Islam Makhachev fulfilled the destiny that Khabib and Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov set out for him when he captured the lightweight title at UFC 280. His fight against Charles Oliveira was a clinic, both on the ground and on the feet. There were few moments that went Oliveira’s way, and it was almost shocking how quickly Makhachev forced a tap out of the former champion three minutes into the second round (watch the finish here).
Now Makhachev holds the 155 pound title, and it looks like his first challenge will be 145 pound champion Alexander Volkanovski. Islam called ‘this short guy’ into the cage following his win, and declared his team was more than willing to fight “The Great” in Australia when UFC 284 goes down in February 2023.
“I have a new target: I have to be number one pound-for-pound champion.” Makhachev said at the UFC 280 post-fight press conference. “That’s why I have to go to Australia and beat this guy. I have a big team, it doesn’t matter, it’s good for us. We can travel to Australia, it’s a good country. We can make some camp there, training there.”
In an interview with ESPN, Makhachev’s friend and mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov hyped up the champion vs. champion superfight even more.
“Volkanovski, we respect you, but we’re gonna take your place, brother,” he said. “You have pound-for-pound #1 right now, but Islam is gonna be on your side. You have to prepare.”
As for how Nurmagomedov sees the fight between Makhachev and Volkanovski going?
“Clinch, lot of knees, he’s gonna eat lot of knees,” Khabib said. “[Islam] is gonna take all his energy, take him down, and he’s gonna choke him out. This is what I think. This is the way how I see the fight is gonna go.”
“Of course, Volkanovski can box, he have amazing experience,” he added. “How many time he defend his title, everything? But brother, this is like … Thai clinch gonna kill him. Even if he know this, let him prepare this. How many month, five month, six month? This guy [Islam] doing this 20 years. Let him prepare this: clinch, wrestling, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman, grappling, Thai clinch, left hand.”
Islam Makhachev had a lot of doubters coming into his UFC 280 fight against Charles Oliveira. It will be interesting to see how the community sees this showdown between Makhachev and Volkanovski, especially after Islam’s performance in Abu Dhabi. Volkanovski has cut through the competition at featherweight with ease, blanking Max Holloway on the scorecards in their third fight. But will his dominance translate a weightclass up, especially against someone with wrestling as powerful as Makhachev?
UFC 284 goes down in Perth, Australia on February 12th, so it’ll be a few months before we get to see if Khabib’s latest prediction comes true.