This past Saturday at UFC 259, Islam Makhachev (19-1) took on Drew Dober (23-10) on the main card. Makhachev has a ton of hype surrounding him and many are considering him to be the next Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The UFC‘s lightweight champion grew up with and is one of the lead training partners of Makhachev. Like Nurmagomedov, Makhachev is a world sambo champion and he possesses a lot of the same skills as the lightweight champion.
This matchup against Drew Dober was going to be a big test for Makhachev. Due to the pandemic, we didn’t see Makhachev inside the octagon in 2020. For that reason, many forgot about how talented he really is.
Drew Dober had been soaring coming into UFC 259. A three-fight win streak where he had won all three fights by knockout. The odds were stacked against him on Saturday, but the thought was that he would provide a tough fight for Makhachev.
Well, on Saturday night, Makhachev mauled Drew Dober. The fight wasn’t competitive at all. Like we’ve seen so many times with Khabib, Makhachev controlled Dober for the entire fight before submitting him in the third round. A dominant return to the UFC for Makhachev.
What’s next after UFC 259?
After that dominant win, Makhachev jumped up in the rankings to eleventh. After this fight, he needs to fight someone that’s in the UFC’s top ten. There are a few options that I like and one I think is a very real possibility.
One option for Makhachev would be Kevin Lee (18-6). Lee is gearing up for his return to the octagon after an injury layoff and he’s currently ranked 13th. He’s been vocal about his desire to fight and test Islam Makhachev.
Another option could be Beneil Dariush (20-4-1). Dariush is now inside the top ten and he’s won six fights in a row. However, Dariush has been very vocal about his desire to move up the rankings and not take on someone lower than him.
Then there’s the matchup that Makhachev and the world wants to see. That would be the matchup with the former UFC interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson (25-5). Ferguson has history with Makhachev’s camp due to the amount of times he was supposed to fight Khabib.
Khabib and Ferguson were scheduled to fight five times and all five times the fight fell through. Makhachev is looked at as Khabib 2.0 and he wants to be the one to retire Ferguson. Ferguson has lost two in a row so from a rankings perspective, this matchup does make sense for the UFC.