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Josh Thomson explains why Islam Makhachev is ‘so much stronger’ than Khabib

How does Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev matchup against each other? Teammate Josh Thomson provides some insight.

Khabib Nurmagomedov helps teammate Islam Makhachev prepare for Thiago Moises in July.
Khabib Nurmagomedov helps teammate Islam Makhachev prepare for Thiago Moises in July.
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

Number four-ranked Islam Makhachev has been pretty much a lifelong training partner of retired undefeated former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both men employ the same wrestling and grappling-based approach which has earned them respective successes.

But if the two were matched up against each other at least based on strength, Makhachev apparently has the edge. That’s according to their AKA teammate, UFC and Bellator veteran Josh Thomson.

As he explains to Weighing In podcast co-host “Big” John McCarthy in a recent episode:

“Islam, though, is someone that can shoot from five feet away, snatch a single, and suck him up because he’s so much stronger than Khabib,” he said.

“And I’m splitting hairs here, like, what I mean by ‘so much stronger,’ we’re talking about the top one percent of fighters, which is Islam and Khabib and Justin… when you’re talking about Khabib and him, it’s like two percent. Maybe he’s two percent stronger.

“That two percent, though, is huge, when you’re talking about one percent of the top fighters. He will grab the single, he will suck it up, and when he gets to that position, he’s going for a ride.

“We saw how easy it was for Khabib to get the takedown (against Gaethje). And when he got the one takedown, it became easier and easier. And that’s what’s gonna happen, I think, again to Justin Gaethje if he was to fight Islam.”

Makhachev, who is on a nine-fight win streak, is slated to face fellow Dominance MMA fighter Beneil Dariush, next. And because Beneil is “so damn good everywhere” according to Thomson, that could pose some problems for the 30-year-old Dagestani fighter.

“I think Dariush has a better chance than most at beating Islam because he is so wild and crazy. He throws shots from different angles. He’s awkward. That’s gonna be a tough task for (Islam),” he explained.

“Someone like a Dustin Poirier and somebody like a Justin Gaethje that are very straightforward fighters… they come forward, straight combinations, kicks, they threaten the submissions.

“They’re a lot easier to figure out than someone like a Dariush. Like a Tony Ferguson was so hard to deal with because everything came from weird angles. Jumping elbows, jumping punches. Roll-away double-leg takedown defense. Shit like that.

“Those are people that are hard to deal with. Dariush doesn’t have quite that kinda craziness that Tony does, but he throws things from different angles. He’ll roll for submissions. He’ll do those things that will pose a problem for Islam because Islam will not… they really don’t train with guys like that that will do crazy, funky stuff.”

Makhachev and Dariush are expected to headline the UFC’s Fight Night event on February 26.