Khabib reacts as Oliveira defeats Poirier to retain UFC lightweight crown in thriller

Charles Oliveira survived an onslaught before defending his UFC lightweight title with a third-round submission win over Dustin Poirier in their main event at UFC 269, earning praise from former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The early stages at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas were frantic as Poirier – who was contesting a second undisputed title fight at 155lbs – dropped his opponent inside the opening round while Oliveira hurt his rival with kicks and knees to the body. 

Round two saw Oliveira utilize his ground game more as he landed some heavy ground-and-pound shots to close out a dominant stanza.

Into the third round, the defending champion took Poirier’s back and worked in a standing rear-naked choke which forced the American to tap at the 1:02 mark.

“I’m a world champion. I’m the man,” said a defiant Oliveira after seeing off Poirier.

“They talk, I do it. They can hit me a lot but I’m going to walk forward.”

‘Do Bronx’ defended the title he first won with victory over Michael Chandler back in May, when he was forced to come through similar adversity on the way to a gritty victory.

Poirier, 32, was gracious in defeat but could not hide his upset at seeing a second chance at the undisputed lightweight title go begging.

“It sucks, man, you know?” Poirier said at his post-fight press conference.  

“I worked hard to get back here and fight for another world title. I got choked out again. I’m just heartbroken, really.”

Poirier had set up another shot at gold by putting together a three-fight win streak following his defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in their 2019 title contest.

Two of those wins came against Irish nemesis Conor McGregor, and many will now tip Poirier to be his opponent when the Irishman makes an expected comeback from his broken leg next year.

For Oliveira, 32, perhaps the most obvious candidate for his next defense is Justin Gaethje, who was among those in attendance in Las Vegas.

Online, fellow fighters, pundits and fans were full of praise for the Brazilian’s heart as he extended his winning streak to 10 fights and joined a select band of fighters to earn 20 victories under the UFC banner. 

Among them was Khabib, who called Oliveira’s victory “deserved” – prompting the Brazilian to respond “thank you very much” in a message in Russian to the retired Dagestani star.

Elsewhere, rising lightweight contender Islam Makhachev – on a nine-fight winning streak – told Oliveira to hold the belt for him as the Russian first contemplates a meeting with BJJ specialist Beneil Dariush in February.    

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