UFC 302 Results and Highlights: Poirier’s MMA Legacy Shines; Makhachev’s Case for a Welterweight Title Shot

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Dustin Poirier’s legendary MMA career may have seen its final act, as the revered fighter displayed immense courage but fell short in his third attempt at capturing the elusive undisputed lightweight title.

Saturday night belonged to Islam Makhachev, who defended his lightweight title for the third time, tying the record for most defenses in the 155-pound division. He managed to fend off Poirier’s challenge and secured a victory with a fifth-round D’Arce choke submission. This bout headlined UFC 302 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Here’s a closer look at the key takeaways from the UFC’s latest event.

1. Poirier: The UFC’s Heart and Soul
While not the biggest star or the most decorated fighter in UFC history, Poirier’s dedication and resilience are unparalleled. At 35, he faced the top pound-for-pound fighter and almost achieved one of the most emotional title victories ever. Despite his third title fight loss, Poirier’s performance embodied his unique spirit. Unlike Michael Bisping, who needed a late-career title win to cement his legacy, Poirier’s humble nature and relentless work ethic have already secured his place in the UFC Hall of Fame. His ability to withstand Makhachev’s initial onslaught, counter his takedown attempts, and land powerful shots, making the dominant champion bleed, showcased why he remains a formidable opponent. The fact that Makhachev’s team celebrated so vigorously after the victory indicates how close Poirier came to pulling off an upset. Even with one judge scoring the fight evenly going into the final round, Poirier hinted at retirement, prioritizing time with his family over future challenges. His career stands as one of the most honorable and respected in UFC history.

2. Makhachev’s Claim for a Welterweight Title Shot
In his post-fight interview, Makhachev appealed to the UFC for a shot at the welterweight title. His 14-fight winning streak, including finishes of former champions Charles Oliveira and Alexander Volkanovski, makes a strong case. Given that Makhachev has previously granted Volkanovski a similar opportunity, it’s only fair he gets a chance at the 170-pound title. Current champion Leon Edwards is set to defend his title against Belal Muhammad in July, with rising star Shavkat Rahmanov also in the mix. Makhachev, who is naturally large for the lightweight division, could benefit from fighting closer to his natural weight, potentially enhancing his stamina and wrestling prowess. At 32, Makhachev is in his prime, and now is the time for him to explore his full potential across divisions.

3. Sean Strickland Remains a Middleweight Contender
Sean Strickland, just over four months after a controversial title loss to Dricus du Plessis, likely secured another title shot by defeating lower-ranked Paulo Costa in the co-main event. Strickland’s technical striking and volume proved too much for Costa, despite the latter’s reputation as a knockout artist. Trainer Eric Nicksick urged Strickland to push harder for a finish, but a split-decision win was still a clear outcome. Although one judge’s scorecard controversially favored Costa, Strickland demonstrated his elite striking skills, head movement, and pressure. At 33, he remains among the top strikers, and his victory over Costa, who has now lost four of his last five fights, underscores his ongoing relevance in the middleweight division.

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