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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Is Islam Makhachev prepared to take on the top-ranked fighter in the world?

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Volkanovski has earned and deserves the title of the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, as it’s hard to think of anyone in his weight class that even looks like they should be in the cage against him. He makes the top contenders look like it’s their first time in the cage, and that’s no fluke. However, how will it translate to moving up a weight class? Volkanovski will have a 4-inch height advantage yet will maintain about an inch reach advantage. The reach will give Volkanovski a chance to do what he wants, which is to piece together some combinations on the feet. He wants to use movement and a high output of strikes to keep Makhachev from coming in and smothering him with oppressive wrestling. Some may criticize Makhachev for not taking a fight with a top contender in the Lightweight division before indulging Volkanovski’s desires. However, you can’t blame Makhachev for taking the most hyped match-up and seemingly the only person that wants to fight him. Now that he has the belt, Makhachev has leverage in the matchmaking he has always lacked, which has kept him from being as big of a star as he could be. Top contenders have been refusing to fight him his whole career out of fear, but now that he is the champion according to UFC odds, they all realize they will have to fight him if they want the belt. 

Eyes towards UFC 284

Nobody who wants to bet on UFC thinks that Volkanovski will be able to stand a chance on the ground. Makhachev has proven that he and Khabib are seemingly interchangeable in wrestling and the dominance that they exude. If Makhachev is making easy work on the ground with guys in his weight division, just imagine what will happen if he can get someone in a smaller weight class to the ground. With the two having a verbal agreement to fight in Perth, Australia, post-match at UFC 280, fans and media alike are assuming the paperwork will get done for the two fighters to fight at UFC 284 in February of 2023. Things to consider about this match-up is that this is Alexander Volkanovski’s homecoming in Australia. The man has been an absolute powerhouse stringing together a streak of 5 title defenses, looking as dominant as ever in his past two fights against The Korean Zombie and Max Halloway for the third time. Makhachev owes nothing to the contenders that were ducking him for so long. It is because of them that people have questioned his credibility up to this point. He deserves the huge payday and favorable match-up for his first defense. 

Is Makhachev Holding Up the Division?

Islam Makhachev had a stand-out performance at UFC 280, alleviating any doubt still held by the MMA community. Coming into the event, Makhachev was 22-1 with 15 stoppage wins. Still, some still held reservations as Islam’s run for the UFC title was still young, and the list of opponents that he ran over was impressive, but there weren’t any stars on the list. Beating the top and most popular fighters helps create a legacy and hype around an up-and-coming fighter, and Makhachev had yet to do it. In fact, his first truly legacy-building fight would be his first title shot against Charles Oliveira, a proven champion with a lethal grappling and submission game. Going into the event, the UFC 280 odds had Islam Makhachev as a slight favorite which was a shock to some. It took Makhachev less than two full rounds to prove to everyone that it was well deserved. Makhachev submitted the former UFC Champion and holder of the record for most submissions in the UFC, turning heads and shaking up the picture in the Lightweight division. Moments after winning the belt, Makhachev called Alexander Volkanovski, the current Featherweight Champion and pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. Volkanovski was in Abu Dhabi as the backup fighter in case something happened to either Oliveira or Makhachev. The idea of the winner of the main event taking on Volkanovski was at the forefront of everyone’s mind all week, and in the biggest moment, Makhachev embraced it in the cage in front of everybody. Is Islam Makhachev Ready for the Pound-for-Pound Best Fighter?

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