The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday made its way back to the Middle East with UFC 242 at The Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Some stocks rose and others fell.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: The UFC lightweight champion remained undefeated in the main event, taking home a dominant submission victory over Dustin Poirier. While on the surface this matchup did not appear to offer Nurmagomedov much in terms of legacy building, another crushing win has “The Eagle” closing in on the pound-for-pound best. Few will be able to withstand the grappling onslaught Nurmagomedov brings to the table, but a potential showdown with Tony Ferguson may be on the horizon and with it a chance for the Dagestani powerhouse to build on his resume as one of MMA’s greatest champions.
Curtis Blaydes: After a second-round technical knockout of Shamil Abdurakhimov, Blaydes continues to distance himself from a second loss to Francis Ngannou and slowly but surely reestablish himself as a top contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Blaydes’ combination of powerful takedowns and suffocating ground-and-pound has proven to be a major asset, and with another decisive victory, the Elevation Fight Team-trained “Razor” might once again be able to throw his name into the hat of potential title challengers.
Diego Ferreira: In extending his winning streak to five fights with a unanimous decision over Mairbek Taisumov, Ferreira finds himself in the running for a shot at ranked opposition at 155 pounds. After a shaky first five minutes, the Fortis MMA representative came out for the second and third rounds as if he had been shot out of a cannon, applying pace and pressure that Taisumov simply could not match. Ferreira seemed to be in sync with coach Sayif Saud from bell to bell and continues to become a force in the lightweight division. Up next for Ferreira: likely a Top 15 opponent. His still-climbing stock has reached an all-time high.
Edson Barboza: In landing on the wrong side of a split decision against Paul Felder in the co-main event, Barboza lost for the fourth time in five fights. While his rematch with Felder was highly competitive, the fact remains that Barboza has consistently failed to get the job done against top-shelf opposition and seems destined for a move outside of ranked competition until he can reestablish some consistency. Barboza’s inability to deal with pressure remains an issue, and his chin is beginning to get called into question due to his engaging in war after war. It has been a difficult stretch for the Brazilian kickboxing ace, but a recent move to American Top Team seems like a prime ingredient for his rebirth.
Mairbek Taisumov: Even after he posted six consecutive wins, Taisumov still faced considerable difficulty in receiving a promotional push from the UFC, due largely to visa issues that have kept the Tiger Muay Thai standout from fighting inside the United States. He needed a breakout win to establish himself as a breakout contender, but his encounter with Ferreira resulted in a significant setback in his quest towards challenging the lightweight division’s upper echelon. The Brazilian overwhelmed Taisumov with pace and aggression, likely sending him to the back of the line in a deep weight class with no shortage of contenders.
Andrea Lee: “KGB” looked like a potential contender in the UFC’s fledgling women’s flyweight division following three consecutive victories. A fight against Joanne Calderwood seemed like the perfect opportunity for Lee to break out against a hot-and-cold veteran competitor, but she failed to get the job done and lost her hold on momentum. The former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion remains relatively young at the age of 30, and with only 14 professional fights on her resume, time appears to be on her side -- for now.