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UFC 302 takeaways: Makhachev eyes double championship, legacy beyond Khabib



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A 12-fight UFC 302 card in Newark, New Jersey, was headlined by a riveting title struggle efficiency from Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier. Within the co-main occasion, Sean Strickland reminded the world that he is nonetheless probably the greatest middleweights within the sport. However what’s subsequent for the highest stars after Saturday’s card? Andreas Hale and Brett Okamoto supply their remaining ideas from New Jersey.

Makhachev efficiently defended his UFC light-weight championship with a fifth-round submission towards Poirier, nevertheless it was arguably probably the most tough problem of his UFC tenure. Poirier proved to be greater than a formidable opponent, who confirmed a steely resolve as he routinely discovered himself in disadvantageous positions all through the evening. Nevertheless, not like his third-round submission loss to Makhachev’s mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Poirier appeared to be taught from his errors and discover a approach out of hassle.

However there is a motive why Makhachev is presently the UFC’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, with some believing that he’s an improved model of Nurmagomedov, and he put it on full show by opening his whole toolbox to lastly get the end within the remaining spherical.

As spectacular as Poirier’s resolve was, Makhachev’s diligence to get the end might have been much more spectacular as he refused to permit the struggle to achieve the scorecards. He simply needed to get inventive to get it finished. Makhachev tried all the pieces from rear-naked chokes to kimuras early on. Nonetheless, Poirier continued to seek out methods to struggle his approach out, even managing to stuff a number of takedowns and pull himself off the canvas when the champion grounded him. In a little bit of a scramble, Makhachev went for an ankle decide and fantastically used it to open up Poirier’s neck for the ending sequence that noticed him safe the choke.

It was a superb efficiency by Makhachev, who needed to struggle Poirier (and a particularly pro-Poirier crowd) to select up his UFC light-weight division-leading thirteenth consecutive win. Whereas he may defend his title towards high contender Arman Tsarukyan, Makhachev is extra fascinated with transferring to welterweight.

“It is my dream. I need to struggle for the second belt,” Makhachev stated. “I need to really feel that vitality once more as a result of once you defend your belt, it isn’t similar. I want a brand new one.”

Makhachev is starting to flee from the shadow of Nurmagomedov, and a world title in a second weight class would do the trick. Together with his fourth title protection, he is additionally tied his mentor, together with BJ Penn and Benson Henderson, for probably the most title struggle wins in light-weight division historical past.

At 32 years outdated and displaying no indicators of slowing down, there’s a distinct risk that Makhachev can surpass Nurmagomedov ought to he proceed to remain energetic.

As for Poirier, his future is in query as he is fallen quick for a 3rd time, difficult for undisputed UFC gold.

“I do know I may compete with the most effective of those guys,” Poirier stated. “It is identical to if I do struggle once more, what am I combating for? Simply to struggle? I’ve finished that fifty occasions. I do not know. I received just a little lady I like and I received to see. I believe this could possibly be it.”

Poirier is arguably the best UFC fighter to by no means win the undisputed championship, and judging by his efficiency towards Makhachev, he seems to have extra to provide. The query is whether or not or not he is fascinated with making that climb to a championship struggle yet one more time.

If it is any comfort, Makhachev acknowledges Poirier’s expertise.

“His coach is working very properly and he put together excellent,” Makhachev stated. “He defends my takedown and gave me a tough time. He is a champion, legend of this sport. Thanks, Dustin.”

Poirier clarified that he’ll must take a while earlier than deciding if this shall be his final struggle. Whereas he solely desires to turn into a champion, he additionally acknowledged that he is unsure what he’ll do with out combating. If a UFC undisputed title is not in his instant future, a 3rd struggle with Max Holloway for the BMF title may ease the ache of his championship loss.

Solely Poirier can resolve his subsequent step. Both approach, struggle followers will definitely be happy in the event that they see him step into the Octagon once more. — Andreas Hale

Okamoto on what’s subsequent for high stars after UFC 302

Islam Makhachev, light-weight champion

What must be subsequent: Arman Tsarukyan

Makhachev’s construct to presumably the best light-weight of all time continues. His subsequent problem is actually set. The UFC provided this chance in Newark to Tsarukyan first, after he beat Charles Oliveira at UFC 300. He needed a relaxation and a full camp, for which nobody can blame him. Makhachev beat Tsarukyan in 2019, nevertheless it was Tsarukyan’s UFC debut, and he gave Makhachev one of many closest fights of his profession. This may not have the identical blockbuster enchantment of a struggle towards Poirier, however this must be a sensational 155-pound title struggle.

Wild card: Leon Edwards at welterweight

Makhachev desperately desires a possibility to turn into a two-weight champ. It is what he desires most, frankly. I do not see the UFC reserving it within the close to future, as each champions nonetheless have work to do. However we’re not that far-off from it presumably changing into a actuality.

Sean Strickland, middleweight

What must be subsequent: Winner of Dricus Du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya

It isn’t official, however the expectation is that Du Plessis will defend his title towards Adesanya in August when the UFC visits Australia. Strickland has loads of historical past with each. He famously upset Adesanya to win the championship in September, earlier than surrendering the belt to Du Plessis in his first title protection in January. Strickland believed he gained that struggle, which formally went to Du Plessis by way of cut up determination. The one caveat on this plan is Khamzat Chimaev, who faces former champion Robert Whittaker later this month. I’ve campaigned for a Khamzat title struggle for some time now, as a result of it is merely time to see it. It is overdue. However on this case, Strickland is probably the most deserving, no matter what occurs with Chimaev. And Chimaev is not precisely energetic anyway, so who’s to say he cannot watch for his shot after Strickland has his?

Wild card: Winner of Whittaker vs. Chimaev on June 22

That Du Plessis-Adesanya title struggle remains to be a number of months away. It would not be stunning if the UFC appeared to arrange a No. 1 contender struggle earlier than reserving one in every of these two straight to a title. I desire to see Strickland wait, however this matchup would even be nice.

Paulo Costa, middleweight

What must be subsequent: Loser of Du Plessis vs. Adesanya

Costa has proved he might be aggressive on the high, and he is proved he generally is a identify. His recognition has grown in recent times, regardless of dropping his largest fights. Stylistically, both of those matchups can be nice. And if it had been to be Adesanya, there can be loads of storylines to promote after the way in which Adesanya humiliated Costa in 2020.

Wild card: Chimaev

If Chimaev loses to Whittaker on June 22, or even when he wins and the UFC desires to set him up with a nontitle struggle, do not be stunned if the UFC revisits this matchup. It was booked final 12 months, however Costa was pressured to tug out attributable to damage.



Holland submits Oleksiejczuk with brutal armbar in first-round

Kevin Holland locks in a devastating armbar on Michal Oleksiejczuk and forces the early submission to safe a primary spherical victory.

Kevin Holland, middleweight

What must be subsequent: Neil Magny

Holland has needed to struggle Magny for some time, and he introduced up Magny’s identify once more to me throughout struggle week. He advised me he by no means turned down a Nick Diaz struggle. He needed to struggle at UFC 302, win and have the UFC announce his Diaz struggle by the evening’s finish. UFC went one other route with Diaz, however Holland really does not care. He simply desires to struggle often, as everyone knows. Magny is identical approach. Frankly, it is a struggle I am shocked hasn’t occurred but, given how energetic these two are. May as properly do it now. E-book it for any occasion needing just a little enjoyable, and this can do the trick.

Wild card: Caio Borralho

This simply looks as if a supremely enjoyable struggle to me. Borralho is beginning to achieve notoriety with a 16-1 file and a knockout win over Paul Craig his final day out. Each of those guys have entertaining personalities. Their struggle week interactions can be very excessive vitality. And stylistically, it would be quite a lot of gasoline from the opening bell. And I do not thoughts seeing Holland as a middleweight. He is in all probability higher suited to a title run at 170 kilos, however he does not care a few title. If he does not care about it, why ought to we? Put him in enjoyable fights, and this might be a enjoyable one.

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