You always want to keep looking forward, but with an eye on the rearview mirror. Closing in fast in a well-stacked lightweight division in the UFC right now is an unassuming assassin.
That sniper; Islam Makhachev, is as all snipers are, very very dangerous. He not only controls his future but many others destinies at 155 also. The 28-year-old Dagestani is one of Khabib Nurmagomedov's best EaglesMMA pupils and one of his hardest-working AKA teammates.
Once he disposed of Nik Lentz back in Brooklyn at UFC 208, Islam Makhachev called for ranked opponents to test his skills. Although he has yet to taste a ranked challenger, the fighters he's shared the octagon with have gotten tougher. In essence. Except for a pure knock out artist he's faced those with an array of skills. And he finds himself now actually ranked. He's presently sitting at the 12th slot.
In almost every interview he's done Kevin Lee has called him out. He's gone as far as saying he wants to fight him in Russia. Forgetting about the world situation right now, that probably won't happen. Plus when peppered about that fight, Islam Makhachev continuously denies that fight has ever been offered to him.
Who's next for Islam Makhachev?
So who does he get next? Islam Makhachev is riding a 6 fight win streak. That should mean the days of sharing the cage with unranked fighters are behind him. With him being right on the edge of breaking out, you don't necessarily want to rush him along.
Gregor Gillespie is a tough challenge and will test him harder than anyone has to date. As would Al Iaquinta. Al's coming off of back to back tough decision losses, so a decisive win for Iaquinta puts him back on the table for title scenarios. An Islam win you can put him in with a Paul Felder or even a Charles Oliveira who has a 7 fight win streak of his own. With him not in the cage since September of 2019, he's going to need a fight soon.
Although Islam Makhachev doesn't have the KO power of anyone in the top 10, his slickness on the mat is what gets the job done for him. All this means 2 or 3 wins and he, yes the unassuming Islam Makhachev will be in the conversation about the strap. Whether that's something the UFC would like to see happen might just be another story.
He's devoutly religious, and while that can be a huge positive, it can be a bit of a negative also. He doesn't have the name power of a Jon Jones or draws the heat that Greg Hardy gets. But when the quiet fighter has spoken on certain topics it has drawn the ire of many.
He's said that women don't belong in MMA. His views on other key topics in the US have come back to bite him. The UFC has good and bad character types holding their titles, it's not something they've ever cared about. But those "bad character types" also have a ridiculous skill set and are flashy enough to draw great heat. Islam might not be that type. And hopefully at least in this company that won't be the thing to harpoon him. Because frankly, he might just be the most overall dangerous weapon at 28 in a division of 31-year-old sharks.