This Saturday, UFC 242 features a Champion vs. Champion clash.
Dustin Poirier will look to unify his interim belt against world lightweight titleholder, Khabib Nurmagomedov, in the main event.
Since this is a classic Striker (Poirier) vs. Grappler (Khabib) matchup, breaking down this fight is quite simple.
Which fighter can dominate in the area they are considered to have the advantage?
Dustin has a definite advantage in the striking department. Poirier will need to establish his jab early in the fight while mixing in some leg kicks. If he can get Khabib in the clinch and land some short elbows and knees, it will allow him to break from the Khabib’s grasp.
Next, Poirer will need to concentrate on his takedown defense for this fight. In his two fights against Eddie Alvarez, once he was taken down he had problems getting back to his feet. Poirer doesn’t want to fight Khabib from his back. If he is taken down, he will need to have some scramble moves in his pocket to get back to his feet quickly.
“The Diamond” will need to have Khabib thinking rather than fighting.
What I mean by this, is he needs to do something Khabib won’t see coming. I know this is going to sound crazy, but if he could land a takedown on Khabib, it would give him confidence.
Khabib is known for his wrestling/grappling game.
This aspect of his game is probably second to none in the UFC currently, or ever. Once he takes his opponent down, most are stuck on the mat for the duration of that round or until they are finished.
Although Khabib has improved his striking game since entering the UFC, his striking is nowhere on the same level as Poirier’s. He will need to minimize the standup exchanges and avoid the clinch as Dustin can inflict damage during these periods of the fight. If Khabib could establish a “meaningful” jab, this would allow him to keep Dustin at a distance. A jab would also allow him to faint and then go for the takedown.
“The Eagle” is not known for his defense, but he needs to protect himself against Dustin as Dustin can punch and use some effective leg kicks. Khabib will be the bigger man in this fight and I think he can use his size as a defensive tool by making Dustin carry his weight. He also needs to use his strength in the clinch to put Dustin in positions where he can gain the advantage on the break.
The odds are currently in the champion’s favor.
Poirier is a big underdog going into this fight. But he has the tools to pull off the upset. Dustin needs to be dominant in the striking game, his training should focus on take down defense/scrambling to get back to his feet, and finally make Khabib think into hesitation.
Nurmagomedov has one of the most dominating ground games in UFC history. To beat Dustin, he must implore his dominant grappling game and keep the punching exchanges non-existent. Khabib also needs to establish a “meaningful” jab that will allow him to faint and then go for the takedown.
This is the classic matchup, but the winner will need to adjust and make their opponent think rather than fight. Whoever implores their strategy will become the undisputed champ come Saturday.
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The Scrap’s Lee Brown is a 22-year Air Force Vet, fan of all sports – especially UFC, NFL & NBA, and cohost of Lee N Keys Real Talk Podcast. You can follow Lee on Twitter (@Levanstian757) and Instagram (@Va121Lee).