UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev heads into his first ever UFC main event tonight when he meets Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31. The Dagestani heads into the contest with lightweight GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner.
Along with ‘The Eagle’’s expertise and know-how, Makhachev will also receive a decent amount of pressure as he heads to the cage for the second time since his friend and teammate vacated the top ranks of the UFC’s 155 lb division.
In an interview with ESPN Nurmagomedov explained that, now that he is retired, it is time for Makhachev to claim the division’s ultimate prize.
“He’s going to become 30 years old in October,” Nurmagomedov said (ht MMA Fighting). “This is the perfect time to show the world who’s the best. When I was 30 years [old], I became UFC lightweight champion.”
“When you’re 30 years [old], I think your mental and physical prime become on the same level — 30, 31, 32, this is the perfect age,” continued the former champion. “And right now, Islam at this age, he has a very good win streak — mentally, physically, his boxing, kicking, his grappling, everything, I think he’s a little bit of a step ahead from all these guys. Like, I truly believe he can finish Dustin Poirier. Maybe Dustin is going to be upset, but I truly believe he can finish Dustin Poirier. He can maul Charles Oliveira. I don’t think Charles can play with him like this, all jiu-jitsu, guard, I don’t think. I truly believe it. We just need time. We just need time and no accidents.”
Nurmagomedov added that he felt Makhachev was on the cusp of taking on big names like Poirier and Oliveira and that he expects his good friend to fight for the championship in 2022.
“I think next year Islam will fight for the title. I don’t want to underestimate Thiago Moises. I really believe Thiago Moises is much better than his last fight with Drew Dober. My opinion, as a fighter, he’s better than Drew Dober and he’s tougher than him. On the ground it’s not easy to finish Thiago Moises. But I think next year [Makhachev] will fight [for the title], and he can be champion for, minimum, two or three years.”
Makhachev joined the UFC in 2015 after an 11-0 start to his MMA career, mostly fought under the M-1 banner. After winning his first UFC bout he was surprised by a KO from Adriano Martins at UFC 192.
Since then he’s gone undefeated with seven wins in the past five years. Most recently Makhachev defeated Drew Dober by submission at UFC 292. Prior to that win he beat Davi Ramos at UFC 242.
Moises is a former LFA champion who made it to the UFC through the Contender Series Brazil in 2018. Against UFC competition he’s gone 4-2 with wins over Alexander Hernandez, Bobby Green and Michael Johnson.