Islam Makhachev retains UFC lightweight title with 5th round submission of Dustin Poirier at UFC 302

The UFC’s unstoppable freight train rolls on.

Islam Makhachev survived his greatest challenge in years to defend the lightweight title against Dustin Poirier thanks to a fifth-round D’Arce choke after a brutal, bloody and exhausting bout early Sunday morning at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

It marked Makhachev’s third defense of the strap, matching the UFC record for lightweight title defenses.

Poirier, one of the best boxers in UFC history, displayed the best takedown defense of his career all fight before an ankle pick caught him midway through the final round. From there, Makhachev twisted his body and clawed his hands around Poirier’s neck.

Poirier tapped out and then promptly passed out from the choke. Behind him, Makhachev’s Eagles MMA team jumped into the cage piled onto the reigning lightweight champ in celebration.

“I think Dustin did great,” Makhachev said after the fight. “His coaches work very well, they prepared him very good. He defended my takedowns and gave me a very hard time. He’s a legend of the sport, thank you Dustin.”

The bout began with Makhachev dominating in the same fashion he has for the past 14 wins — staggering Poirier with a straight then smothering the challenger on the ground with threatening submission setups. But after the entire first round was spent with Poirier on his back, the challenger re-emerged far sharper in the second, where he stuffed three takedown attempts and found success with his world-class combinations as he kept the fight standing.

In the opening minute of the third round, Makhachev went to the clinch to deliver mean knees before dragging Poirier to the ground and again taking the challenger’s back. Poirier worked his way out of a dangerous mount position to get the fight back to its feet, where the round ended with the fighters forehead-to-forehead after the bell.

Between rounds, Poirier’s eye swelled and he complained of what could be a broken nose. Post-round replays showed it likely occurred on an accidental clash of heads.

The fourth round may have been Poirier’s best, as the challenger stuffed another takedown and then gave the champion fits as Makhachev tried to drag him down by the fence. After brief success, Poirier rolled back up to his feet and drilled the champion with a nasty elbow that cut Makhachev’s brow wide open.

The fourth ended with Poirier holding off another takedown as Makhachev’s leaky forehead spilled out on the challenger’s feet and the canvas. The crowd rose to its feet in appreciation of the great fight and in anticipation for the final round.

There, Makhachev refused to leave the fight in the judges’ hands, finishing Poirier with what he called “one of my favorite chokes.”



Islam Makhachev became UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter the old-fashioned way

“He’s the champ,” Poirier simply told Joe Rogan in the cage afterward. “I thought I was starting to chip away at him, but he kept coming back.

“I stopped most of (the takedowns) in the center, but here he did a low single (leg takedown), and that was just the end bro.”

Poirier has openly discussed retirement in the past year, but declined to make an official announcement after the loss. He did acknowledge the reality of this being the last time he competes, however.

“I think this could be it, honestly, Joe,” he said. “If this is my last fight, I want to dedicate this journey to the people that made me the man that I am, and that’s the women in my life.”

The win gives Makhachev 13 straight victories at lightweight, setting a new UFC record for the division, and the finish gives him nine on his career, which ties BJ Penn for eighth most in lightweight history.

From here, Makhachev is expected to next face Arman Tsarukyan later this year. Tsarukyan earned his title shot with a strong performance against Charles Oliveira in April.

The expected bout between Makhachev and Tsarukyan would be a rematch of the pair’s first fight in 2019, back before either man was considered a serious championship contender. Makhachev won that first encounter via unanimous decision.

GettyImages 2155666952 1

Sean Strickland lands a jab on Paulo Costa. (Photo: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

In the co-main event, former middleweight champion Sean Strickland handled business with ease against former title challenger Paulo Costa, winning by split decision. The split decision was one of multiple confusing scorecards from the judges on the night and was a surprise to the commentary team and much of the crowd, as Strickland clearly dominated the affair.

Strickland, who lost the title to Dricus Du Plessis via split decision January, set himself up for another title shot with his trademark constant pressure and impenetrable stand-up defense.

“It was a boring fight, I’m sorry guys,” Strickland said afterward, later adding “I thought we were going to have a war and we were going to fight.

“I want to fight for the belt. I was a company man, I fought a seventh-ranked guy, give it to me now.”

Costa is a feared power hitter but couldn’t break through Strickland’s unconventional defensive guard. The Brazilian was breathing with his mouth open by the second round and was left limping after a handful of checked kicks in the first three rounds.

Costa won his first 13 career fights but has now lost four of his past five fights dating back to his loss to Israel Adesanya at UFC 253.

Du Plessis is expected to make his first title defense against Adesanya, with Strickland getting his next chance against the winner.

Required reading

(Photo: Jeff Bottari / Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top