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‘There’s no black belts in striking’ — Sonnen thinks Makhachev could surprise Oliveira on the feet

Chael Sonnen cautions Charles Oliveira not to underestimate Islam Makhachev’s striking.

The popular narrative heading into the recently-announced UFC 280 main event between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev is that the only path to victory for Makhahcev is on the ground.

Makhachev trains under legendary UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov, who, like Makhachev, is known for his Sambo above all else. The Dagestani duo are confident Makhachev will dominate Oliveira on the ground despite “Do Bronx” possessing a dangerous submission game to compliment his vicious Muay Thai.

But let’s not forget that “there are no black belts in striking”, courtesy of Chael Sonnen. The former UFC title challenger turned podcast host and MMA analyst cautioned that Makhachev could surprise Oliveira if the fight stays standing and not to write off the Russian’s knockout power ahead of the lightweight matchup.

“We do always lean to, ‘I’ve seen Oliveira do more on his feet than I’ve seen Islam. And therefore Oliveira is better’”, Sonne said on his YouTube channel (h/t Sportskeeda). “It really doesn’t matter... There’s no black belts in striking... If I set you up and I do something beautiful, put my left hand right on your face, good for me. If you walk straight into me with no setup or understanding whatsoever and you punch me on the face with your left hand, we’re even ... I do see where Charles is favored on his feet. I just wanna push back a little bit... we don’t actually know. We’ve not actually seen Islam there.”

Makhachev has just one KO victory under the UFC banner, that being a standing knockout of Gleison Tibau back in 2018. The rest of his fights were won on the ground, either by submission or TKO. The No. 4-ranked lightweight will take on Oliveira for the vacant lightweight championship at UFC 280 on Oct. 22 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.