1.The weight of inevitable outcomes is an amusing thing. If you can, try to picture what it was like for Islam Makhachev during these past seven years. The weight of responsibility he has been forced to bear as the second son of Dagestan. From the moment he first came into the public eye and throughout the entirety of his UFC career, he was hailed as the heir apparent to the greatest lightweight of all time. What is Father’s Plan’s weight? The only inheritor was him. The sole survivor, the chosen successor to carry on his late coach and mentor Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s unfathomable legacy.
It had to have been oppressive. must constantly be compared to Khabib Nurmagomedov and understand that anything less than perfection would be an absolute letdown.
Makhachev’s long-awaited crowning as the new king of the lightweights may not have been unexpected given that he was the betting favourite to defeat Charles Oliveira, as he has been in each of his UFC fights, but it was still an incredible accomplishment. The reason being that, except from a minor hiccup in 2015, Makhachev’s road to the belt has been just as dominant as Nurmagomedov’s has ever been. Oliveira hit Makhachev with more significant strikes than any other UFC fighter at UFC 280, which sounds good until you look at the statistics and see that Oliveira only managed to score a meagre 19 significant strikes.
Things change and remain relatively unchanged at the same time.
And the second Dagestani dynasty is getting off to a rousing start. I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly excited about Alexander Volkanovski competing for the 155-pound title at UFC 280 because featherweight is still a shark tank and there are still a lot of exciting young contenders I’d like to see get their shot. However, the post-fight promotion put on by Dagestan’s knuckle cartel won me over. Every note was hit perfectly, right down to Volkanovski giving the event a brilliant tagline: Your lightweight title vs. my No. 1 pound-for-pound rating. Nurmagomedov really owned the pro-wrestling management position.
To demand to face the pound-for-pound king in his own country as your first fight as champion, especially given that he represents one of the most challenging stylistic challenges you may face? Gangster.
Would anyone be surprised if Makhachev ends up breaking the division’s record for UFC title defences? Lightweight has always been a volatile game of hot potato at the top. For as long as he can hold on, he will be the betting favourite in every lightweight title defence with just three wins. Hell, despite being on enemy territory, he is already a huge 4-to-1 favourite over Volkanovski in the early betting lines.
Men and women, welcome to the Islam Makhachev age. We could be here for a while, so you should definitely get some blankets and make yourselves comfy.
2. Speaking of eras, could we perhaps take a moment to remember the brutal splendour of the Charles Oliveira era now that it is over? It will be remembered as one of the craziest, funniest title reigns in UFC history.
Because of his unparalleled string of ridiculous Fight of the Year championship fights from 2014 to 2016, Robbie Lawler will always have the title of the most thrilling UFC champion ever. However, in my opinion, Oliveira is the undisputed No. 2. Few champions have ever publicly courted turmoil quite way “Do Bronx” did, and all four of his title battles were grudge matches. Or, to put it another way, no one ever voluntarily left the fight to use the restroom while an Oliveira title match was scheduled to follow.
That does not mean Oliveira has finished. Not at all. He is still unquestionably among the finest lightweights in the world at the age of only 33. That’s a misleading 33, just as Max Holloway’s 30 seems a little off without the proper context. Oliveira has been competing in the UFC for 12 years and 31 fights, and he has sustained injury that is far from insignificant, not to mention a long history of depleting his body physically. All of that wears on you.
Oliveira won’t become the 155 pounds’ new sacrificial lamb over night, so no one should be shocked in the least if he launches another strong run. However, my Red Flag Detector is currently sounding some sirens, folks. Just that. History has not been kind to prior champions who have occupied Oliveira’s position, and as long as Makhachev reigns supreme among lightweights, it appears like Brazil’s reign over the title may be coming to an end.