Advertisement

Islam Makhachev denies Dustin Poirier fairytale ending with submission win at UFC 302

Dustin Poirier was denied a fairytale ending to his story in the Octagon on Saturday, as Islam Makhachev submitted the fan favourite to retain the lightweight title at UFC 302.

Poirier, 35, was fighting for the title for the third time, having previously suffered submission losses to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2019 and Charles Oliveira in 2021.

The American previously held the interim belt but failed to unify the gold, and he hinted before and after UFC 302 that he might not fight again.

Poirier did himself justice across four-and-a-half rounds against Makhachev, the UFC’s pound-for-pound No 1, but the Russian out-grappled Poirier for much of the bout and secured a D’Arce choke in the final frame.

Poirier tapped out but also seemed to go unconscious immediately after – for a brief moment – as Makhachev recorded a third successful title defence. In doing so, Makhachev matched the number of defences achieved by Khabib, his coach and childhood friend, who reigned from 2018 until his in-ring retirement in 2020.

Makhachev is often compared to Khabib due to his similar wrestling pedigree, but Makhachev, 32, possesses noticeably superior striking to Nurmagomedov, and he used it to outshine Poirier in many exchanges.

That was perhaps a bigger surprise than Makhachev’s grappling control, as the Russian landed numerous knees at close range and combinations from longer distance.

Islam Makhachev (left) used an ankle pick to set up the finish in round five (Getty Images)
Islam Makhachev (left) used an ankle pick to set up the finish in round five (Getty Images)

Poirier did have his moments in New Jersey, both in terms of offensive striking and defensive wrestling, denying Makhachev multiple takedowns through the fight. However, it was a clever ankle pick by Makhachev during a scramble that set up the finish.

The 32-year-old put Poirier off balance with the move and rushed to gain control on the canvas, where he attempted a guillotine choke, Porier’s favourite submission – a narrative that was central to the build to the fight. Poirier defended the attack, but Makhachev switched to a D’Arce and sealed his 14th straight victory.

“Yeah, man, he’s the champ,” Poirier told Joe Rogan during his post-fight interview in the cage. “I thought I was chipping away. I stopped most of [his takedowns] in the open, but here he did a low single, an ankle pick and whipped my leg up. And that was that.

Islam Makhachev (right) celebrates after submitting Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 (Getty Images)
Islam Makhachev (right) celebrates after submitting Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 (Getty Images)
Makhachev, the UFC’s pound-for-pound No 1 fight, recorded a third successful title defence (Getty Images)
Makhachev, the UFC’s pound-for-pound No 1 fight, recorded a third successful title defence (Getty Images)

“If I do fight again, what am I fighting for? Just to fight? I think this could be it honestly, Joe. I’m not 100 per cent [sure], but if this is my last fight, I want to dedicate this to the people who made me the man I am today: That’s the women in my life.”

Poirier then paid tribute to his late grandma, as well as his mother, and his wife and daughter who were ringside. “We’re alright, baby,” he told his daughter. “Always chase your dreams, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Makhachev paid respect to Poirier and called for a shot at the welterweight title next. Leon Edwards is scheduled to defend that belt against Belal Muhammad in a rematch in July.

UFC 302 results

Main card

Sean Strickland (right) was a surprisingly narrow winner against Paulo Costa on the scorecards (Getty Images)
Sean Strickland (right) was a surprisingly narrow winner against Paulo Costa on the scorecards (Getty Images)

Islam Makhachev def. Dustin Poirier via fifth-round submission (D’Arce choke, 2:42)

Sean Strickland def. Paulo Costa via split decision (46-49, 50-45, 49-46)

Kevin Holland def. Oleksiejczuk via first-round technical submission (armbar, 1:34)

Niko Price def. Alex Morono via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Randy Brown def. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Prelims

Roman Kopylov def. Cesar Almeida via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

Grant Dawson def. Joe Solecki via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

Bassil Hafez def. Mickey Gall via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)

Ailin Perez def. Joselyne Edwards via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

Andre Lima def. Mitch Raposo via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27)

Jake Matthews def. Phil Rowe via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)