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Rising Star: Islam Makhachev

The UFC returns to Saint Petersburg, Russia Saturday, April 20, 2019 for the promotion’s second event after a successful debut event in 2018. The UFC FIGHT NIGHT on ESPN+ (1:00 P.M. ET) is headlined by a Heavyweight clash between Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik. Although the main event is good, it’s the co-main event between lightweight’s Islam Makhachev (16-1) versus Arman Tsarukyan (13-1) that will be the fan favorite as the Russian prospect Makhachev looks to make it 5 wins in a row in the octagon.

A post shared by Арман Царукян/Arman Tsarukyan (@arm_011) on Apr 19, 2019 at 11:54am PDT

Makhachev, 27 years old, has been near unbeatable since debuting in the UFC May 23, 2015. It’s no coincidence that he’s been successful as he has fighting out of the same camp of the current UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. The two are training partners under the tutelage of Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. Both are World Combat Sambo Champions from the fighting region of Dagestan, Russia. Makhachev joined Nurmagomedov to train mixed martial arts in the US at the American Kickboxing Academy (A.K.A.) in San Jose, California with coach Javier Mendez and the rest of his world class fighters.

A post shared by Javier Mendez (@akajav) on Apr 17, 2019 at 6:35am PDT

With an elite team supporting the Dagestan native, Makhachev has compiled a record of 5-1 inside the octagon. He’s displayed his arsenal of weapons which includes his world class combat sambo techniques, submissions, and KOs. In each fight the improvement is noticeable. In his debut versus Leo Kuntz, Makhachev was able to outwrestle his opponent with ease, take his back, and finish with a rear naked choke. As impressive as his debut was, Makhachev was handed his first and only MMA defeat October 3, 2015 at UFC 192 versus Adriano Martins. Martins countered with an overhand left as Makhachev missed and overextended with one of his own. 

A post shared by John Barry (@fightographer) on Apr 18, 2019 at 7:32am PDT

Makhachev’s’ boxing has progressed since the KO three years ago as he rarely leaves himself vulnerable for counter shots and is much crisper when throwing his hands. It was noticeable when he set up the knockout versus Gleison Tibau on January 20, 2018 at UFC 220 with some feints and a range finding jab. It lead to an overhand left from the southpaw that KO’d the UFC veteran and put him to sleep in the first round. In Makhachev’s unanimous decision wins versus Chris Wade and Nick Lentz he displayed his constant pressure and take downs.

A post shared by Islam_Makhachev (@islam_makhachev) on Mar 1, 2018 at 12:04am PST

The most recent performance of Makhachev versus Kajan Johnson on July 28, 2018 on UFC on FOX is what has fans most excited about the rising prospect. He cut off the cage beautifully instead of the following Johnson, who had his skates on the entire fight. As he continued to go forward, Makhachev was able to push Johnson against the cage and get a double leg takedown. He showcased the patent leg lock that Khabib Nurmagomedov displayed versus Conor McGregor just months after Makhachev’s fight. After taking Johnson’s back Makhachev mixed in punches to soften his opponent and eventually transitioned to an arm-bar submission victory in round one.

A post shared by UFC Russia (@ufcrussia) on Apr 19, 2019 at 3:07am PDT

Islam Makhachev has shown the UFC he has all the tools to become a contender in the lightweight division. With a win Saturday in Russia he looks to begin his climb into the rankings in the most competitive division in the UFC. Names like Vick, Hernandez, Gillespie, Felder, and Oliveira will be wise to check out UFC FIGHT NIGHT in Saint Petersburg as they may get a glimpse of their next opponent. The climb to fight the current Russian lightweight champion may just end in defeat to the next Russian star Islam Makhachev.

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