Following his impressive victory at UFC Vegas 31 over Thiago Moises, lightweight Islam Makhachev already had three opponents in mind for his next fight. We’ll take a look at how realistic those fights are to happen and how the Dagestani star would fair against those names mentioned below.
Islam Makhachev (@MAKHACHEVMMA) tells me he his ideal next fight would be Michael Chandler. Interested in Rafael dos Anjos and Tony Ferguson, as well. He also says he thinks Dustin Poirier will be the champion, when he gets his shot at a UFC title.
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) July 18, 2021
Tony Ferguson: Possibility = Unlikely
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) July 18, 2021
A name that kept coming up even prior to his win on Saturday night was former interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson. I don’t see this fight happening for a variety of reasons. The 37-year-old has taken extensive damage in his last two losses against Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush, and likely won’t’ want to fight until the end of the year. Timing-wise, I would think Makhachev’s next fight would be sooner than that. I also don’t think that’s an appealing matchup for Ferguson when names like Dan Hooker or a potential Cowboy Cerrone rematch could be on the table. Those are more winnable fights for “El Cucuy” that come with more of a marquee billing. Saying all that, this would be the easiest fight for Makachev out of the three opponents mentioned and I would think a late finish or dominant decision would be the result.
Rafael dos Anjos: Possibility = Likely
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 18, 2021
These two were slated to fight twice last year before “RDA” tested positive for COVID-19 and then Makhachev had to withdraw due to injury in their rescheduled bout. This matchup makes the most sense with dos Anjos looking for a marquee win to get back into title contention at 155-pounds and Makhachev needing to fight a notable name in the division for the same thing. I would give a slight edge to Makhachev in the matchup with his grappling and wrestling. However, if the fight stays standing, I’d give the edge to the former UFC champion who has exceptional striking. Overall, this is a winnable fight for Makhachev and one that could potentially lead to a title shot.
Michael Chandler: Possibility = Unlikely
"Chandler, if you hear me, let's go, let's do this. You come from Bellator, I want to check your skills."@MAKHACHEVMMA calls out @MikeChandlerMMA, who's watching from the #UFCVegas31 post-show set 😬 pic.twitter.com/pAhZ7UOyTI
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) July 18, 2021
This is an interesting one because I could see both sides of the argument. Makachev is on an eight-fight win streak but has only two victories over ranked opponents. Chandler has just two UFC fights and is coming off a loss to the current lightweight champion Charles Oliviera. What’s fair and what isn’t? UFC will have to decide that. Rankings wise it makes sense but where is the upside for Chandler fighting him as opposed to say former interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje? Style-wise, it’s probably the most interesting matchup of the bunch. Both are extremely well-rounded, with the former Bellator hampion having a clear edge in power when it comes to the striking. Makhachev is the better grappler but how will that fair against a top wrestler like Chandler? Despite his impressive win on Saturday, I would give the edge to Chandler on this one based on the level of competition and overall skillset. I believe this is a fight we will see someday, just not next.