Dubai: The Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier lightweight collision at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi on Saturday has all the makings of a mixed martial arts war, but so do some of the other fights on what looks an electrifying undercard.
This is the bonanza that every fight fan in the UAE, and around the world, has been waiting for all year and for good measure, they will get to see women fight in the region for the first time.
The 155lb lightweight division looks one of the strongest in the UFC and two potentially high-action contests will prove that boast.
The division’s top knockout artists, Brazil’s Edson Barboza (27-7-0) and Paul Felder (16-4-0) resume their rivalry in the co-main event, while Islam Makhavhev (17-1-0), who like Khabib hails from Dagestan, Russia, hopes to maintain his UFC winning streak when he takes on Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Davi Ramos (10-2-0).
Both Barboza, who is ranked No. 7 in the lightweight division, and Felder are also on standby duty for the main event and should anything happen to Khabib or Poirier, one of them will step in to the Yas Arena Octagon as a replacement.
As a result both fighters will have prepared for five rounds and not just three three-minute rounds, which will have impacted positively on their fitness and conditioning.
Barboza and No. 10-ranked Felder are two fantastic fighters and take violence to a new level in the Octagon. Both compliment each other in undiluted striking talent and will doubtless seize the opportunity to show the world their best striking skills.
Barboza will bid to put his MMA career back on track after the hammering he received at the hands of Justin Gaethje in March.
Felder on the other hands is coming off a big win over James Vick in February.
“I feel great, I’m very excited,” Barboza told MMA fighting.com. “I have a lot of close friends in Abu Dhabi, jiu-jitsu guys who train with me in Brazil.
“I’ve been training like I always train, giving my best in the gym to become a better fighter. But I’m sure so has Paul.
“He has more experience now but so have I.
“I fought Khabib, Tony Ferguson, Anthony Pettis, some of the best fighters in the world. So I believe I’m a much better fighter now than I was when I last fought Paul.”
UFC 242’s only heavyweight fight pits No. 4-ranked Curtis Blaydes against No. 9-ranked Shamil Abdurakhimov.
Daniel Cormier will be watching closely from ringside where he is a member of the live commentary team anchored by Joe Rogan and also featuring UFC veteran Joe Rogan.
Cormier lost his title to Stipe Miocic earlier this year and could come up against the winner in 2020.
As a result Blaydes will attempt to destroy Abdurakhimov enter the discussion for a top-five fight with Cormier or Miocic in the future.
Another unmissable contest is the lightweight clash between Mairbek Taisumov and Carlos Diego Ferreira.
Since returning in 2018, after a two-year layoff, Ferreira has not lost in three fights and will aim to have the measure of in-and-out fighter Taisumov.
Khabib Nurmagomedov v Dustin Poirier
Edson Barboza v Paul Felder
Islam Makhachev v Davi Ramos
Shamil Abdurakhimov v Curtis Blaydes
Carlos Diego Ferreira v Mairbek Taisumov
Joanne Calderwood v Andrea Lee
Zubaira Tukhugov v Lerone Murphy
Liana Jojua v Sarah Moraes
Ottman Azaitar v Teemu Packalen
Belal Muhammad v Takashi Sato
Muslim Salikhov v Nordine Taleb
Omari Akhmedov v Zak Cummings
Don Madge v Fares Ziam