Following his complete shutout of Drew Dober at UFC 259, Islam Makhachev wants to start establishing his presence in the 155lb division. The Dagestani standout has his sights set on either Tony Ferguson or Rafael Dos Anjos.
Against Dober, Makhachev used his traditional sambo wrestling to dominate the first two rounds, taking top position and dropping ground and pound. The third round began the same way, with the only difference being that Dober looked noticeably more fatigued. Makhachev once again took his opponent down, reached half guard and locked in a shoulder triangle. Makhachev’s pressure combined with Dober’s dwindling gas tank led to the submission victory.
In the post-fight conference, Makhachev set his sights on an opponent that he has no doubt helped prepare for previously. Khabib Nurmagomedov, the 155lb champ and teammate of Makhachev, notoriously had five fights booked against Tony Ferguson, which were all subsequently cancelled due to a plethora of reasons. Now Makhachev is looking to settle old scores. He had the following to say:
“When Khabib take this fight versus Tony, Tony is southpaw and I am southpaw, too. So all this, what, five time, I help Khabib for this fight. So I know exactly how Tony work, I know a lot about him.
“Khabib and me have almost same technique,” he continued. “We have good wrestling, good grappling skills. So I just want to show people how Khabib take him down, control him, make him tired, make him tap. Everybody talk like Tony hard fight for Khabib but I never thought like that because Khabib’s wrestling and grappling are different. Nobody have it like that.
“Tony is number five or six, that’s why it’s going to be good for me,” he finished. “And Tony is very good fighter because he finish lot of good fighters. That’s why I just want to check my skills, and I know I can finish him.”
Islam is just coming off a big win and he already has opponent name in mind and ready to roll.
“RDA or Tony Ferguson,” he said. “But, my dream fight is Tony because we have some deal with him like couple of years. Now he still pressure Khabib. I don’t understand this guy. I want to just help him retire. He’s old. His mind is a little bit crazy. That’s why I just want to help him.” (H/t MMAMania)
A win against Ferguson would likely put Makhachev in a position where he could start lobbying for a number 1. contender shot.