If there is one obstacle to Islam Makhachev’s rise through the UFC’s lightweight division, it’s that his style is not as fan friendly as some of the other top contenders.
It was something of a slow burn on Saturday night, as Makhachev gradually imposed his will on Thiago Moises before submitting his opponent with a rear-naked choke at the 2:38 mark of Round 4 in the UFC on ESPN 26 headliner. It wasn’t a performance that was able to keep Dan Hooker’s interest.
“I kind of was watching and on fast forward,” Hooker said in an interview with Submission Radio “I got bored. So, I can’t really… like, yeah. It kind of is what it is.”
Makhachev is currently on an eight-bout winning streak at 155 pounds and has been anointed by teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov as a future lightweight champion. The Dagestani has gradually improved the level of competition in the Octagon since his 2015 debut, with recent submissions of Moises and Drew Dober potentially setting the stage for a high-profile matchup in his next UFC appearance.
The current narrative is that Makhachev is struggling to find higher-ranked opponents due to his ranking and his fighting style. However, Hooker dismisses that notion and believes that Makhachev should follow a different path than Nurmagomedov, the retired former lightweight champion.
“You see scrolling past and seeing on like build-up videos of him saying everyone’s scared, everyone’s scared to fight him, oh, the whole division’s shook,” Hooker said. “Bro, you’re just copying your mate’s homework. Give your mate’s homework back and come up with something for yourself, son.
“He’s on a good streak at the moment, but I believe he’s been knocked out in the UFC before. So then him copying Khabib’s homework and saying all this wild stuff when you’ve been laid flat in the Octagon, it doesn’t really have the same ring to it as an undefeated fighter.”
Makhachev did suffer a first-round TKO loss to Adriano Martins in his second UFC appearance in October 2015, but he hasn’t lost a fight since then. Prior to Hooker facing Paul Felder in the main event at UFC Fight Night 168 in February 2020, “The Hangman” began trading barbs with Makhachev. However, Hooker doesn’t believe a matchup with Makhachev would’ve provided the entertainment value that his “Fight of the Night”-winning clash with Felder did.
“Coming into the main event of UFC Auckland, I knew Felder was going to be the fight, and then Islam starts chiming in,” Hooker said. “So, I started having a bit of banter with him, saying that I would have to give away tickets to the event in the car park of Pak-n-Save if I got booked with Islam Makhachev. So, I can’t say I regret not going out of my way to fight Islam, to put on a five-round war in my home town with Paul Felder.
And if it would’ve been anything like he performed in his main event [at UFC on ESPN 26], that’s not the style of fight that the Kiwi fans want to see. They want to see two blokes go out there and really challenge themselves and see who’s better. Like I said, I kind of got bored watching his main event in fast forward. So, I couldn’t imagine watching the damn thing live in my hometown. I think there would have been a bloody riot after the fight.”