On Saturday, Dustin Poirier will look to do what no other fighter has done and that’s defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 (ESPN+ PPV, 2 p.m. ET).
“The Diamond” for one, is confident in pulling off the upset and given his recent resume, he is well within his right to be.
However, Nurmagomedov may be a step too far according to UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker who sees “The Eagle” remaining unbeaten unless he is caught with a decisive punch which is a challenge in itself.
“With the way Khabib’s been in his career, the fights he’s had, I just see him, barring like getting clipped — because I think if you clip him and he went down but was still conscious enough to grab a single, he won’t go away — I don’t see him losing,” Whittaker said on Grange TV. “Being beaten by anybody, honestly. I can’t see him being beaten.
“Because he is surprisingly good at not getting hit when he’s not in a wrestling distance. You saw with fights with [Edson] Barboza and with [Conor] McGregor, he’s good at staying away. And then he just rushes in. And because the threat of the takedown is so real, so dangerous, he can get in almost unmolested.”
Whittaker added that Poirier has a good ground game, but his only real chance is to get the knockout. The American Top Team standout definitely has the power to turn the lights off a fighter but there’s a lot of work needed to be done in order to land such a strike.
“I don’t see anyone having the skillset to beat him, barring just getting knocked out flush,” Whittaker explained. “Which Dustin Poirier can definitely do that. Ever since he moved up, his power is remarkable.
“…He has to keep Khabib guessing. He can’t let Khabib get his timing, get in close and muddy up the fight. He needs to keep him at his range and not over-attack. He just needs to land in that one good clean shot.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Nurmagomedov is yet to truly be rocked in a fight and even if Poirier is in a position to land a strike, he has to be ready to evade the takedown threat if he isn’t able to put “The Eagle “away.
“That’s the thing. It’s hard, it’s very hard [to get in and get out],” Whittaker added.