UFC 242: Khabib vs Poirier Betting Tips & Picks
This Saturday in Abu Dhabi, the biggest UFC event of the year will be taking place. Since thrashing former two-division world champion Conor McGregor in his previous fight, Khabib Nurmagomedov has ascended to one of the top stars in the sport and at UFC 242, the undisputed lightweight champion will be defending his title against interim champion Dustin Poirier, who is coming off a Fight of the Year contender where he won his interim title. The rest of the card is filled with solid fights but the reality is, Saturday is all about one fight for UFC bettors, so let’s break it down in-depth, along with the best bets available from it.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier Analysis
At this point, there can be little doubt that Khabib Nurmagomedov is one of the very best grapplers in MMA history. His accomplishments outside of the UFC might not stack up as well against some of his contemporaries (though he is by no means a slouch there either) but no one in present-day MMA can hold a candle to Khabib’s MMA grappling.
He is, simply put, the best wrestler in MMA, using a variety of entries and a truly staggering number of pulls and counters to chain wrestle every opponent down to his world. Even if you can stop Khabib’s initial takedown attempt, he excels at chaining together pushes and pulls to continually off-balance his opponents and force them to stay perfect three, four, and five stages down the line. Few can, so eventually Nurmagomedov winds up on top where he has some of the most punishing ground-and-pound in the sport.
Not like other fighters who desperately hold dominant position once they achieve it, Khabib is so confident in his takedown game that he flows with moving opponents, maintaining control while also being able to hammer them with hard shots. He’s also not completely out of his depth on the feet either. Khabib will never be mistaken for a K-1 kickboxer, but he’s developed a fundamentally sound boxing game that compliments his grappling well.
He works a tireless jab and is almost always defensively responsible with his hands. He also has a good overhand right and good uppercuts, that is very effective when he feints takedowns. Perhaps more importantly, he’s not afraid to be hit, meaning he can work into range behind his jab to open up better shooting opportunities.
Like Nurmagomedov’s previous opponent, Dustin Poirier is a striking specialist. Though Poirier possesses an above-average ground game and a willingness to wrestle if needed, his recent run through the lightweight division has come off the back of his dramatically improved striking game. Poirier has always had ferocious power, he may be the hardest shot-for-shot puncher in the division - but in his younger days, he was overly reliant on that power, running at opponents wildly and often over-extending himself.
Also in his younger days, Poirier was substantially less defensively knowledgeable, using the same blocking combination and positions as a catch-all. That coupled with his recklessness made him an easy target for strong counter-punchers.
But in recent years, Poirier has acutely sharpened up his technical boxing. Now he works off his jab significantly more and only rarely overextends himself. His defense is also massively improved, using head-movement, parries, shoulder-rolls, and elbow blocks all behind a high-guard that is much harder for opponents to pick apart.
Poirier still tends to close large gaps quickly but even that is done in a way that suits his power but minimizes the risk of getting countered. Poirier is now a complete striker with the biggest hole in his standup game being his lack of defense to the body or the legs, but against Nurmagomedov, neither of those should be much of a factor.
Prediction and Best Bets
For Poirier to win, he’ll need to land a big shot early and while it’s possible, it doesn’t seem probable. Yes, Poirier is an enormous puncher but his hands are not especially fast for the division and his big punches are usually wound up. The counters he landed that won him the interim title against Holloway will not be there against Khabib who will instead, duck under and wrestle. And unlike fighters like Ben Askren, Nurmagomedov almost always allows fights to come to him. He rarely rushes forward headlong into a big shot so Poirier is going to need to defend some takedowns to walk Khabib onto a counter and that feels like a bridge too far for “The Diamond.”
"I've learned lessons through trial, through error, through triumph that he's never learned yet."@DustinPoirier believes his long road to the top gives him an advantage over Khabib. 💎 #UFC242pic.twitter.com/m9tS0trllH— MMA Junkie (@MMAjunkie) September 4, 2019
Like all Nurmagomedov fights, this is a two true-outcome proposition: either Poirier stays on his feet and wins, or Poirier gets taken down and loses. So far, 27 men have tried to stop Khabib’s grappling and 27 of them have failed. And as good of a fighter, as Poirier is, he will be no different.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is currently a -440 favorite per FanDuel with the comeback on Poirier at +320 and while those odds might seem long, they probably aren’t long enough. -440 implies Khabib has an 81.5 percent chance of winning and while some fans may reflexively balk at that, it’s probably closer to 90 percent. Two years ago, Jim Miller took down Poirier despite being past his prime. Nurmagomedov is going to be able to impose his will consistently.
However, though -440 is a safe value bet to make, there are some enticing prop bets to make as well, namely, Nurmagomedov by KO/TKO at +500 or Nurmagomedov by the finish at -110. Poirier has been adamant that he will do whatever it takes to win, even if that means risking bad positions. That’s smart because it’s the only way to potentially upset Khabib but it will also be his downfall. At some point in time, Poirier is going to gamble to try and get back to his feet and it will result in Khabib getting mount or back mount and then Khabib’s relentless ground-and-pound will eventually cause the stoppage, so I love either of those bets.
Finally, regardless of how you bet Khabib, you should hedge some with Poirier by KO/TKO. If Poirier wins it will almost certainly be by KO, either because he lands a big shot early or he stops all the takedowns and then Khabib is a sitting duck. But either way, Poirier by KO is at +550 per FanDuel and a tremendous hedge bet.