MMA Coach Firas Zahabi Dubs Islam Makhachev the No. 1 P4P Fighter in the World: ‘Who Can Even Challenge Him?’

Zahabi believes there is nobody in the lightweight division right now that can beat Makhachev

Firaz Zahabi
Courtesy of @UFCNews on X

Famed Canadian mixed martial artist and Tristar Gym owner Firas Zahabi believes Islam Makhachev’s first-round finish of Alexander Volkanovski should make him the No. 1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world. 

Originally scheduled to run it back with former titleholder Charles Oliveira, the ‘Dagestani Destroyer’ instead found himself matched up with familiar foe Alexander Volkanovski who stepped in on 11 days’ notice after ‘Do Bronx’ suffered an injury ahead of fight night. Fans were expecting a repeat of the pair’s highly entertaining showdown at UFC 284 eight months earlier.

Instead, Makhachev would end things much earlier than expected, landing a vicious head kick at the three-minute mark that put Volkanovski down and out. 

Looking back on the contest and Volkanovski’s decision to accept the bout, coach Zahabi believes taking a short-notice fight can sometimes be beneficial to a fighter. Clearly, this was not one of those cases. 

“Obviously, now in hindsight, I would say no,” Zahabi said while discussing whether or not Volkanovski’s decision to take the fight was wise on his YouTube channel. “Sometimes it’s good to take a fight on short notice because you don’t have time to worry about things. You just kind of go. I’ve seen guys do it and we’ve done it many times and sometimes you have this great result and it’s like, you know what, I got to win without all the stress and nerves.”

Sharing his assessment of the match, Zahabi suggested that Alexander Volkanovski has long been susceptible to head kicks, particularly against southpaw fighters, and compared Makhachev’s impressive knockout to Justin Gaethje’s head kick KO of ‘The Diamond’ in July. 

“Volkanovski has been susceptible to head kicks and it’s been a long time. He’s been kicked in the head many times in his career, including a famous kick by Max Holloway. He got kicked again. It’s a bad habit he has. He kind of plays on the back foot and he’s kinda leaning. That kick is there when he’s fighting a southpaw. Very similar to what happened with [Justin] Gaethje and [Dustin] Poirier. Very similar. Not exactly the same kick because Poirier got hit more in the back of the head. Volk on the top of the head.

“Both really dangerous kicks when you’re leaning into a kick. Volk is open for head kicks. If I was prepping for a fight against Volk, guess what I’d be training for? I’d be training for head kicks because we’ve seen him get hit in the head with a head kick.”

Firas Zahabi Believes It’s Time For Alexander Volkanovski to Return to His Featherweight Throne After Some Much Needed Time Off

With a decisive win over Alexander Volkanovski and extending his win streak to 13, Zahabi believes Islam Makhachev is undoubtedly the No. 1 P4P fighter in the world. 

“Islam Makhachev is the greatest lightweight today and also the best pound-for-pound fighter alive today. I don’t think anybody can beat him at lightweight. I don’t think Gaethje has a chance. I don’t think Poirier has a chance. I don’t think Oliveira has a chance. I don’t think Beniel [Dariush] has a chance. Who can even challenge him right now.” 

As for Volkanovski, Firas Zahabi believes it’s time for ‘The Great’ to return to his throne in the featherweight division and begin gearing up for a fight with No. 5 ranked contender Ilia Topuria. After taking some time to heal up.

“I think Volk needs some time off,” Zahabi added. “I think he needs to go fight [Ilia] Topuria at 145.”

Watch the full video clip on YouTube below:

Published on October 25, 2023 at 5:58 pm
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