The notion that Islam Makhachev is a real problem for anyone in the UFC’s 155lb division has been floating around for a while.
The Dagestani is currently riding an eight-fight winning streak including back-to-back submission victories in his last two encounters.
As a protege of Javier Mendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev often gets drawn into comparisons with ‘the Eagle.’
Nurmagomedov is widely considered to be one of the greatest fighters ever and looks set to stay retired as a former lightweight champion with a 29-0 record. But Mendez believes Makhachev has part of his game that are even better than Khabib’s.
Speaking on the Real Quick with Mike Swick Podcast, Mendez said,
“What Islam has that Khabib never had as good are throws, judo throws, leg sweeps, leg trips. I mean Khabib has them but not to the level of Islam now. I mean all of a sudden, you’re with Islam, you’re going with it and the next thing you know, you’re flying, you’re literally flying.”
Khabib became renowned for his overwhelming pressure where he would smother opponents and dominate them from the top. Makhachev, too, has shown incredible grappling during his UFC tenure and Mendez outlined the merits in their respective styles.
“Khabib is actually meaner; he’s mean. Khabib is like this: when he controls you, it’s like his whole body controls you. His legs, his toes, his arms, everything locks up to you. One’s a little bit more explosive is Khabib, the more explosive one. But the other one ( Makhachev) is a little smoother in transitioning,” he said.
— Mike Swick (@officialswick) August 8, 2021
At AKA – they’re renowned for practicing the belief that ‘iron sharpens iron.’ That certainly seemed to be the case when Khabib was training with Makhachev, where the younger fighter’s prowess prompted the former champ to sharpen a particular area of his skillset.
“Khabib got better at knees because he got tired of Islam beating the cr*p out of him. Islam beat the crap out of him so next thing you know, Khabib’s like ‘I’ve even got knee pads’ because I wouldn’t allow these guys to throw knees if they don’t have knee pads so I’ve been getting his knee pads because Islam is beating the cra*p out of him,” said Mendez.
“So that’s how the progression came. That’s how good Islam was. So he was able to adapt and learn from other people [while] Khabib was more loyal [to Mendez as his striking coach].” Mendez added.
Makhachev now finds himself in the top 5 at lightweight after his win over Thiago Moises in his first UFC main event appearance in July. Next up is former champion, Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 267.
Will Makhachev continue his tear through the division?
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