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Coach reveals one area Islam Makhachev is better than Khabib Nurmagomedov

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Javier Mendez talked up Islam Makhachev during a recent interview.

Recently on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast, Javier Mendez spoke about two of his best known pupils; Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev.

Mendez has marshalled those Dagestani besties’ UFC careers ever since they arrived at his American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, CA. He saw Nurmagomedov develop into a UFC lightweight champion who, after securing a 29-0 record, stepped away from the cage last year.

Makhachev is currently surging up the UFC lightweight rankings with submission wins over Drew Dober and Thiago Moises this year. In October he’ll take on former champ Rafael dos Anjos.

Nurmagomedov has been promoting Makhachev as a fighter of the year candidate and a future champion. Mendez is also high on what Makhachev is capable in the sport. With Swick, Mendez also revealed one facet of Makhachev’s game that is at higher level than his more famous compatriot.

“What Islam has that Khabib never had as good are throws, judo throws, leg sweeps, leg trips,” said Mendez (ht “I mean Khabib has them but not to the level of Islam now. I mean all of a sudden, you’re with Islam, you’re going with it and the next thing you know, you’re flying, you’re literally flying.”

Mendez also rated Makhachev’s grappling style, which he called excellent, though different from Nurmagomedov’s notoriously relentless methods.

“Khabib is actually meaner; he’s mean. Khabib is like this: when he controls you, it’s like his whole body controls you. His legs, his toes, his arms, everything locks up to you. One’s a little bit more explosive is Khabib, the more explosive one. But [Makhachev] is a little smoother in transitioning.”

Mendez also revealed that Makhachev can be credited with helping Nurmagomedov improve many areas of his game. Specifically, Mendez said, Nurmagomedov became better at throwing knees because “he got tired of Islam beating the crap out of him” in the gym.

Ever since a shock KO loss to Adriano Martins in his second ever UFC appearance, Makhachev has gone undefeated—winning eight straight contests and advancing his overall record to 20-1.

Makhachev and dos Anjos are expected to tangle at UFC 267 on October 30. Those two had been booked to face each other last year at UFC 254. However, dos Anjos had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19. The bout was rescheduled for a few months later. However, Makhachev was then forced to withdraw due to a staph infection.