His case is made: Makhachev deserves a shot

LAS VEGAS — The UFC’s lightweight division is filled with elite talent. Champion Charles Oliveira will defend against Justin Gaethje in May, and if he gets through that successfully, he’ll most likely face Islam Makhachev next.

Makhachev’s dominance is impossible to overlook at this point. Former champion Conor McGregor is lobbying for a title shot, but if McGregor, coming off back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier and with a 1-3 record in his last four, gets a shot it would render the title essentially meaningless.

It would be a farce if McGregor, or any other lightweight, were to leapfrog Makhachev and fight the Oliveira-Gaethje winner. It would be promotional malpractice and would be a sign that money, and nothing else, is the only criteria for fighting for the title.

After stopping Bobby Green with strikes in the first round on Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 49 at Apex, Makhachev has now won 10 in a row, finished four in a row and improved his overall record to 22-1.

What else does a man have to do to fight for the title?

UFC president Dana White was not at Apex Saturday. He was at his son’s college football scrimmage, but he saw the fight and, like everyone else, was impressed with what Makhachev did.

White almost never will talk about what’s next for a fighter immediately after the event, and though Yahoo Sports asked him if it made sense for Makhachev to face the Oliveira-Gaethje winner, he didn’t answer directly.

Instead, he said via text, “He looked incredible.”

He’s looked incredible for a while, and he has no more to gain by doing anything but fighting for the belt. Makhachev’s path is eerily similar to the route his coach Khabib Nurmagomedov took. Nurmagomedov was 25-0 before he got a chance to compete for the title.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 26: (R-L) Islam Makhachev of Russia battles Bobby Green in their lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Islam Makhachev made it look easy against Bobby Green on Saturday at UFC Vegas 49 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Makhachev has remained patient despite the long wait. He was supposed to fight Beneil Dariush, but an injury forced Dariush to pull out and Green stepped in on 10 days' notice. Green was on a roll, with three consecutive wins, but Makhachev is a handful to prepare for when one has a full training camp, let alone just 10 days.

For Green, it was a chance pretty much to get an extra payday and hope to perhaps hit Makhachev with that one punch that could have changed history.

It wasn’t to be, though. As they were trading against the cage, Makhachev dragged Green to the canvas and wound up in half-guard. He quickly got into mount and finished Green with a fierce ground-and-pound.

Khabib: Conor McGregor 'doesn’t deserve a big fight'

Nurmagomedov told Yahoo Sports that he spoke with White Thursday. He said White told him that if Makhachev won Saturday, he’d make a bout between the Oliveira-Gaethje winner against Makhachev in Abu Dhabi in either October or November.

Nurmagomedov said he’s not concerned that McGregor would leapfrog Makhachev.

“This guy’s doing too much drugs, too much cocaine,” Nurmagomedov said of McGregor. “He talks so much on Twitter, but how many fights he wins in the last six years? One fight. Maybe one-and-a-half. Maybe two wins. How can this guy even think of fighting for the title? He doesn’t win fights.

“I know at the end of the day, this is a business and it’s all about numbers and all about money, but this guy doesn’t deserve a title shot. His mind’s out. His leg’s out. Everything is out. He doesn’t deserve a big fight. He has to focus and get together and come back and do something with someone.”

Makhachev certainly did something. He looked amazing from the moment the bell sounded. He was confident because of the work he’d put in preparing for Dariush.

And now that he’s added finishing skills, he’s really a handful.

“I improve every day,” Makhachev said. “I improve my ground-and-pound skills. I’m looking to finish. I like this, [finishing a fight] in the first or second round and getting out, not injured, not tired. I like this.”

There’s only one thing Nurmagomedov would have preferred to see from his longtime friend. He wishes he would have finished the fight with a submission instead of by ground-and-pound.

That’s a small criticism, but Nurmagomedov said it makes a difference.

“Honestly, if I have a chance, I’m always going to try for the [submission] finish,” Nurmagomedov said. “Always, it’s better when your opponent taps. He gives you a signal, ‘Hey, I’m finished. I’ve had enough.’ When you make your opponent do this, it’s better than everything, better than cappuccino with caramel.”

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source https://sports.yahoo.com/islam-makhachev-deserves-a-title-shot-after-stopping-bobby-green-in-first-round-035900443.html?src=rss

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