Dustin Poirier is expected to challenge newly-crowned lightweight champ Charles Oliveira next, but ‘The Diamond’ thinks Islam Makhachev is the tougher matchup for him at 155 pounds.
The UFC is trying to market Makhachev as Khabib Nurmagomedov 2.0 and Poirier, who lost to the latter via submission, can see why given both fighters share an eerily similar fighting style with a background in sambo wrestling.
“For a few years now, I think 155 has been one of, if not the toughest, division in the UFC,” Poirier told UFC correspondent Laura Sanko in an ESPN Q&A session (h/t MMA Junkie’s Farah Hannoun). “It’s been top-heavy for a lot of years, with a lot of contenders waiting for their shot. And now there’s new guys in the mix and it’s growing stronger. But right off the top, I don’t really know. I think Khabib would, but he’s not in the mix right now. Maybe Islam (Makhachev) – similar style.”
Poirier found himself overwhelmed and smothered by Khabib in their lightweight title unification bout at UFC 242, losing via third-round rear-naked choke. The American Top Team (ATT) product revealed his gameplan was to drag Nurmagomedov into a brawl but was unable to mount any real offense of his own due to ‘The Eagle’s’ unrelenting pressure.
“He’s just so advanced,” Poirier said of Khabib on American Top Team’s Punchin’ In podcast. “And his feet are like hands. His foot sweeps and the way it breaks you down, it’s good. He’s good – so good.
“I got smothered, and my goal was to turn it into a fight. I wanted it to be a fight, and he just smothered me and did what he does and I couldn’t stop it. I’ve been grappling a long time.”
With Khabib retired, Makhachev (20-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) is expected to follow in the Russian’s footsteps and bring the lightweight championship back to Dagestan. He is currently #5 in the UFC lightweight rankings and is expected to return to the octagon on Oct. 30 to take on former 155 pound champ Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 267.