Islam Makhachev is having a hard time getting credit from his peers as one-time UFC title challenger Michael Chandler has joined fellow UFC fighter Sean O’Malley in labeling Makhachev overhyped ahead of his highly-anticipated lightweight title unification bout against Charles Oliveira at UFC 280.
Chandler has been impressed with what he has seen from Makhachev, a student of Khabib Nurmagomedov, in the UFC but thinks crowning him the next best thing at lightweight based on his recent victories against Dan Hooker and Bobby Green is a little premature.
“Nothing against Islam, you say he looks great, you say he looks unbeatable at times, but he hasn’t really fought anybody,” Chandler, who is one spot below Makhachev in the UFC lightweight rankings at #5, told MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin in a recent interview. “That’s really the truth. He beat No. 14 and then he beat Dan Hooker, who was on a three or four-fight losing streak.
“Now people will say, ‘well, one of your wins was against Dan Hooker, what are you talking about?’ I fought Dan Hooker at a different time. He had just gone 25 minutes with Dustin Poirier, who at that time was the No. 2 lightweight on the entire planet.”
“I’m not saying that [Islam] not that good,” he added. “We just can’t say that he’s that good yet. It’s premature praise.”
Chandler is happy to be proven wrong should Makhachev rise to the occasion and defeat Oliveira but he can’t see a path to victory for the Dagestani native despite being backed by bookmakers to win the fight based on his previous performances and overall dominance in the division.
“I think Charles is just too slick, too good, and he’s going to give him fits on the feet,” Chandler said. “I don’t think it will be hard to take Charles down, but I think Charles wins the grappling exchanges.
“To make Islam the favorite in that fight is somewhat crazy, I think. Maybe that’s me sticking up for Charles, because watching Charles, seeing what he’s done resurrecting his career, somewhat of a ‘couldn’t be relied on, up-and-down, win some, lose some, journeyman’ to now a very dominant champion on a win streak — he’s definitely one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I think he goes out there and gets the job done.”
UFC 280: Oliveira vs. Chandler takes place on October 22 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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