UFC 302: Islam Makhachev Fends Off Late Surge, Submits Dustin Poirier

Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier, UFC 302
Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier, UFC 302 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Dylan Napoloeon/Cageside Press

Legacy. That’s what Saturday’s UFC 302 main event boiled down to: legacy. For Islam Makhachev, another big win, and perhaps a chance to move on to welterweight, should the stars align. For Dustin Poirier, one last chance at the undisputed lightweight championship of the UFC.

Few storylines are as simple, pure, and compelling. To add to it, Makhachev had the chance to surpass coach, friend, and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov in terms of wins inside the UFC octagon.

With the stakes as high as possible, Poirier opened the fight with a calf kick; Makhachev answered with a front kick. When Poirier threw hands, Makhachev put him on heels with a combo then exploded into a takedown, landing it with apparent ease. In half-guard, dry, on the ground early: Makhachev was right where he wanted to be. For Dustin Poirier, it was worst-case scenario.

Moments later, Poirier had to contend with a kimura attempt, and though he rolled out of it, the consequences were dire. Poirier had the champ on his back coming out of the sequence, body lock clamped in place and half a round still on the clock. Makhachev worked to set up a rear-naked choke, then hunted for an arm, though time wound down with Poirier surviving the round.

Round two opened with a leg kick from Poirier, with Makhachev then diving on a leg, dragging the challenger down. Poirier scrambled free, a little boost to the morale at least. Still, he’d yet to get much offense going, and it was Makhachev firing a knee. The second round saw things settle down a bit, with Makhachev standing and exchanging with Poirier, until with two minutes on the clock he grabbed a leg again. Poirier defended with a whizzer and reversed, to a roar from the Newark crowd. He fired an uppercut in the clinch, Makhachev answered with a knee, and they broke shortly after.

In a clinch in the final minute, Poirier got some body work in, but Makhachev would land a takedown in the dying seconds of the round.

Poirier was back on the ground inside of a minute in round three, Makhachev landing an early takedown and taking the back. The champ flattened Poirier out, rolled him over, and put on a body lock. If round one was any indicator, Poirier wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. Worse, Makhachev managed to transition to mount, with two minutes on the clock. Poirier slipped out the back, however, with a cheer erupting in the arena as he marched forward, looking for an opening to land. Poirier had been bloodied around the mouth at some point, however, and was down in the fight as they entered the championship rounds.

Round four had a scrappy back-and-forth opening minute, though little landed beyond shots to the body for both men. Every minute the fight stayed standing was good for Poirier, but Makhachev held his own on the feet. Poirier then stuffed a double leg attempt at center, a better sign. It was Makhachev, however, landing a right hand to the side of the head a moment later. Then a left. Another takedown attempt followed, with Makhachev driving Poirier to the fence.

Poirier stayed upright on the initial attempt, defending. Soon enough, however, Makhachev climbed the back, and Poirier was stalled, posted with both hands on the canvas to avoid the knee. Poirier then scrambled out, and ripped the body repeatedly. Makhachev had been cut at some point; Poirier again ripped the body in the final minute, forcing the champ to pursue another takedown.

The fifth and final round arrived with Dustin Poirier almost certainly needed a finish. He ripped a calf kick in the opening minute, while Makhachev grabbed a leg, but was fought off. In a clinch, Poirier landed an uppercut. A left landed moments later. Then a body shot in the clinch. Another left, 30 seconds or so later, landed for Dustin, and Makhachev went after a takedown, only for Poirier to scramble out. Moments later, Makhachev jumped on a guillotine, then switched to a d’arce- and he had it! Poirier was force to tap, and his team crashed the octagon, piling on in celebration of Islam Makhachev’s 14th consecutive UFC victory! Retaining his lightweight title in the process.

Official Result: Islam Makhachev def. Dustin Poirier by submission (d’arce choke), Round 5, 2:42