This Saturday, Abu Dhabi will play host to the ninth title-unification bout in UFC history.
Undisputed lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0 MMA, 11-0 UFC) takes on interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier (25-5 MMA, 17-4 UFC) in the third event the promotion has hosted in the Middle East.
Thus far, in the eight unification bouts in UFC history, interim champions lead undisputed champions by five victories to three.
Let’s take a look at the last three results of the two men in Saturday night’s main event:
Khabib notched back-to-back unanimous decision victories over Edson Barboza and Al Iaquinta, claiming the vacant UFC lightweight title in the latter. In his next bout, the Dagestani defeated Conor McGregor via fourth-round submission before wild scenes erupted outside of the cage.
Nurmagomedov is one of twelve fighters in UFC history to have become UFC champion whilst undefeated in their professional MMA career, alongside Cain Velasquez, Chris Weidman, Cody Garbrandt, Holly Holm, Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Lyoto Machida, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Rashad Evans, Ronda Rousey, and Tim Sylvia.
Poirier followed back-to-back TKO stoppage wins against Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez with a unanimous decision victory over Max Holloway that’s a frontrunner for 2019’s Fight of the Year prize.
Poirier saw his fight with Gaethje pick up several publications’ 2018 Fight of the Year award and has earned the Fight of the Night bonus in four of his last six bouts. The two fights that didn’t pick up the award in this span (his two contests against Alvarez) could have easily done so on another night.
Here’s a look at how these two fighters fared when competing against common opponents shared throughout their careers. On the left of the graphic, you’ll see how Khabib fared against any shared opponents and on the right, you’ll see Poirier’s results against the same men.
The two men share two common opponents; Michael Johnson and Conor McGregor.
Khabib scored submission victories against both Johnson and McGregor (in the third and fourth rounds, respectively), whilst Poirier suffered first-round KO/TKO defeats against both men.
The Dwyer Score
Each event, I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It essentially gives a numeric value to the momentum of fighters competing at any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. Only UFC results are considered and a fighter coming off a no-contest, a draw, or a bout with another promotion has a streak of 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card, you get a total for the event- the ‘Dwyer Score.’ This score does not claim to predict or measure the quality or excitement of any one card, but it does give you an idea of the general momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. The graphic to the above-right displays some of the highest-scoring events of all time, to help give some context to this score.
UFC 242: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier checks in with a huge score of +43.
This score ranks 3rd out of 42 UFC events in the last year and joint-9th out of all 492 events in promotional history (top 2%).
Here’s a look at how this score compares to other events’ scores over the past year:
As you can see, this score far exceeds the +11.7 average for all events in the last twelve months, as well as the +21.1 average for Pay-Per-View events in the same time frame.
Let’s take a look at exactly how this score breaks down:
The highest individual contributor to the score is Khabib Nurmagomedov (+11), ahead of Mairbek Taisumov (+6), Islam Makhachev (+5), and Dustin Poirier, Davi Ramos and Carlos Diego Ferreira (all +4).
The lowest scorer is Sarah Moras (-3), whilst four fighters will be making their promotional debuts at this event.
Enjoy the fights!