Makhachev submits Poirier in 5th to stay champ

NEWARK, N.J. — Dustin Poirier is widely recognized as the greatest UFC fighter to never hold undisputed championship gold, and Islam Makhachev made sure that remained true Saturday night, submitting him in the fifth round to retain the lightweight title during UFC 302 at the Prudential Center.

Makhachev had to fight fiercely against a resilient opponent who did everything in his power to dethrone the UFC’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in front of a crowd that desperately wanted to see Poirier achieve his dream.

Unfortunately, on this night, Makhachev would gladly accept the role as both villain and dream shatterer.

For 4½ rounds, Poirier fended off multiple takedown attempts, escaped submissions and pulled himself off the canvas when things looked dire. But Makhachev finally caught Poirier during a scramble with a beautiful ankle pick that allowed him to snatch a d’arce choke and elicit the tap out at 2:42 in the final frame.

“He did very good,” an exhausted Makhachev said. “He defended my takedown and gave me a hard time.”

In front of a deafening crowd that got behind the challenger, Makhachev was pushed arguably harder than he had ever been in his UFC tenure and wore the damage on his face from a valiant Poirier.

But the champion secured the fifth-round submission to successfully defend his championship. Afterward, he targeted a move to welterweight to challenge for a second championship.

As for Poirier, he failed to capture undisputed gold in his third try. There were rumors that he might retire if he came up short. Poirier wouldn’t commit one way or another during his postfight interview.

“I know I can compete with the rest of these guys, but if I do, am I fighting just to fight?” Poirier said. “I got a little girl and a family at home, but I got to see [what’s next]. This could be it.”

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