With one of the most important fights in the UFC’s lightweight history just around the corner, fans are preparing to witness perhaps one of the best cards for this year. It being an international card adds even more to the appeal of this event since it will be far more accessible to European, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian viewers. Whether that is a test-run for future events by the UFC or just an attempt to win over the Middle East as a potential customer, it is sure to attract a low of eyeballs.
Let’s take a look at some interesting aspects of this monumental card and see what is to be expected of the fights that are about to happen this Saturday evening.
Time Zones and Viewership
Since the ESPN deal with the UFC things haven’t been looking great for the organization in terms of pay-per-view numbers. The only card that recently managed to break the 500,000 barriers was UFC 232 in which Jon Jones faced his rival Alexander Gustafsson for the second time. Other events, headlined by fighters like Daniel Cormier and Max Hollaway didn’t manage to make even 300,000 buys which could be a warning signal for the company. Still, that may be caused by the sheer design of the new system which naturally depends more on a subscription-based service rather than one-time PPV buys.
Most European and Asian cards struggled to bring any decent viewer numbers so far, even though Australian cards have always been successful. Now, the time is to test the Middle East with another card being held there in an all new venue which can stack up a lot of people. Even if the PPV numbers aren’t great, this sure will attract a low of new viewers and ignite the fire in many new fans. With so many new fighters coming from Dagestan, Abu Dhabi might even become a fighting capital outside the USA in the future.
Starting in the early morning hours, the event will surely lose some of the normal USA audience, assuming they don’t all wake up at 5am for the early prelims. For the rest of the world, though, this time is something rather new. For example, European fans will be able to have a UFC card (not a Fight Night) in their regular day time instead of having to stay up late. This is why this will prove how effective and ready-to-pay many people on the old continent are.
The Eagle vs. The Diamond
Of course, I cannot discuss this card without mentioning the two men responsible for the main event of the evening. Throughout the whole fight week, both camps (and champs) have been nothing but respectful to each other. Khabib, his father, and coach Javier keep it on a loop that Dustin has definitely deserved his place in the division and that he is going to be a tough matchup. Of course, there were similar feelings on the other side where Poirier gave credit where it’s due and admitted that this will be the toughest fight of his career. Still, it feels like this has been a very long journey that has to end right. After the DC vs. Miocic 2 fight, though, I am afraid of even wishing for happy endings.
Today both fighters made weight, and both looked healthy at 155 lbs. even though Khabib looked slightly more drained than usual. This might be thanks to his longer cutting process and heavier weight for this fight. During interviews with his camp, many teammates shared that he was walking at more than 180 lbs before the weight cutting. Maybe that was done purposefully in order to prepare for a big and strong Poirier who admitted to having it harder and harder to cut down to 155.
Still, everyone was in good spirits and Poirier looked really loose and on spot with his mental preparation…
Of course, there are more exciting match-ups Saturday evening that will be worth your time. Let’s start with perhaps what can be considered the “fan-favorite” fight…
The Irish Dragon’s Redemption
Paul Felder has had nothing short of a spectacular career full of highlights and violence. There is no wonder he is one of the biggest fan favorites that hasn’t still cracked the top 5 of his division. His last two fights have been nothing short of total wars, especially the fight with Mike Perry which left the crowd standing on their feet. The loss marked a very short run in the Welterweight division which was stopped by Perry, who is trying to crack the top 15 on his own there. Upon his return to Lightweight, Felder made easy work of James Vick and proved his spot in the top 10. Now he is holding that elusive number 10 position in the division and is hoping to surpass Barboza’s 7th position tomorrow evening.
The first meeting between those two exceptional strikers ended up being a timeless classic which to this day resonates inside the head of Felder. In one of his interviews, he reflected back on that loss and pointed out that being his first professional MMA loss, it definitely was a stepping stone in his career and he learned a lot out of it. The mindset with which he is entering his second bout against Barboza is one of patience and fighting back. One of the worst things you can do against someone like Edson Barboza is to stay and absorb damage or trade and Felder realizes that. For him to win he will have to bring the fight to Barboza and put on some pressure, for which he feels ready.
This fight is most likely going to end up on one of the fighters’ highlight reel and has a true FOTN (fight of the night) potential. Now, onto the rest of the fights on this exciting card!
Other exciting fights on the card
Being a card close to Dagestan, Russia, and other eastern countries, it has a lot of fighters out of those regions unsurprisingly. Some of the fighters you should keep your eyes on are:
- Islam Makhachev
Islam is a Dagestani fighter who is also a judoka and combat sambo expert. He is 17-1 and has only one loss in his second fight in the UFC against Adriano Martins, who was earlier cut from the UFC due to a bad record. His fight against Davi Ramos has all the potential for total fireworks since Islam rarely has boring fights. His wrestling background doesn’t stop him from wanting to brawl and keep it on the feet which makes him a fan favorite.
- Curtis Blaydes
Blaydes was (and probably still is) one of the best prospects of the Heavyweight division in the UFC. If it wasn’t for his loss against Francis Ngannou he would’ve most likely gotten a shot at the belt before or after the DC/Stipe fight. Tomorrow evening he is coming off a win over Justin Willis and is hoping for another win that will get him right into the title conversation again, especially after his wins over Alistair Overeem, Mark Hunt, and Alexey Oleynik,
- Mairbek Taisumov
If you have been following Taisumov’s journey through the Lightweight division you’d know that you are in for a treat. Out of Taisumov’s 6 last fights, 5 ended in a TKO/KO fashion and three of them go the “Performance of the Night” award. His opponent Carlos Diego Ferreira is also on a good streak in the UFC and is going to test Taisumov’s abilities to the maximum. The winner of that fight will most likely get a top 10 opponent next.
- Zubaira Tukhugov
This is another fighter from the Khabib team, who was actually involved in the post-fight brawl after the Khabib vs McGregor fight. In fact, Khabib himself told UFC’s president Dana White that he won’t fight again unless Zubaira and his other friends are unsuspended. Despite his loss to Moicano, he is proving to be a worthy asset to the company and is ready to show his new striking improvements after a 2-month long Muay Thai camp in Thailand.
UFC 242 is shaping up to be a historic card no matter which way you look at it. It is pioneering in a lot of areas, mostly in the international fighting stage. It is extremely rare that we witness such a big card outside the USA (even outside Las Vegas), so seeing how this will shape up will be more than exciting. Make sure you follow me on Twitter and check out the latest updates and news surrounding the fights.