After UFC 294, who should be next for Islam Makhachev?

MMA: UFC 284 Makhachev vs Volkanovski
Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC 294, we saw a showdown for the lightweight championship between two of the best fighters in the world. Lightweight champion Islam Makhachev (25-1) was looking to make it two in a row against featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (26-3).

Volk was of course taking the fight on less than two weeks’ notice after Charles Oliveira suffered a nasty cut during training which forced him to pull out of the fight. The fight started out very similarly to the first fight with both men feeling the other out. Makhachev tried for a takedown which Volkanovski defended easily and then the two men traded the lead position against the fence.

Once the two men separated, they started striking again. Volkanovski seemed a little tentative on the feet, much more than normal. Makhachev landed a nasty head kick right to the eye of the featherweight champion and he went crashing to the canvas. Makhachev finished things off with a few shots and retained his title at UFC 294.

What’s next after UFC 294?

Islam Makhachev made a massive statement on Saturday. Yes, this wasn’t Alexander Volkanovski on a full camp, but even on short notice, Volk is still one of the very best fighters in the world. With this knockout win, Makhachev will move ahead of Volkanovski in the P4P rankings. Is he or should he be ahead of Jon Jones? That’s a topic for a different article.

The next focus for the UFC is who should be next for the lightweight title. Really, there’s only two options. Former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira who was supposed to fight on Saturday or Justin Gaethje who is the new BMF after knocking out Dustin Poirier.

Justin Gaethje’s argument is that he’s a fresh opponent and that’s very valid. However, Charles Oliveira’s case is the fact that he’s stopped anyone and everyone not named Islam Makhachev including Justin Gaethje over the past few years. So, who gets the shot?

UFC President Dana White gave his opinion on Saturday saying it has to be Oliveira and I tend to agree. We’ve seen champions with a lesser resume than Oliveira get immediate rematches after losing the belt. Plus, what Oliveira did to Beneil Dariush earlier this year cannot be ignored. Both men are deserving, but I’d go Oliveira here.