Unbeaten Khabib finishes Poirier to retain title

Dustin Poirier succumbed to the same fate as Conor McGregor. And no one has figured out how to deal with Khabib Nurmagomedov's wrestling, let alone beat him.

Nurmagomedov defeated Poirier by submission via rear-naked choke at 2:06 of the third round Saturday in the main event of UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the victory, Nurmagomedov unified the UFC lightweight title. Poirier came in as the interim champion.

The bout was significant for Nurmagomedov, because of the location. Nurmagomedov is a devout Muslim from Dagestan, a republic of Russia, and it was his first UFC fight in a Muslim-majority country. There were loud chants of "Khabib!" throughout the main event and many fans wearing Nurmagomedov's signature papakha sheepskin hat.

Heading into the third round Saturday, Nurmagomedov dominated the entire way with his wrestling and grappling. He was in control for a total of 8:54. Nurmagomedov put Poirier on his back in the first round and nearly got a hold of choke at that point. Poirier survived, but he spent nearly the entire round on the ground with Nurmagomedov all over him. Twice, Poirier went for reversals, but Nurmagomedov ended up with even more dominant positions.

Poirier showed heart in the second. He landed a big right hand and followed with another, putting Nurmagomedov on his heels. Poirier chased the champion in an attempt to rope him into a brawl. It didn't quite work and the flurry seemed to tire Poirier. Once again, Nurmagomedov took him down and put him in the wrestling grinder. Ground-and-pound opened up a cut near Poirier's left eye.

In the third round, Nurmagomedov shot for a takedown against the cage and Poirier grabbed onto a tight guillotine. He held it for more than 30 seconds, changed positions and it seemed to be close, but Nurmagomedov slipped out. The bout was over soon after. Nurmagomedov got onto Poirier's back, wrapped his arms around his neck, fell back and Poirier had no choice but to tap.

Inside the cage, Nurmagomedov landed seven takedowns and outstruck Poirier 22-12 in significant strikes. Nurmagomedov has completed 59 takedowns in his UFC career, compared to just two from his opponents. On the ground, Nurmagomedov has outlanded opponents 379-11.

The two fighters respectfully exchanged shirts afterward. Nurmagomedov said he would auction Poirier's shirt off and send the money back to him for his foundation. Nurmagomedov said previously that Tony Ferguson, who is on a 12-fight winning streak, should be the next opponent, but Saturday he said he needed some time to rest and contemplate.

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Nurmagomedov (28-0) remains undefeated and has hardly been challenged in the UFC. "The Eagle" has won 12 in a row in the UFC and he and Anderson Silva are the only ones to start their UFC careers with that winning streak. Silva went 16-0 to begin his UFC run, a record mark.

Nurmagomedov, 30, had not fought since beating McGregor at UFC 229 in October 2018 via neck-crank submission in the fourth round. Nurmagomedov was suspended nine months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for his role in the postfight brawl at UFC 229, which led to the institution of the interim title.

Poirier (25-6, 1 NC) was unbeaten in six straight fights coming in. The Louisiana native defeated Max Holloway to win the UFC interim lightweight title at UFC 236 in April. Poirier, 30, owns victories over the likes of Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje and Anthony Pettis in eight years with the UFC.

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