Following UFC 284, mixed martial arts journalist Ariel Helwani is confident that Islam Makhachev is not as good as his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Since Khabib’s retirement in 2021, the former lightweight champion and his late father have pushed their prodigy Makhachev to become the next dominant sensation from their team.
Although Makhachev has displayed similar traits as Khabib inside the cage, the 31-year-old has struggled to escape the shadow of his life-long friend.
On Saturday past, at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, Makhachev was dealt with the toughest test of his career. UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski moved up to lightweight to attempt to attain double-champ status. After 25 minutes of back-and-forth, Makhachev earned the victory on all three of the judges’ scorecards to make the first successful defense of his championship.
Ariel Helwani weighs in on Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev comparison
After witnessing what occurred in the UFC 284 main event, Helwani isn’t convinced Makhachev is on Khabib’s level just yet, and he explained in more depth his thoughts during Monday’s episode of The MMA Hour.
“I’m sorry, he isn’t as good as Khabib. He is not!” Helwani said. “At this stage, 26 fights in, Khabib was more refined, dominant, better… That being said, he’s (Makhachev’s) one of the top-three best fighters on the planet. I know we’re not allowed to criticize Islam Makhachev, I know that’s taboo… I’m saying he won the fight! I’m saying he won fair and square… I’m being as unbiased as possible.”
Helwani compared Khabib’s dominant undefeated run to Makhachev’s knockout loss he suffered early on in his UFC career.
“I believe we are putting the praise and all the stuff we had on Khabib on his (Makhachev’s) shoulders. We are taking the baton that Khabib had and giving it to him because we want to continue that lineage,” Helwani continued. “It ain’t the same. He’s not the same guy right now… How do I know he’s not the same guy? Khabib never got knocked out by the Adriano Martins’ of the world… Khabib was never put in a position like this, on Saturday, in the fifth round getting beat up.”
Quotes via MMA News
Despite leaving Australia holding onto his 155lbs belt, it could have been a very different night for Makhachev. Volkanovski surprised many people with his ability to hang with the Russian for five rounds, especially in the grappling department.
Volkanovski is campaigning for an immediate rematch after feeling hard done by, but it’s unclear what the UFC will do next.
Do you agree with Ariel Helwani’s comments on Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagoemdov? Let us know in the comments!