Combat Sports

Is Islam Next In Line For A Title Shot At 155?

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Islam Makhachev is no stranger to the UFC’s lightweight division, as the Dagestan native has amassed a total of 11 bouts under the UFC banner dating back to 2015. Until recently, the 30-year-old Makhachev has maintained a relatively patient disposition regarding his place in the division. His latest victory in a first-round submission over Dan Hooker at UFC 267 not only capped off a 9 fight win streak but cemented Makhachev as a legitimate contender at 155 pounds. He’s no longer shying away from the title discussion either.

“Next fight, it has to be for the title, or a contender fight, because I have a nine-fight winning streak, who in my division have this? Just the champion. And I feel my division is a little bit asleep right now. I have to wake up my division, because we have to change some things. The old guys from the top-five, they’ve already fought for the title – [Michael] Chandler, [Justin] Gaethje. That’s why we have to change something.”

Islam following his UFC 267 win over Dan Hooker

Does Islam Makhachev Deserve to Be Next In Line For the Title?

In a division as crowded as 155, Makhachev has solidified his case for a title shot, particularly in the eyes of his peers. Most notably, he has the confidence of his training partner and former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who sees his protégé as the obvious choice to face current lightweight champion Charles Olivera over contenders such as Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor.

When Gaethje declared himself next in line for the belt after his UFC 268 victory over Michael Chandler, Nurmagomedov rebuffed his claim: “In last 8 fight, you got finished 3 times Justin, you had an opportunity to become champion, but you fell asleep, Islam is on the 9 win streak, 3 fight in 2021 and all finishes. Just shut up and admit that Islam deserves this title shot, not you.”

While some of this contention can be attributed to the former champ talking up his star pupil, few fighters in the division have made a better case for a title shot as of late. Until a few days ago, it seemed like Makhachev’s path to the title had become clear. He had been slated to face off against the number four ranked Beneil Dariush this coming Saturday at UFC Vegas 49 in a main event between top contenders.

According to the big boss Dana White, a win here for Makhachev would have been enough to prove his top contender status: “Yeah, he’s ready for somebody in the top 5—top 5, top 3, whatever becomes available, and then obviously, if he gets through that, he’s in line for a title shot.”

Islam’s mentor Khabib has elaborated even further in recent months, insinuating that not only would Makhachev earn a title shot with a win over Dariush, but double bonus money for a finish as well:

“Beneil and Islam, this is truly and 100 percent a number one contender fight. Who’s gonna win? They’re gonna fight for the title and the UFC told Islam, ‘If you beat Dariush [you’re] gonna fight for the title.’ UFC told him, you know it’s like what’s interesting, if Islam finishes him they’re gonna give him double bonus…”

Khabib during an interview with ESPN’s Marc Raimondi

As we already know, the fight game is anything but certain, particularly so for Makhachev, who has seen his fair share of fight cancellations. Earlier this week, Beneil Dariush was forced out of Saturday’s matchup due to injury, and was subsequently replaced by unranked veteran Bobby Green.

So, while Saturday’s main event will go on as scheduled, it doesn’t feature that top contender showdown Makhachev needed to secure his shot at 155 pounds. Islam opens as a heavy favorite over Green, and hopes a win this Saturday would still be enough to earn the nod against Charles Oliveira.

Do you think Islam Makhachev earns a title shot with a win over Bobby Green this Saturday at UFC Vegas 49? Let us know in the comments below!

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Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images

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