Who will Islam Makhachev fight next?
A few days ago UFC officially announced Kevin Lee vs Charles Oliveira bout which will be the main event at UFC on ESPN+ 28 in Brasilia, Brazil on March 14, 2020. This news came unexpectedly as we were preparing for Lee vs Makhachev fight instead. Both fighters are been calling each other out on social media for the longest time and continuously going back and forth for a few months.
Well, Lee vs Makhachev isn’t happening, at least not at this point. Ali Abdelaziz and Rizvan Magomedov, Islam’s managers, are still trying to get a ranked top 10 opponent for their client. What are the options left out there and who will Makhachev face in his next bout?
According to Rizvan Magomedov, they were working on getting a deal to fight Kevin Lee. But despite a lot of interest from Makhachev’s side, it never happened. Magomedov stated that they always have a hard time to find an opponent for Islam because no fighters from the top 10 are willing to face Makhachev.
“This happens every time we are looking for the next opponent for Islam. Ranked fighters want to keep their spots in the top 10 or top 15. They are afraid to face guys that are below them in rankings. It’s not surprising. We unsuccessfully tried to make fights with Kevin Lee, Dan Hooker, Paul Felder to name a few…”
“We should have some news on Islam Makhachev’s next opponent until the end of February. I think it will be one of the fighters from the top 10. We are probably talking about April 18 at UFC 249…”
Let’s think of who can potentially face Makhachev at UFC 249. Islam is currently #15 in the UFC’s lightweight rankings.
Alexander Hernandez is #14 in the rankings and he is also looking for an opponent at this point in time. Hernandez was recently calling out Anthony Pettis but following Pettis’s loss to Diego Ferreira at UFC 246 this fight is unlikely to take place. Hernandez could be open to face Makhachev considering there are not that many options out there for him.
Charles Oliveira, 13th in the rankings, is booked to fight Kevin Lee (#8) at UFC on ESPN+ 28 on March 14.
#12 in the rankings is Gregor Gillespie which could be an intriguing matchup against Islam Makhachev. Gillespie is known for his wrestling abilities and a fight with Makhachev, one of the best wrestlers in the division of his own, could be interesting to all the parties involved. In his last bout, Gillespie suffered his first professional loss against Kevin Lee on November 2, 2019, and at the moment has no scheduled opponent.
Anthony Pettis is #11 in the rankings but he will significantly drop following his loss to an unranked Diego Ferreira. If anything, Islam Makhachev vs Diego Ferreira bout makes a lot more sense as both fighters are riding 6-fight win streaks.
#10 ranked Edson Barboza is currently unbooked for his next bout but we heard from his manager that he is planning to make the drop to the featherweight division.
Al Iaquinta (#9 in the lightweight rankings) vs Islam Makhachev sounds like a very intriguing fight to make. If you remember, Iaquinta lasted 5 rounds against Khabib Nurmagomedov on less than a day’s notice. Al was successfully defending Khabib’s takedowns for the most part and with Makhachev fighting so similar to Khabib, this one can turn out very, very interesting. Iaquinta lost his last two fights to Donald Cerrone and Dan Hooker and fighting a guy like Makhachev could be a fresh start for him. Can you imagine his ceiling if he manages to beat Makhachev? Iaquinta is currently scheduled to compete in a grappling match at Submission Underground 11 event against Mike Perry on February 23 but he has no opponent booked in UFC.
#6 and #7 ranked Paul Felder and Dan Hooker are off the picture for Makhachev at this point. They are scheduled to face-off on February 23 at UFC on ESPN+26 event.
It’s extremely unlikely that any top 5 contenders for the lightweight title will accept to fight Islam Makhachev next.
Either way, we should find out the name of Makhachev’s next opponent pretty soon. Who do you think it will be? Which fight would you like to see the most? Your opinion is always welcomed in the comments below this post.