The UFC return to Abu Dhabi may bring fans in the region the best main event they could ask for. UFC 242 on Saturday night will see Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier unify the lightweight crown in the United Arab Emirates with plenty on the line.
Nurmagomedov is fresh off a nine-month suspension following his win over Conor McGregor in October 2018. Nurmagomedov was put on the shelf for inciting the melee between camps after the fight when he jumped the cage in an attempt to dropkick a member of McGregor's team.
His opponent is no slouch despite the long odds facing him at most books. Poirier comes in on one of the hottest streaks in the sport and building one of the strongest resumes in the division. Consecutive wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and Max Holloway is tough to argue with. A win over Nurmagomedov could be the icing on the cake to his path to greatness.
The co-main event is a rematch of a 2015 fight when No. 10 ranked lightweight Paul Felder looks to avenge his loss to No. 7 ranked Edson Barboza. Felder has won four of his last five bouts and is looking to jump into the top five by avenging his 2015 defeat. Barboza, meanwhile, has lost three of four, but remains one of the most dangerous kickboxers in the sport, scoring a brutal TKO win over Dan Hooker in December 2018.
Plus, Islam Makhachev makes his return to the Octagon when he takes on Davi Ramos. The only non-lightweight bout the main card see Curtis Blaydes battle Shamil Abdurakhimov in a heavyweight showdown. Blaydes is looking to build his resume back up with his only pro losses coming at the hands of Francis Ngannou.
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With another UFC pay-per-view event on tap, the crew at CBS Sports went ahead with predictions and picks for the main card with latest odds from Westgate. Here are your pick makers: Brent Brookhouse (Combat sports writer), Brian Campbell (Combat sports writer), Matthew Coca (producer), Jack Crosby (editor), Michael Mormile (producer) and Brandon Wise (editor).
UFC 242 predictions, picks
Khabib (c) -500 vs. Poirier (ic) +350
|Barboza -160 vs. Felder +130||Felder||Felder||Barboza||Barboza||Felder||Barboza|
|Makhachev -350 vs. Ramos +280||IM||IM||IM||IM||IM||IM|
|Blaydes -500 vs. Abdurakhimov +350||Blaydes||Blaydes||Blaydes||Blaydes||Blaydes||Blaydes|
|Taisumov -250 vs. Ferreira +200||Taisumov||Taisumov||Ferreira||Ferreira||Ferreira|
Campbell on why Nurmagomedov will win: Poirier may very well be the prototype striker one could create in a laboratory in hopes of solving Nurmagomedov's suffocating ground attack. He can land hard strikes with all four limbs and enters at the peak of his physical and mental prime, fresh off an impressive four-fight win streak. But with all that said, there's a reason why Nurmagomedov's record remains unblemished. If "The Eagle" can succeed in taking the fight to the ground early, he can rob from Poirier's gas tank and water down the danger of his attack. Until someone finally exposes him, Nurmagomedov makes it incredibly hard to pick against him.
Brookhouse on why Nurmagomedov will win: Dustin Poirier's rise to interim champion is no fluke. He's tough, talented and has championship-level grit. But no one on the planet is on Nurmagomedov's level right now. Nurmagomedov can put anyone on their back and is elite at keeping his opponents down and doing real, significant damage. It's a grinding, demoralizing style that tends to break men. Poirier doesn't break easily, but I just don't think he (or anyone else in the near future) is beating the champ.
Campbell on why Felder will win: Despite entering this bout having won four of his last five, including a February decision win over James Vick, there's little question this is a crossroads fight for the 35-year-old Felder regarding whether his future will be more in lightweight title contention or broadcasting. Barboza might have three losses in his last four fights, but he's the more proven commodity on this level and has only lost in recent years to the very elite. Yet it's hard to ignore the damage Barboza, 33, has accrued. The more Felder can crowd Barboza and suffocate his opportunities to land dynamic strikes, the more he can grind out a potential decision win.
Wise on why Baboza will win: This fight represents the biggest step up in competition in Felder's career. Granted, being a rematch means he should know some of the tendencies Barboza brings to the table, but a lot can change in four years. If Felder is truly elite and to make a run at the top five of the deepest division in the sport, he needs to make light work of Barboza. But when looking at his last few fights, I don't see him surviving the onslaught of leg kicks and power that Barboza brings to the table. He may not be the elite fighter he was a couple years ago, but Barboza can still strike with the best of them and will find a way to score a decision win.
Who wins Poirier vs. Nurmagomedov and Felder vs. Barboza, and exactly how does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed picks on all 13 fights at UFC 242, all from the incomparable expert who's up more than $21,000 on MMA picks in the past year.