UFC 302: Makachev defeats Poirier by submission to retain lightweight title

NEWARK, NJ (AP) — Islam Makhachev had a desperate opponent in front of him and much of the sold-out crowd against him.

None of that stopped him. Nothing for a long time.

Makhachev defended his lightweight title and extended his streak to 14 fights, the third-longest in UFC history, with a fifth-round submission victory over Dustin Poirier on Saturday night at UFC 302.

Overcoming one of the sport’s most talented players and the crowd, including former President Donald Trump, who was against him from the start, Makhachev ran his record to 26-1 and then said he might make weight for another challenge.

“This is my dream,” Makachev said.

Certainly not much for the 155-pound Russian, where he defended his title for the third time and showed again why he’s ranked among the best pound-for-pound in the UFC.

Liar (30-9) lost his third attempt at an undisputed title, all three ending by submission. At 35, He is considering retirement.

“I’ll have to see. I think this might be it,” he said after the fight.

Makachev controlled the first round and then fought back after bleeding the champion’s face, but Makachev took him down midway through the fifth and quickly bounced back, unable to escape the chokehold with Porrier.

“Unbelievable fight. Both guys dug deep,” UFC president Dana White said.

Makachev, while respecting the challenger’s accomplishments, noted this week that Poirier has excelled against boxers but has been exposed against fighters with a wrestling background — something Makachev lists as his strength.

When he knocked Poirier down in the opening minute of the bout and kept him on the mat throughout the round, the champion appeared to be on his way to a 12th victory with a first-round submission.

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The fans roared as Poirier, the No. 4-ranked lightweight, survived a second takedown attempt, growing even louder when he got to the horn late in the round.

The third and fourth had good exchanges, both bloody, but Makachev didn’t have to worry about landing more punches.

“It’s nice to finish him, but this guy is still one of the best in the world,” Makachev said of Poirier.

Although Makhachev has talked about his desire to move up to 170 pounds, White is more interested in taking on Arman Sarukyan, the No. 1 contender in the lightweight rankings. But Makachev looks set to challenge for another belt.

“If you want to build a legacy, you have to get a second belt,” he said.

Poirier, a popular veteran from Louisiana who ranks in the UFC’s top five in career wins, knockouts and finishes, is arguably the best fighter today. He was choked out by Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov in his other title bouts, and Whyte said he gave Poirier the knowledge he could use for this fight, which wasn’t enough to win.

Although at times the plan seems to be to take a break, he sure doesn’t.

“I still feel like I want to be world champion,” he said.

In the co-main event, former middleweight champion Sean Strickland returned to the win column with a split decision over Paulo Costa. Strickland appeared to control what he called a boring fight against the Brazilian, who spent much of the fight backing away from exchanges.

Strickland (29-6), who lost the title in his last bout by split decision to Driggs du Plessis in January, has since said he wants another shot.

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“I want to fight for the belt,” he said.

Strickland spent most of the first round using short kicks to keep the distance, throwing a few punches. Newly designed UFC gloves — designed largely to avoid eye pokes — he criticized until dropping Costa (14-4) with a right hand in the final minute of the round.

He tried to finish in the final minutes of the fifth round, dropping Costa with a kick and chasing him before the clock ran out.

Trump entered to loud applause as the opening portion of the event ended. Days later The first former US president to be convicted of a crime In New York, he shook hands with the announcers and pumped fists at cheering supporters before sitting down to watch the action with White.

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