Islam Makhachev lived up to the hype at UFC 259.
The American Kickboxing Academy product was suffocating against fellow lightweight contender Drew Dober, as he grounded his opponent in all three rounds, advanced position with ease and found openings for timely ground-and-pound. Makhachev put the finishing touches on his victory by submitting his adversary with arm-triangle choke from half guard in Round 3 for his seventh consecutive UFC triumph.
Dober, who entered the matchup having won six of his last seven Octagon appearances, never had a chance to be competitive. After more than a year on the sidelines due to multiple fight cancellations, Makhachev was happy to return to the win column.
“2020 was a crazy year, all my fights got canceled. That’s why I’m very happy to be here now and get the finish. I’m very happy,” Makhachev said.
“The finish is always very important … I tried to finish him in the first round, but Dober is a very strong guy. He has like crazy power, that’s why I just tried to make him tired, make him work and finish him in the third round.”
It’s well documented that Makhachev has received high praise from AKA stablemates such as UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and former two-division king Daniel Cormier. Many in the 29-year-old Dagestani’s circle expect him to become 155-pound champion once Nurmagomedov officially vacates the crown.
“I feel this pressure ,but I’m not an amateur guy,” Makhachev said. “I have a big amateur career, now I have 19 victories, that’s why I understand everything. I just have to train hard because people believe in me.”
After having three fights fall through in 2020 — two because of COVID-19, one due to injury — Makhachev has plans for a much more active year.
“2021 I have to fight two more times and in the beginning of 2022, I have to fight for the title,” he said.
Makhachev has a very specific opponent in mind for his next Octagon appearance. For the longest time, Tony Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov was the dream fight of the lightweight division. It was also the most cursed, thanks to five cancellations for various reasons from 2015 to 2020. With Nurmagomedov currently retired and Ferguson coming off back-to-back lopsided losses, the world seems to have moved on from the fight.
But Makhachev would gladly step in for his training partner and provide some closure to the rivalry.
“My dream fight is Tony Ferguson. That’s my dream fight,” Makhachev said. “I just want to make him retire. He talks too much. Khabib is retired, now he keeps pressuring him, for what? I’m here, I have a seven-fight win streak, make this happen.”