UFC Vegas 31: UFC Apex:
For quite some time the talk in Dagestani circles was Islam Makhachev was real. And after his latest performance, it shows the reason why others have decided it’s not worth it to fight him. But it’s better to fight someone on the rise, than when they are flying on all cylinders.
It was always “father’s plan” that Khabib Nurmagomedov would retire so that Islam Makhachev could make his title run.
And it appears as if Nurmagomedov’s father’s wishes are coming true.
Early on both Makhachev and Thiago Moises were being measured in their approach. They were also composed being in their first main event slot. While Moises came in on a three-fight win streak, the 29-year old Dagestani was riding a seven-fight one.
The word from those at AKA and Nurmagomedov is Makhachev is just as good on the ground as the former champion, but with better stand up. And sure enough, it didn’t take long for the ground game of Makhachev to take over. He was able to take the BJJ blackbelt down at will and land consistent ground and pound while hunting for submissions. And when they were on their feet Makhachev showed a lightning-quick right hand.
The End Result
With the wilting look upon the face of Thiago Moises, Makhachev brought the action to the mat yet again. And he finally was able to get both hooks in, locking in a rear naked choke. A move that the 26-year old Brazilian had to tap out to at 2:38 of round four.
After the fight he asked fellow former lightweight, Paul Felder; “Why all these guys running?” And then the confident but not cocky fighter went to the back to talk to the press:
Islam Makhachev’s Next Step
He came into the fight sitting at number nine in the rankings. This should give him a bump up, and he has asked for Rafael Dos Anjos, whom he was scheduled to fight. That game-plan possibly puts the now 20-1 fighter 365 days away from a title shot. Or at least close to it. Normally, people are not everything they appear to be. In this case, however, Makhachev may be more.
Is he ready right now to tangle with the top five at 155? Probably not, but it’s oh so close. With arguably one of the GOATs in his corner guiding him, and his dedication and relentlessness, Dagestan may wind up with another champion. Perhaps with all the talk of a would Nurmagomedov ever come back for win number 30, imagine if it was teacher versus student? You can almost sense that thought and grin on Dana White’s face thinking about it.