5 biggest points of difference between Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov

Islam Makhachev kicks Davi Ramos - UFC 242: Khabib v Poirier
Islam Makhachev kicks Davi Ramos - UFC 242: Khabib v Poirier

Islam Makhachev is arguably the most talented lightweight prospect in the UFC right now. From a young age, Makhachev trained in combat sambo under Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. He became the world champion in 2016.

The Russian also began his MMA career back in 2010. From 2010 to 2014, he fought in multiple Russian promotions, such as M-1 Global and ProFC. In 2014, he signed a four-fight deal with the UFC. Since making his UFC debut, the 30-year-old has won nine of his ten fights.

In all his fights, the grappler has showcased his exceptional ground game. Makhachev is always looking to take opponents down and submit them. His style is similar to that of former UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

They grew up training together in Dagestan and have been inseparable. They also trained under the same coach and are combat sambo world champions. At UFC 242, they even fought on the main card together. Nurmagomedov defended his title against Dustin Poirier and Makhachev earned his eighth win in the UFC.

Naturally, everyone has drawn comparisons between Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, for all their similarities, there are also some differences.

Here are five dissimilarities between Islam Makhachev and the former UFC lightweight champion.


#5. Islam Makhachev and Khabib Nurmagomedov have similar fighting styles with subtle differences

Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober at UFC: 259
Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober at UFC: 259

Khabib Nurmagomedov was known for his dominance over opponents. He achieved that dominance by imposing a blistering pace. Opponents were always wary of being taken down.

'The Eagle' would initiate with punches and then shoot for a double-leg takedown. He would then finish opponents with vicious ground and pound or submissions.

Makhachev similarly engages opponents with strikes. Unlike Nurmagomedov, he is more than happy to keep trading shots. He also uses single leg trips to put his opponents off balance.

There are subtle differences in the ground game as well. Khabib would look to overwhelm a grounded opponent. Islam Makhachev has displayed a more patient approach, working slowly to out-grapple opponents like Nik Lentz. He is also more than happy to tire out his adversaries like he did with Drew Dobber.

#4. The absence of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov moving forward

How a fighter evolves depends on how he gets trained. Islam Makhachev is no different. Under Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Makhachev grew into a prolific grappler. The combat sambo coach was exceptional. Throughout his career, he trained many world champions. His son, Khabib Nurmagomedov, made MMA history.

His coaching style was intense. The Dagestan national team coach demanded complete discipline.

"In our gym in Dagestan under Abdulmanap's mentorship discipline was the number one priority." - Islam Mkhachev

However, his career was cut short in 2020. Abdulmanap passed away in July due to complications from Covid-19. 'The Eagle' no longer wanted to compete without his father. He retired after one last fight with Justin Gaethje.

Islam Makhachev trained under his longtime coach during his early UFC days. He is currently coached, primarily, by Javier Mendez, with Khabib as a mentor. He has already fought twice since the passing of Abdulmanap. If he does become a champion in the future, it'll be without Abdulmanap's assistance.

Khabib, on the other hand, was coached by his father for almost the entirety of his combat sports career.


#3. Islam Makhachev has a UFC champion in his corner.

Khabib Nurmagoedov made his UFC debut in 2012. He was more than a promising prospect. He then ran through every opponent in the lightweight division. After eight dominant performances, he became champion in 2018.

Along the way, he was trained by his father and Javier Mendez. He worked closely with Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy. From a remote village in Dagestan to UFC champion, 'The Eagle' created a legacy. He was the vanguard who introduced the MMA world to combat sambo and the legendary toughness of Dagestani athletes.

Islam Makhachev stands on the foundation built by Nurmagomedov. The lightweight contender has the former UFC champion in his corner. Khabib's experience and knowledge have been key to Makhachev's success so far. Now that Nurmagomedov has retired, he is even more involved in training Makhachev.

'The Eagle' has faith that Islam Makhachev will soon become UFC lightweight champion.

#2. Islam Makhacev has a knockout victory in the UFC.

It has become increasingly apparent that Islam Makhachev is a capable striker. Khabib's striking game improved at the tail-end of his career. While he did have significant power, he was never a technical striker. Makhachev has been working on his striking since the beginning.

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It is evident by the fact that he has a KO victory over Gleison Tibau. Islam Makhachev fought Tibau at UFC 220. He KO'd the Brazilian within a minute into the contest with a devastating overhand right. It was a special victory because Tibau had given 'The Eagle' a tough time in the octagon.

Khabib Nurmagomedov fought the Brazilian back in 2012. He withstood Nurmagomedov's power and stuffed multiple takedown attempts. Few have ever managed to stop a takedown by 'The Eagle'.

The former lightweight champ was also unable to secure a KO in his thirteen UFC fights. Islam Makhachev did it in his fifth fight with the promotion.


#1. Islam Makhachev has lost inside the octagon.

Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA undefeated. Thirty times opponents tried to solve the puzzle but came up short. 'The Eagle' was a champion with an aura of invincibility. The former lightweight champion dominated everyone, even the best in the division.

Makhachev has already tasted defeat in the UFC against Adriano Martins. It was a standup fight while it lasted, and the Russian got KO'd in the very first round. Makhachev had his guard down as he swung wildly. Martins countered with a well-timed right hook and dropped him.

The loss was in 2015, and since then, Islam Makhachev has improved exponentially. His manager Ali Abeldaziz has even said:

"I think he is going to be one of the greatest fighters ever."

But his adversaries now know that the grappler's striking is a weak point. It's something Dan Hooker will look to capitalize on in their upcoming bout at UFC 267.

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Edited by Rohit Mishra
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