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UFC 242 Pick

MMA Fight: UFC 242: Khabib vs. Poirier
Key Matches: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
When: Saturday, September 7, 2019
Where: du Arena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
TV: PPV

by Loot, MMA Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Khabib Nurmagomedov, (-360), 27-0 (8 KOs, 9 Submissions) vs. Dustin Poirier, (+300), 25-5 (12 KOs, 7 Submissions)

Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC Lightweight Championship against interim beltholder Dustin Poirier on September 7 in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It's an exotic locale for a huge 155-pound title fight. With Khabib, you have perhaps the most-dominant fighter in the UFC, still unbeaten after 27 fights. Poirier, however, is a survivor—a hardcore veteran who has found a higher gear as of late, parlaying it into some big wins and an interim strap. He is coming off a big win over Max Holloway, while Khabib has been on the sidelines since an October 2018 win over Conor McGregor and a suspension from the brawl that ensued after he won. Can Poirier pull off the improbable or are we in store for another Khabib clinic?

Poirier has hit his peak, as he kept improving, learning from his mistakes, and becoming a complete and dangerous fighter over the years. Both men are 30, but there aren't many similarities to their respective styles. With Khabib, we know what we're getting. So do the opponents. But it hasn't helped, as he has lain to waste every lightweight in his path. And none have come all that close to beating him. Poirier, however, looks like a very difficult man to beat based on recent showings. But those fights weren't against Khabib, who represents the highest level in the sport.

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Regardless of your overall thoughts on Khabib or whether or not you're a real fan, one cannot dispute the results. His bottom-line rings true. His track-record is spotless. He simply dominates every opponent. Everyone knows what's coming and is powerless to do anything about it. You might think someone like Poirier or even Tony Ferguson could beat him. The fact that Michael Johnson buckled his knees might offer a glimpse of hope for opposing underdogs. Fine. It's still pointless to argue his merit. He is an unbeaten champion who has created a big distance between himself and his adversaries.

It's a whole different level of dominance. Khabib doesn't just win. He manhandles his opponents, many of whom look lost and hopeless when in the champion's grasp. He throws people around. Once he gets a hold on you, there's apparently little that can be done. He melts himself into his opponents, as his wrestling mastery and strength is without equal. One fighter after the next ends up with that look on their face that says "get me out of here."

Khabib was very impressive against Conor, never looking like anything but the winner of that fight. He even dropped Conor in stand-up, showing once again that he's not lost when the action isn't on the mat. Regardless of how good his opponent's takedown-defense is, Khabib always manages to do as he pleases. He is as strong as they come, tempered by years of otherworldly-level training in his native Dagestan. And he never seems particularly winded, with perhaps the best stamina in the sport. He appears to have gotten his weight-making issues under control and is really the total package.

But, no one goes on forever. Everyone eventually meets their match. And if looking for a candidate to pull off that caliber of an upset, you can do a whole lot worse than Poirier. Over the last few years, he has become a real force in his own right. He's actually a pretty big lightweight, despite spending a bulk of his UFC career at 145 pounds. And since coming up to 155, he has scored wins over guys like Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Holloway—illustrating his newfound menace at the new weight. He has been in the UFC for nearly a decade and for him to make a career-surge like he has really speaks about his overall wherewithal. He overcame a ton to get here and is impossible to write off completely.

We have started to see Poirier fight at a level in which he previously wasn't capable and in the process, he has been fairly-dominant in his own right. He forged a strong and versatile overall game after perfecting the formula over a long and hard career. Poirier is very fluid and moves exceedingly well in the octagon. He always alters his angles and position. He has all the veteran tricks and has become a very dangerous man to fight. He can really do it all. He is certainly more-versatile than Khabib. But that might not matter. Khabib may very well be predictable. Opponents know what he is going to do. But this one-trick pony's one trick has been good enough to get him right to the top. Can Poirier use different things like leg-kicks, movement, angles, and takedown-defense to thwart Khabib's tidal wave of wrestling prowess?

The southpaw Poirier might be better-adept at avoiding the Khabib squeeze than other opponents. He has the combination of different traits to conceivably do it, along with a team that always seems to dial in the right strategy and approach. But let's face it—Khabib has fought other top guys with good people around them and what did it ever amount to other than a big fat "L" for his opposition? Everyone comes in with a good plan at this level. And against Khabib, they soon are reduced to no longer trying to win, but just trying to stay alive in the fight.

Poirier is very skilled. A winning case for him isn't impossible to make. Maybe Khabib's weight-making issues will resurface. And despite being 27-0, his list of wins over top opposition is in fact a bit thin. He has beaten Conor, Rafael dos Anjos, and then guys like Al Iaquinta and Michael Johnson—good fighters, but guys who have been beaten a handful of times. Poirier could actually be his toughest opponent thus far. It's hard to say a 27-0 fighter who is the champion is a little unproven, but he hasn't thrived at this particular level all that many times to make it such a foregone conclusion.

It's still very tricky to bet against Khabib. A lot of opponents had a good case and bets on their behalf yielded nothing but heartache. To be getting a fighter of Poirier's caliber and character at +300 has some definite appeal to it. You just don't find that kind of talent at such a price very often. And maybe he shouldn't be that big of an underdog with everything he brings to the octagon. It's still a very tough task for him and the locale doesn't help, as Poirier hasn't had to travel nearly as much to pursue his MMA dreams as Khabib has. This fight is closer to his part of the world and I think that favors him. I see him being able to make more mistakes and still win, while Poirier will have to be perfect or pretty darn close to it. I just think there are easier ways to get +300 to pay off than betting against Khabib in this spot. I'm taking Nurmagomedov to win this one.

Loot's Pick to Win the Match: I'm betting on Khabib Nurmagomedov to win at -360 betting odds.Bet this fight for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% sign-up bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $500 at GTBets!

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