Islam Makhachev has a single blemish on his professional MMA record, a 2015 TKO loss to Adriano Martins. Given that legacy, the former UFC lightweight talent has been asked his opinion on who will prevail when Makhachev faces Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC 280 later this month in Abu Dhabi.
“Charles doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone,” Martins, a former teammate of Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “He’s faced everyone at featherweight and lightweight, he’s in the UFC for 11 years, and has beaten a lot of tough people. Makhachev, although he’s tough and could be a champion in the future, he still has a lot to prove.”
At the time Martins faced Makhachev, the Brazilian was 28-7. Martins was on an 8-1 run and coming off Octagon wins over Juan Puig and Rustam Khabilov. Neither fighter was ranked at the time, however Makhachev was a -160 favorite over Martins, who checked in as a +135 underdog.
Martins, who took home a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his efforts, ended the fight with a perfectly placed and immaculately timed counter right at the 1:46 mark of the first round.
The memorable victory stands as the most recent victory in Martins’ career. The now 40-year-old has gone 0-5 in the years since—with one no contest—since he stopped Makhachev. Martins, who the UFC released in 2017, has not fought since a July 2021 loss to Carlos Silva.
Despite favoring his former teammate, Martins sees a lot of upside in the Dagestani, who has a career record of 22-1 ahead of UFC 280. Makhachev was 12-0 before his loss to Martins.
“I saw his fight with Thiago Moises, a kid I also trained with at American Top Team, and he turned it into an easy fight, backing him up [against the cage],” Martins said. “I see Makhachev evolving as an athlete and a man, physically speaking, and I think he’s trouble for a lot of people, but I see Charles as the favorite because he’s on a roll as champion. He fought a lot of tough people recently and completely ran through them.”
Because this is Makhachev’s first shot at UFC gold, Martins believes the 31-year-old will fight with caution against a veteran like Oliveira. As for why he favors his ex-teammate, Martins believes the experience of the former champ, coupled with his more aggressive style, will help Oliveira regain the UFC lightweight crown.
“[Oliveira] is unpredictable and can knock him out and can submit him, and can take a beating [and come back]. I’d bet on Charles.”
UFC 280 takes place on October 22 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The pay-per-view card streams on ESPN+, following prelims on ESPNEWS.
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