Ninth-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Islam Makhachev expects big fights in the back half 2021. Including possible matchups with top-six talent after he gets an eighth straight win in the main event of UFC Vegas 31 on Saturday night.
Islam Makhachev respects Thiago Moises, but just thinks he's better
Makhachev, 29, is a very confident fighter. And that confidence is understandable after winning seven straight fights inside the Octagon, and often in dominant fashion. It's no surprise then that he expects to earn an eighth straight with a victory over Thiago Moises inside the UFC Apex on July 17. However, that doesn't mean he's sleeping on the Brazilian's talents, it's just that he believes he's better than him in every facet of mixed martial arts.
"I know he's a tough guy. I saw all his fights in the UFC. He has good striking, good jiu-jitsu, good conditioning, but I have more than him," Makhachev told MMAJunkie in a new interview. "This is a good fight for me because this is a main event, but I don't think this guy's on my level."
The Dagestani talent heads into this a top-10 fighter taking the risk of competing against a lower ranked foe in Moises. The fourteenth-ranked Brazilian wasn't the level of competitionn Makhachev hoped for in his second outing of 2021, but he also didn't want to wait months for his next Octagon appearance either.
"[UFC] told me, if you want some guy from the top 10, you have to wait to December, maybe November, we don't know when. But I want to be in [action], so I just take which guy they give me and that's it." Makhachev said.
Islam Makhachev eyes matchups with RDA, Dariush, or Ferguson after UFC Vegas 31
That's why he expects the promotion will reward his efforts with some elite competition after he gets an eighth straight "W" in the UFC Vegas 31 headliner. Because in his mind, with the level of success he has had in the Octagon, no other options make sense.
"This is going to be an eight-fight win streak. They have to give me somebody [in the top 10], because who has this win streak in the [lightweight division]?' Makhachev asked. "Just Charles Oliveira, and Beneil Dariush has a seven fight [streak]."
Once he is victorious, the Russian wrestling stud, and pupil of former division king Khabib Nurmagomedov, believes three specific names make the most sense for his next fight. Two are former division champions. One of which he was twice booked to fight in 2020 until COVID-19 scrapped each planned bout.
"I think it's going to be some guy from the top five. I don't know, like maybe [Rafael dos Anjos], Beniel, or maybe Tony [Ferguson]," Makhachev suggested. "Because if it's RDA, I was supposed to fight [him] in Abu Dhabi. He got [COVID-19] and they canceled the fight. We were supposed to fight, but maybe [that 's] next."
UFC Vegas 31 takes place Saturday night, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card starts at 7 pm ET and will be air on ESPN and stream on ESPN+.