The UFC is heading to Abu Dhabi this Saturday for arguably the biggest fight of the year. Khabib Nurmagomedov returns almost a year following his win over Conor McGregor at UFC 229, and he will be facing interim champion Dustin Poirier, who has defeated the who’s who of the lightweight division to earn this shot.
I will only have two plays for this card, and they will be from the final two fights of the night. I will be using the best odds available from any of our top rated betting sites for Canadians for my picks.
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Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier
Khabib is a huge favourite in his title defense against Dustin Poirier, and I think this is an obvious dog or pass situation.
Yes, Khabib has looked solid, arguably dominant, in his recent UFC fights, but I think he’s getting more credit than he deserves. Let’s remember that he’s just 5-0 in the past 5 years and his biggest win, by far, was over a Conor McGregor that was two years removed from the octagon. Outside of McGregor, Khabib has beaten a UFC newcomer in Darrell Horcher, a .500 fighter in Michael Johnson, and Edson Barboza who was terrified to throw any kicks or mount any offense, and Al Iaquinta who I think is the most overrated (in terms of ranking) fighter in the division.
Yes, Khabib did what he was supposed to do with these challengers, but let’s not pretend his level of competition has matched the air of invincibility that seems to surround him in the media.
Dustin Poirier, on the flip side, has had to earn his title shot by beating the elite fighters in the division. Poirier finished Pettis, Gaethje and Alvarez, and outclassed Max Holloway over his last four fights to earn this title shot. Poirier has gone 9-1-1 over the past 5 years since moving to lightweight.
I would argue that Poirier has actually proven himself more than Khabib. That said, I do still think Khabib is the rightful favourite, but I think the line should be far closer than it is. Poirier is definitely a live dog.
I think the main attribute that Poirier has to bring to the octagon is self belief, and I think he has shown that he will. Other fighters have not given themselves a chance against Khabib by worrying too much about his takedowns and not mounting offense of their own. I think Poirier will be willing to risk being taken down to inflict his own damage and this could tilt the fight in his favour.
Play: Poirier 4.25
Edson Barboza vs Paul Felder
I’m high on Paul Felder. This is a guy who has improved tremendously over the past few years and is ready for the elite of the lightweight division. This looks to be a difficult stylistic match-up for Felder, but I think he has the ability on his feet to get inside Barboza’s kicking range and do some damage from the clinch.
Barboza is only 1-3 in his last four fights and he really hasn’t seemed like the same fighter since the Khabib loss.
Barboza did get the better of Felder back in 2015, but it was a close fight, and I think Felder has improved tremendously since then.
I expect Felder to learn from his loss and come into this fight with improved technique and game plan.
Look for Felder to get this win and put his name among the contenders in the lightweight division.
Play: Felder 2.40 @ SportsInteraction.com