Eagle Eye: Khabib makes prediction for McGregor-Poirier trilogy as former foes prepare to settle rivalry
Now comfortably enjoying retirement, Khabib can sit back and watch on as the UFC’s 155lbs ranks scrap it out for the gold that he once owned.
Brazil’s Charles Oliveira was the man to first take his chance by defeating ex-Bellator pretender Michael Chandler to claim the vacant title, but the winner of the third meeting between McGregor and Poirier will likely decide who it is that the Brazilian meets in his first defense.
McGregor and Poirier’s rivalry has come full circle before their trilogy, from the animosity of their first contest back in 2014 (settled by McGregor with an explosive first-round knockout), to the bonhomie which characterized the second bout (which concluded with the American exacting revenge), and back to acrimony again ahead of the third meeting thanks to a row over a charity payment.
McGregor has vowed “no more Mr Nice Guy” after his defeat to Poirier, and The Notorious knows that another loss could irreparably damage his hopes of reclaiming one half of the two chunks of UFC gold he once called his own.
Khabib is a man who knows both fighters well, having choked the pair into submission during his reign atop the lightweight rankings.
And when asked how he sees the third fight playing out, the undefeated Russian had a straightforward prediction based on McGregor’s explosive early power and Poirier’s more durable characteristics.
“It’s the same thing [as the previous fights],” Khabib told UFC Russia.
“If it’s the first round [for a finish], I’d back Conor. From the second and further, then Dustin [wins].”
While McGregor and Poirier are the biggest draws in the division – certainly in the case of the former – the 155lbs fold is stacked with an eclectic mix of talent which Khabib likened to a “world war”.
The Eagle has long tipped friend and training partner Islam Makhachev to eventually rise to the top at lightweight, but also praised the likes of Russophone stars Arman Tsarukyan, Damir Ismagulov and Rafael Fiziev as “strong guys” who have the potential “to go far”.
“It’s a nice composition of the division. The Brazilians, if you look at [Charles] Oliveira and [Rafael] dos Anjos. The Americans are well represented. Poirier, [Justin] Gaethje, Chandler,” said the former lightweight king.
“You could say it’s like a world war, the Brazilians, the Americans, the Russians.
“This division has always been the most interesting and the strongest… it will be fun by the end of the year,” he added.