Saturday’s UFC 242 event is in the books, and now that the dust has settled in Abu Dhabi, it’s time to go to the scorecard to see who the big winners were at The Arena.
5 – Belal Muhammad
Speaking of consistent performers flying under the radar, Belal Muhammad has fit into that category in the stacked welterweight division, but with the crowd in Abu Dhabi firmly in his corner, the Chicago product scored his first submission victory, capping off a stellar effort with a third-round finish of Takashi Sato. Solid everywhere the fight went, Muhammad has earned his crack at the top 15 at 170 pounds, and if he doesn’t get his wish next, a firefight with Li Jingliang will disappoint no one.
4 – Diego Ferreira
The lightweight scrap between Diego Ferreira and Mairbek Taisumov was seen as the fight that would propel the victor into the top 15 after flying under the radar during a long winning streak. And that should be the case for Brazil’s Ferreira, who put together one of his most impressive performances against the dangerous Taisumov, pounding out a three-round decision that likely took him out of the shadows forever.
3 – Paul Felder
Whatever your thoughts are on the decision in the rematch between Paul Felder and Edson Barboza, you have to give it up to “The Irish Dragon” for another gritty performance against one of the most dangerous men in the lightweight division. No one goes six rounds and 30 minutes with a guy like Barboza and remains standing. And while Felder is rightfully looking up at the top five at 155 pounds after the biggest win of his career, I’ve got a feeling that this is a friendly rivalry that needs a final chapter.
2 – Curtis Blaydes
Take away a pair of losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes would be undefeated at this moment, and a look at his win over Shamil Abdurakhimov last weekend showed why “Razor” is one of the top heavyweights in the game. Like Nurmagomedov, Blaydes has a smothering ground game, and when you add in a ferocious ground-and-pound attack, if he gets you to the mat, you’re in a boat load of trouble. It will be very interesting to see what happens with Blaydes’ quest for the gold in 2020.
1 – Khabib Nurmagomedov
One of the deadliest weapons in the history of the NFL was the famed sweep employed by the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s. Everyone knew it was coming, but defenses still couldn’t stop it. Khabib Nurmagomedov is the MMA version of the Packers’ sweep. Every opponent knows he’s going to try to latch on and implement his smothering ground attack, but 28 opponents have been unable to stop him. It’s pretty remarkable to watch, and perhaps the only current contender with the skill set to hold off “The Eagle” is the next man in line for a shot at the lightweight belt – Tony Ferguson. And yes, MMA Gods, you are giving us Diaz vs Masvidal at MSG in November, but would it be too much to ask for Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson, too?