UFC is back in Abu Dhabi. After a five-year hiatus, the world's biggest mixed martial arts promotion returns to the United Arab Emirates with a main event fight that will have fans filling the seats early on. Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his return to the Octagon after nine months away when he takes on interim champ Dustin Poirier in the main event.
While the rest of the card doesn't have a ton of names that casual fans are familiar with, there is still plenty for everyone to get to know ahead of Saturday's action from The Arena. Let's take a look at each fight on the card, starting with the first bout on the early prelims.
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Don Madge -189 vs. Fares Ziam +150, lightweights: This is a showdown with South African Madge (8-3) looking to pick up another Octagon win after a successful UFC debut this past October. Ziam (10-2) is a Frenchman making his UFC debut in the card's kickoff bout. Expect fireworks as only two of their 23 combined fights have gone to the judges' scorecards.
Omari Akhmedov -120 vs. Zak Cummings -110, middleweights: Both of these guys have had sneaky long careers in the UFC. Akhmedov (18-4-1) has compiled a 6-3-1 Octagon record since November 2013 while Cummings has gone 8-3 in the promotion dating back to August 2013. Akhmedov's four most recent fights have gone to the scorecards with a majority draw against Marvin Vettori as the only blemish during that run. Cummings is riding a two-fight winning streak, most recently submitting Trevin Giles at UFC Fight Night 152 in May.
Nordine Taleb -130 vs. Muslim Salikhov +100, welterweights: The first of two welterweight clashes to close out the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. Taleb is the UFC vet with 11 Octagon fights to Salikhov's two. Both men recently got back in the win column with Salikhov knocking out Ricky Rainey at UFC on Fox 29 in April 2018 and Taleb taking a decision over Kyle Prepolec at UFC Fight Night 151 in May. Salikhov had been sidelined until March due to a potential doping investigation by USADA. He was ultimately cleared of the suspension.
Belal Muhammad -400 vs. Takashi Sato +300, welterweights: Muhammad (15-3) got off to a rocky start in 2019, having a four-fight win streak snapped in a decision loss to Geoff Neal in January. He rebounded in April with a decision win over Curtis Millender at UFC 238. A win against Sato (15-2) would run Muhammad's record since 2017 to 6-1. After a lengthy career in the Japanese promotion Pancrase, Sato made his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 150 in April, scoring a second-round TKO of veteran Ben Saunders. Twelve of Sato's 15 career victories have come by knockout or submission.
Ottman Azaitar -250 vs. Teemu Packalen +200, lightweights: This lightweight fight kicks off the preliminary card on FX. The undefeated Azaitar (11-0) makes his Octagon debut against Packalen (8-2). Packalen has dropped two of his three UFC bouts and has only fought three times since joining the promotion in July 2015. His most recent fight was a loss to Marc Diakiese in March 2017. He has pulled out of multiple bouts since and is finally set to return to the cage against Azaitar, a German bruiser with 10 stoppage wins in his 11 career victories.
Liana Jojua -150 vs. Sarah Moras +120, bantamweights: Moras (5-5) is likely fighting for her UFC life in this bantamweight showdown. After picking up a "Submission of the Season" win during her stint on The Ultimate Fighter 19, and a win at the finale, Moraes has gone 1-4 in her last five fights. That includes a three-fight skid she brings into this fight. Jojua (7-2) brings a five-fight winning streak into her UFC debut, with four of those five victories coming via submission. Moras has never been submitted in her pro career.
Zubaira Tukhugov -450 vs. Lerone Murphy +350, featherweights: Tukhugov (18-4) has not fought since May 2016, first due to a two-year USADA anti-doping violation suspension and then because of the featherweight's participation in the post-fight brawl between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov's camps at UFC 229. He is finally ready to get back to action after having his nine-fight win streak snapped with a split decision loss to Renato Moicano at UFC 198. Murphy (5-0) has had early success in his career, but making his Octagon debut against an experienced veteran is a tall order.
Andrea Lee -230 vs. Joanne Calderwood +170, flyweights: Fan favorite Calderwood (13-4) suffered a decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian at UFC 238 to snap her two-fight winning streak since returning to flyweight. Despite being one spot ahead of Lee in the UFC rankings, No. 5 ranked Calderwood is the underdog to her streaking opponent. Lee (11-2) is riding a seven-fight winning streak including an undefeated 3-0 record in the Octagon. The winner of this fight may only be one victory away from a potential title shot at flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko.
Mairbek Taisumov -280 vs. Diego Ferreira +230, lightweights: This is the first of four lightweight bouts on the main card. Taisumov (27-5) is yet another fighter on the card who has run into recent trouble. Despite a six-fight winning streak, he missed weight for his last fight, a decision win over Desmond Green in September 2018, and was suspended six months for a failed USADA drug test. The failed test was eventually linked to tainted supplements. Ferreira (15-2) is on his own impressive run, picking up four consecutive wins since a knockout loss to Dustin Poirier in April 2015. Most recently, Ferreira scored a decision win over Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night Prague in February.
Curtis Blaydes -500 vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov +375, heavyweights: The lone non-lightweight fight on the main card is this clash of heavyweights. Blaydes is one of the biggest favorites on the card, likely a product of his two career losses coming against Francis Ngannou. Outside of the Ngannou fights, Blaydes has compiled an impressive run through the UFC's heavyweight division. Abdurakhimov is riding his own three-fight winning streak, including a win over former champ Andrei Arlovski.
Islam Makhachev -350 vs. Davi Ramos +275, lightweights: Makhachev (17-1) currently holds the UFC record for the lowest strikes absorbed per minute, getting hit 0.83 times each minute in the Octagon. Ironically, his lone career loss came when he was knocked out by an Adriano Martins punch at UFC 192. Since that loss, Makhachev is riding a five-fight win streak. Ramos' record isn't as impressive and he doesn't have a UFC record in any statistical category, but he has won four straight fights after dropping his Octagon debut. Three of those four wins in the UFC have come by rear-naked choke.
Edson Barboza -160 vs. Paul Felder +130, lightweights: Barboza (20-7) is a "Fight of the Night" machine, having picked up the award and bonus seven times. Most recently, Barboza won the award in his knockout loss to Justin Gaethje in March. Ranked No. 7 in the UFC's lightweight rankings, Barboza has the potential to hang with any 155-pound fighter on any given night, though he has regularly came up short against the cream of the crop in the division. Felder (16-4), ranked No. 10, is looking to avenge a July 2015 loss to Barboza. In the process, he'd run his winning streak to two and improve to 5-1 since 2017.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) -455 vs. Dustin Poirier (ic) +325 lightweight title: The undefeated king of the lightweights, Nurmagomedov (27-0) is a takedown machine who most recently ran through Conor McGregor at UFC 229 last October. He's ready to return to action for the first time since that fight after serving out a suspension for the wild brawl between camps that followed his victory. In Poirier (25-5), he faces a gritty, determined fighter who had to grind for the better part of a decade to earn a UFC title shot. He made good on the opportunity, dominating featherweight champ Max Holloway in their interim lightweight title fight at UFC 236 in April. Poirier has wins over Holloway, Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis -- all current or former UFC champs -- among others during his current run of success. The more Poirier can keep the fight standing, the better his chances for victory. But Nurmagomedov holds the record for most takedowns in a single fight, scoring 21 across three rounds in a 2013 bout with Abel Trujilo.
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