Khabib Nurmagomedov lauds Islam Makhachev as the one to take over his legacy and become the next lightweight king in the UFC. For that, he must get past Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi to hold the UFC championship.
Adriano Martins, the only man to ever beat Makhachev in MMA, expects him to come up short at UFC 280 on Oct. 22.
A veteran of seven octagon appearances and 41 professional bouts under his belt, Martins scored the final win of his MMA career against Makhachev at UFC 192 in 2015. The Dagestani lightweight was 12-0 at the time, five months removed from his octagon debut win over Leo Kuntz, when Martins knocked him out in under three minutes at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Charles doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone,” Martins, a former teammate of Oliveira at Chute Boxe Diego Lima, said in an interview with 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.”
Oliveira won his past 11 in the company, finishing top-ranked foes like Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, but currently doesn’t hold the UFC title since he missed weight for his most recent title defense. Makhachev has racked up 10 straight victories since his loss to Martins, including Bobby Green, Dan Hooker and Arman Tsarukyan.
“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 of Makhachev. “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 favourite because he’s on a roll as champion. He fought a lot of tough people recently and completely ran through them.”
Martins, who won a Performance of the Night bonus for his finish of Makhachev in 2015 — his third win in a row after Rustam Khabilov and Juan Manuel Puig —, said it’s “an exaggeration” to compare Makhachev to his mentor Nurmagomedov right now because “The Eagle”, much like Oliveira, “dominated a lot of good people and was on another level.”
“I don’t see that in him,” Martins said of Makhachev. “I see him fighting more cautiously. He’s on the rise and is evolving, but still has a lot to prove. But a fight is a fight. I’ve seen so many crazy things happen in the fight world. He has a dangerous style and is no fool on the ground. He’s not a jiu-jitsu competitor, of course, but is no fool there either. He tends to tire his opponents out before finishing them, whereas Charles imposes his rhythm right off the bat until he finishes them.
“[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.”
Makhachev is way more experienced now compared to when he fought Martins in Las Vegas seven years ago, and the Brazilian admits he didn’t know much about his opponent at the time.
“The fight was on short notice and we didn’t study anything about him,” Martins said. “I had nose surgery 15 days before the fight and almost pulled out, but I was training so hard I was ready to fight anyone, really, and thank God that punch landed, a strike I did all the time, and I left with the victory.
“I always fought tough guys in the UFC, and I think the media is a bit unfair to me saying like it was a lucky win. I was always capable of beating him or any other athlete. I said I would beat him in the first round and that’s what happened.”
Winless in MMA since that night, a run that includes five losses and one draw between 2016 and 2021, Martins said “I still have plenty of things to do in fighting.” He’s open to returning to MMA, but also throws his name in the hat for bare-knuckle boxing bouts in the future, even mentioning Mike Perry as an ideal match-up.
“I would love to test myself in this sport,” Martins said. “Even though I’m a jiu-jitsu guy, I’ve always loved boxing. Who knows, maybe they give me an opportunity [at BKFC]. I know I can do well against them, no problem.”
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