Fight Night Preview: Makhachev vs. Poirier at UFC 302

The main event at UFC 302 features a thrilling lightweight title fight between two elite southpaws, Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier. Both fighters bring a wealth of experience and skill to the octagon, promising an exciting and unpredictable battle.

Islam Makhachev UFC 302 Preview

Staple Info:

  • Record: 25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC
  • Height: 5’10”
  • Age: 32
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • Reach: 70.5″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Alexander Volkanovski (Oct. 21, 2023)
  • Camp: Eagles MMA (Dubai/Russia)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Excellent

Supplemental Info:

  • UFC lightweight champion
  • Combat sambo world champion
  • 4x Russian sambo champion
  • Master of sports in combat sambo
  • 5 KO victories
  • 11 submission wins
  • 10 first-round finishes
  • Consistent pace and pressure
  • Improved overall striking with solid variance in shot selection
  • Hard kicks from the left side
  • Good takedown ability, favoring chaining off singles
  • Strong inside the clinch with excellent trips, knees, and tosses
  • Superb transitional grappler with wrist control, rides, and passes
  • 2-1 against UFC-level southpaws

Dustin Poirier UFC 302 Preview

Staple Info:

  • Height: 5’9”
  • Age: 35
  • Weight: 155 lbs.
  • Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Benoit Saint-Denis (March 9, 2024)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental Info:

  • Former interim UFC lightweight champion
  • Regional MMA titles
  • Amateur MMA accolades
  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
  • Thug-jitsu disciple
  • 15 KO victories
  • 8 submission wins
  • 13 first-round finishes
  • KO power
  • Aggressive pace and pressure
  • Improved overall boxing with cage-cuts, shifts, and angles
  • Accurate left cross and right hook, effective both coming forward and countering
  • Strong inside the clinch
  • Good transitional grappler with solid submissions and scrambling
  • 6-2 against UFC-level southpaws

Southpaw vs. Southpaw: Key Points of Interest

The main event features a unique matchup between two southpaws. This stance pairing opens up traditional lanes of offense that aren’t usually available to southpaws, such as outside leg attacks. It also reveals potential problem areas due to the uncommon nature of these matchups.

Dustin Poirier has more experience in these sorts of matchups, currently standing at 6-2 against UFC-level lefties. Poirier, an aggressive fighter, has evolved into a more mature competitor who likes to dictate brawls rather than enter them. Demonstrating excellent distance and footwork, Poirier shifts his stance for setups, creating attack opportunities.

Islam Makhachev has shown significant improvements in his striking since his early career. He now plays at a much safer range, setting up his shots and strikes with greater precision. Makhachev’s check right hook remains a key player, but he may prioritize grappling in this matchup given his history against southpaws.

Breakdown: Protect Your Neck

Given the path of least resistance, it is likely Makhachev will wrestle Poirier early and often. Makhachev, akin to his coach Khabib Nurmagomedov, scores many of his takedowns off chaining attacks in clinch space. Whether working from his favored single-leg position or hitting slick trips and tosses, Makhachev shows solid adaptability in wrestling.

Poirier, despite his history with wrestlers, has improved his wrestling skills under the care of American Top Team. He shows competent level-changing abilities and does his best takedown work when corraling opponents against the cage. Defensively, Poirier has sharpened his sprawls and thrives in reversal scenarios.

However, Poirier will need to avoid unnecessary scrambles that could lead to dominant positions for Makhachev, who is excellent at controlling wrists and stymying opposition advances.


Despite the odds heavily favoring Makhachev, Poirier’s check right and underrated knees could replicate past success against Makhachev. However, Poirier’s tendency to expose his back in scrambles might cost him here. Makhachev’s superior grappling and control make him the favorite.

Prediction: Makhachev wins by submission in Round 3.

UFC 302 Details

  • Start time: Makhachev and Poirier are expected to make their walks to the octagon at approximately 12:15 a.m. ET.
  • Where to watch: The fight streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
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