabi, Paul Felder avenged his 2015 defeat to Edson Barboza via a split decision victory.
UFC 242: Fight reports
After an enforced hiatus from the Octagon, Khabib Nurmagomedov showed few signs of rust in Abu Dhabi.
‘The Eagle’ stalked interim champion Poirier from the off, forcing the 30-year-old American to the canvas midway through the first round.
Poirier managed to safely negotiate Khabib’s attempt at a neck crank, but with over a minute left in the round he found himself on his back once more.
After an imperious opening five minutes from Khabib, Poirier finally made his presence felt in the second round when he caught the champion with a powerful right hand.
However, Khabib recovered and floored his opponent again, leaving him with a cut around his left eye.
Desperate to stop Khabib’s momentum, the challenger attempted a guillotine choke in the third round but the unbeaten champion escaped and locked in a rear naked choke of his own that forced the game Poirier to submit after two minutes and six seconds of the round.
Four years after their first meeting in July 2015, Paul Felder avenged his defeat to Edson Barboza in the co-main event in Abu Dhabi.
The scorecards were 30-27, 29-28, 27-30 in favour of the number 10-ranked Felder, now 17-4 after the narrow victory.
In a captivating opening round, Barboza targeted his attacks at Felder’s legs before the ‘The Irish Dragon’ responded with an eye-catching spinning backfist.
Barboza scored an early takedown in an attritional second round but Felder hit back with a brutal elbow that cut the Brazilian who managed to circumnavigate an armbar attempt from the 34-year-old Philadelphian.
In another close round, both fighters traded blows but it was Felder who finished the stronger.
Speaking after the bout, Felder said “All you top five guys out there, you can’t run no more. Come in here and get some [Justin] Gaethje, Tony [Ferguson], Conor [McGregor], I don’t care who you are. I’m only in here to be in here with the best.”
UFC 242: Post-fight interviews
Nurmagomedov: “Last fight with [McGregor], we had a lot of crazy stuff. We show really what is MMA.
“MMA, number one thing is respect. MMA is not about trash talking. This is what we show with Dustin Poirier and his great team.
“Poirier is one of the best in the world, he’s not just a champion of his country, he’s one of the best in the world.
“I expected it to be tough, and it was a great match.
“Put me as pound-for-pound number one fighter next week because I think I deserve some respect.”
Poirier: “The guy’s good, he’s a world champ. Maybe I could have done more.
“I was prepared to fight 25 minutes and he did what I thought he was going to do.
“There are questions I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
“He was dominating but I thought he was getting a bit weaker.
“I thought the third, fourth and fifth would be my rounds so coming back to my stool at the beginning, I thought the deeper we went the slicker I would be.
“I wanted to leave tonight a world champion and I let myself down.”
UFC 242: Social media reaction
Damn Khabib made him quit! Beast.— Ben Askren (@Benaskren) September 7, 2019
Khabib Nurmagomedov wins.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) September 7, 2019
RNC in the third.
28-0. And still the undisputed champ.
Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Dustin Poirier in the third. The sheet pace, pressure, control this man has. Unbelievable.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) September 7, 2019
UFC 242: Undercard results
Russian lightweight Islam Makhachev extended his winning streak to six with a unanimous decision over Davi Ramos in front of a partisan Abu Dhabi crowd.
After a tepid first two rounds the contest sparked into life in the third when Makhachev hurt Ramos and nearly finished him with a barrage of blows.
Ramos withstood the assault and managed to survive until the end of the round but all three judges scored the contest in the Dagestani’s favour (30-26, 30-26, 29-27).
In the only heavyweight bout on the UFC 242 main card, Curtis Blaydes made it six wins in his last seven fights courtesy of a devastating performance over Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Number 4-ranked Blaydes floored the 38-year-old Russian on several occasions in the opening round before forcing the stoppage after two minutes and 22 seconds in the second round after landing a massive elbow.
Speaking after the fight, Blaydes said “I knew I was the better wrestler. I knew I was better conditioned. I could have done that for five rounds.”
Carlos Diego Ferreira scored a unanimous points decision over Mairbek Taisumov in the opening bout on the main card.
The judges scored the lightweight contest 29-28, 29-27, 29-27 to the Brazilian who dominated throughout.
Joanne Calderwood def Andrea Lee (KO)
Zubaira Tukhugov split draw with Lerone Murphy
Sarah Moras def Liana Jojua (KO)
Ottman Azaitar def Teemu Packalen (KO)
UFC 242 is still available to purchase on BT Sport Box Office. Click here for more information.