Who Is Next for the New Champion, Islam Makhachev?

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And NEW! Islam Makhachev displayed absolute dominance at UFC 280 on his way to a second-round submission over former champion, Charles Oliveira. After a one-sided first round in favour of the Russian, Makhachev dropped Oliveira and consequently submitted him with an arm triangle at 3:16 of the second round.

Instantly, we have to question, what’s next?

Who Is Next for the New Champion, Islam Makhachev?

Alexander Volkanovski

Weighing in on Friday, featherweight champion and #1 P4P fighter, Alexander Volkanovski was the alternate for the main event. Luckily, he wasn’t needed, however, it showed a clear intention from Dana White and the UFC to allow Volkanovski to move up in weight and challenge for a second title.

Following his win, Makhachev’s legendary coach and UFC hall of famer, Khabib Nurmagomedov expressed his intention for his protégé to head into enemy territory in Australia and defend his belt against Volkanovski at UFC 284. Makhachev then called Volkanovski into the octagon and put forwards the challenge himself.

This one certainly looks to be on the top of the UFC’s list and we can’t pretend that we’re not excited about the potential of the lightweight crown and P4P #1 status up for grabs!

Charles Oliveira Rematch

It’s hard for the UFC to deny that Oliveira doesn’t deserve a rematch with Islam Makhachev. Snapping his 11-fight-winning run, Oliviera stepped into enemy territory (when he easily could have waited to face Makhachev in Brazil next year), always puts on entertaining fights and holds multiple UFC records.

He’s already expressed his interest in a rematch and wants to attempt to get his belt back, however, on the back of his performance, it’s a hard sell. He was utterly dominated by Makhachev from start to finish. With that being said, his history of being in exciting fights, finishing top five guys and always coming to scrap puts him in a strong position. Perhaps he’ll need another win before he can challenge for the title again, maybe against the next man on our list.

Beneil Dariush

One of the most underrated performances of the night was from Beneil Dariush. He put on a dominant performance against the highly ranked and highly regarded Mateusz Gamrot. What was most impressive was his takedown defence. Gamrot was relentless in his search for a takedown, however, the Kings MMA man defended 15 of 19 attempts. Even when Gamrot was able to get Dariush down, he was largely ineffective. At no point was he in danger on the ground. After returning from a broken leg, Daruish punished Gamrot with leg kicks, brutal knees and even dropped Gamrot with a monster overhand.

He’s enjoying an eight-fight winning run including wins over Tony Ferguson, Drew Dober and Thiago Moises and it’ll be hard to deny him a title shot sooner or later. With the takedown defence he showed on Saturday night, mixed with his experienced ground game, he could cause Makhachev problems.

Conor McGregor?

It’s hard to discuss the lightweight title picture and team Khabib without mentioning Conor McGregor. The former champion, as we all know, will forever be associated with Khabib after their infamous UFC 229 bout. Following Maklhachev’s UFC 280 victory, McGregor (predictably) appeared on Twitter claiming that he has been perfecting his style in order to beat Makhachev’s sambo style.

He has since deleted his tweets and hasn’t commented further on the fight. At the post-fight press conference, Dana White confirmed that McGregor will have to test in the USADA pool for six months prior to his return.

Is there interest levels in seeing McGregor return and face Islam Makhachev? No.

He is without a win at lightweight since 2016, for context, the champion has 10 wins in that time, Oliveira has a record of 12-2, Dariush is has won eight straight and Volkanovski has joined the UFC, gone 12-0 and became the featherweight champion. The McGregor fight is a hard sell.

Who do you want to see Makhachev fight next? Let us know in the comments below!

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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