Khabib Nurmagomedov is still the best lightweight in all of mixed martial arts.
On Saturday, the undefeated Russian moved to 28-0 in his career with a suffocating performance to take out Dustin Poirier in a title unification bout from Abu Dhabi. It was a signature showing from Nurmagomedov as he punished Poirier on the ground over two-plus rounds before securing a rear naked choke to finish the fight at 2:06 into the third round.
“Last fight with bulls—t guy, we had a lot of crazy stuff. We show really what is this MMA. MMA, No. 1 thing is respect,” Nurmagomedov said following his second straight title defense. “MMA is not about trash talking. This is what we show with Dustin Poirier and his great team.”
Before he got the finish, Nurmagomedov showed patience in the opening exchanges before exploding forward with a combination and then a well-timed takedown in his first attempt to drag the action to the mat. The Dagestani grappler was methodical with his wrestling as he eventually tossed Poirier down to the ground before taking the back to begin working for a submission.
Nurmagomedov was constantly threatening with the rear naked choke as well as the neck crank but Poirier was able to persevere before eventually working his way back to the feet. Despite his best efforts to stay standing, Nurmagomedov was able to drag him down again before unloading some heavy shots on the ground just before the horn sounded.
After an exhausting opening round spent on his back, Poirier was decidedly more aggressive in the second as he started moving forward looking for combinations on the feet. Poirier cracked Nurmagomedov with a stinging shot that backed the lightweight champion up, which led to a series of power punches in succession.
Unfortunately for Poirier, he couldn’t connect with anything flush other than that initial shot and a split second later, Nurmagomedov was inside looking for another takedown. Once the fight was on the ground it was all Nurmagomedov as “The Eagle” was just battering him with a punishing series of punches.
The start of the third saw Poirier with perhaps his best chance to win after he latched onto a guillotine choke, falling to his back and trying to secure the submission. Nurmagomedov was having none of it as he worked his way free and from there he was determined that this fight wouldn’t see a fourth round.
As he began peppering away with punches, Nurmagomedov set up his submission as he seized on an opening to slip his arm under Poirier’s chin and then fall back into the rear naked choke. Poirier had no choice but to tap out or go to sleep as the fight came to an end with the Abu Dhabi faithful erupting in support of Nurmagomedov’s latest victory.
Nurmagomedov once again proved he is the best 155-pound fighter on the planet and now he likely awaits a showdown with former interim champion Tony Ferguson, who was declared the No. 1 contender earlier this week.
As for Poirier, he fought back the tears after an emotional loss as he attempted to become the undisputed lightweight champion.
“I just feel like I let myself down,” Poirier said. “Maybe there were times in there I could have done more. I’m sorry for anyone I let down with this performance.”