It’s fairly unanimous — if Dustin Poirier has any shot of beating Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 on Saturday, he must avoid being taken to the ground.
Nurmagomedov has had his way with just about every opponent by taking them down, making them tired and eventually breaking their spirits. In recent fights, however, “The Eagle” has resorted to his standup, especially midway through his bouts with Al Iaquinta and Conor McGregor.
However, Poirier expects what everyone has come to know about Nurmagomedov — he will look to wrestle.
“I think he’s going to try and get in and keep me against the fence,” Poirier said in a recent interview with BT Sport. “He’s going to try and wear me down. I’m going to keep it in the middle of the Octagon, obviously, I need to use my boxing, my range, my rhythm, my timing, and just keep him on the end of things.
“He’s just going to try and stay in my face and try to wear me down. He’s openly said that. Maybe he’ll come out and try to box, maybe he’s been working on his boxing, but I think he’s going to be diving for my legs.”
Nurmagomedov’s gameplan has virtually been the same for every opponent. But that doesn’t mean it’s easier to prepare for him. After all, he still remains undefeated.
“No, this has been one of the hardest training camps of my life,” Poirier responded when asked if it was easier to prepare for Nurmagomedov. “We know what he’s going to do, but no one has been able to stop it. Everyone knows what he’s going to do.
“It was almost like a strength and conditioning session every day in training camp because I had these guys, wrestlers, on me and I was trying to get away from them. I was carrying their weight, getting up off the ground over and over again. It’s a tough camp, but it’s going to be that kind of fight.”
While he has the power to finish a fight, the key for “The Diamond” is to keep a balance during the course of the 25 minutes.
“I can’t get overzealous and push it and try to hurt him early and leave my feet planted and let him get in on my legs,” Poirier added. “It’s a fine line I have to walk in this fight. This is a championship fight, I have to be very smart in there, take the risks and keep on moving.”
UFC 242 streams live on ESPN+ in the United States this Saturday at 2 pm ET.