Islam Ramazanovich Makhachev was born September 27, 1991 in Makhachkala, Dagestan. He is a World Sambo champion, a four-time Combat Sambo Russian National champion, and currently the no.11-ranked lightweight contender in the UFC on a blistering 7-fight win streak.
Makhachev’s soul-destroying performance against Drew Dober, 3 weeks back (on March 6) at UFC 259 laid his phenomenal skill set bare on the canvas for the entire world to see. In his third consecutive main card appearance on an already stacked line up, the Dagestani potentially showed the UFC lightweight division its future champion.
As a childhood friend and training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s no wonder that Makhachev’s style mirrors his countryman’s in the octagon. With dynamic takedowns, relentless top pressure, heavy ground and pound, and slick submissions, Islam has accumulated an impressive 19-1 professional MMA record.
Makhachev trains at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) alongside his Russian right-hand man, nominating him as the next vessel to carry Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s legacy onwards. As you will notice throughout these top 5 finishes, Abdulmanap and Khabib have been Islam’s long-standing corner men for many years.
Even with Khabib still technically retired and Abdulmanap no longer with us, there seems to be a number of combat bosses gliding through Dagestani waters ready to unleash a tidal wave of martial-arts predators. So…without further ado, let’s take a look at Islam Makhachev’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
- Vs. Ivica Trušček – M-1 Challenge 51: FSC 4 (Sept. 7, 2014)
- Vs. Anatoly Kormilkin – Lion’s Fights 2: FSC 2 (Sept. 2, 2012)
- Vs. Gleison Tibau – UFC 220 (Jan. 20, 2018)
- Vs. Leo Kuntz – UFC 187 (May 23, 2015)
- Vs. Drew Dober – UFC 259 (March 6, 2021)
This fight marked Islam’s last fight before signing with the UFC.
The event took place in Russia with Makhachev coming in undefeated at 11-0. Trušček, however, came in with a whopping 25-21 professional record in addition to being 2.5kg overweight, forcing the bout to a 165lb catchweight. Nonetheless, the fight took place with Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov in Islam’s corner.
In round one, Islam immediately clinched and forced Trušček to the ground from a rear body lock position, threatening a suplex. Makhachev maintained back control until he transitioned to an armbar with seconds remaining but time ran out before he could secure a finish.
Round two was almost a carbon copy. Islam landed a single leg takedown off a leg kick, escaped a half-hearted guillotine attempt and passed with ease to side control. Another armbar attempt and a barrage of ground and pound later, Makhachev drew blood from his opponent’s nose.
By round three, Trušček’s will was wilting under relentless grappling. The Croatian resorted to panic wrestling which landed him in more trouble: the Dagestani on his back.
Transitioning to side control, Islam threatened a Kimura until Trušček defended and they scrambled back to standing. Rinse and repeat, another leg kick resulted in another single leg for Makhachev as he passed from top half guard into mount.
From the crucifix position, he landed ground and pound before transitioning to an inverted triangle and getting the tap quickly at 4 minutes, 45 seconds of round three.
Testament to Islam’s performance, even the referee can be seen after the official winner’s announcement, saying “impressive” as he shakes Makhachev’s hand. Islam would sign a four-fight contract with the UFC a month later and make his debut the following May.
Rewinding back to 2012, Makhachev came into this lightweight bout at 6-0 with Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner.
Round one began with some kicking exchanges with Islam landing a body kick, a lead leg kick, and a front kick. This was enough for him to close the distance, get to his well-versed clinch and land a double leg takedown.
Transitioning seamlessly to side control, he garnered a crucifix as he did in the Trušček fight and rained down masses of ground and pound. With Kormilkin desperately trying to escape, Islam simply adjusted his weight accordingly, landing almost rhythmic punches to his opponent’s undefended head.
After enough punishment was dealt, Makhachev synched up an unorthodox triangle choke whilst postured over Kormilkin, prompting the referee to call a stop at 3 minutes, 17 seconds of round one.
The finish was recorded as an armbar, however the referee can be seen shaking Kormilkin’s legs as if he’d fallen unconscious. Either way, Islam climbed to 7-0 with this mysterious finish.
A tremendous amount of parody surrounded this fight given that Gleison Tibau was Khabib Nurmagomedov’s debut opponent back in 2012.
Almost revisiting this fixture with a younger version of the pound for pound best in the world made for an interesting matchup.
Would it play out the same way that Khabib’s unanimous decision victory did or would Islam carve a different route through the now 32-12 veteran? Well, it took less than a minute of the first round to find out.
Both fighters exchanged kicks and a few punches with nothing devastating connecting. Tibau took the centre of the octagon with Makhachev circling the outside.
With almost a minute on the clock, Islam feinted a right jab which prompted Tibau to throw his own, exposing the right-hand side of his chin. Makhachev took advantage, launching a devastating overhand left that knocked his opponent to the canvas. He landed one follow-up shot before the referee stepped in at 57 seconds of round one.
This K.O. brought Islam to a near flawless 15-1 record and was ranked the no.21 ‘Best MMA Knockout of the Year 2018’ by Tapology. With a 3-fight win streak under his belt, Makhachev begged for tougher, ‘top’ opponents in his post-fight interview.
Islam Makhachev’s UFC debut, at only 23 years-old saw him come in as a strong favourite against Leo Kuntz. With Kuntz on a three-fight win streak, boasting a record of 17-1-1, it was as tough a debut as any fighter could ask for.
Khabib was also supposed to feature on this fight card against Donald Cerrone, but had to pull out due to a knee injury. Regardless, this would not prevent him from cornering his childhood friend alongside father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov and AKA coaching legend, Javier Mendez.
Round one saw Makhachev strike his way into the clinch and execute a textbook Harai Goshi Judo throw modified with an overhook. After an attempted rear naked choke from Islam, the round returned to the feet with him displaying real striking finesse through short elbows and uppercuts. The round ended with another takedown followed by ground and pound care of Makhachev.
In round two, Islam would drag his opponent to the canvas with a collar tie clinch and compound it with his grappling prowess. Makhachev controlled the back, tracking every attempt to escape and threatening the rear naked choke.
At 2 minutes, 38 seconds of round two, he would sink the choke in deep to get a quick tap from Kuntz.
Makhachev’s total of 48 strikes in comparison to Kuntz’s 10 pretty much tells the whole story of this fight, in addition to almost two whole minutes of dedicated back control time.
With Khabib serving as translator, Islam gave thanks to the AKA (American Kickboxing Academy, helmed by respected coach, Javier Mendez) and Abdulmanap, crediting the wickedly effective rear naked choke to his Combat Sambo training.
With opponent Drew Dober on an absolute tear of 3 consecutive K.O. victories, Islam still arrived to this bout as the heavy 3-1 odds on favourite for the win via submission. This matchup was also a rebooking from a cancelled bout 5 years previously that went all the way to weigh-in the day before an out-of-competition drug screening halted it.
In round one, Makhachev wasted no time in shooting for a single leg which he chained to a trip on Dober’s standing leg, landing him in top position.
From here, Islam would cycle through dominant top positions with Dober paralysed on the bottom. The round ended with an attempted armbar from Islam that landed him in an unfamiliar bottom position.
Round two looked as though it would follow suit with Islam attempting the same single leg into trip takedown, Dober was wise to it however. Makhachev intelligently abandoned the takedown in the open, clinched against the fence, and landed an Ouchi Gari inside trip.
Despite Dober improving his guard retention in this round, it was not enough to evade Islam’s ground strikes and supreme control.
Round three saw another Ouchi Gari trip land Islam in Dober’s full guard which he swiftly opened and transitioned to top half guard. Locking up a head and arm choke (with muscles popping out of his back that you didn’t even know existed!) Makhachev’s monstrous shoulder pressure brought a swift tap at 1 minute, 37 seconds of round three.
Makhachev jumped to no.11 in the lightweight rankings with this win and it currently sits as the no.10 ‘Best MMA Submission of the Year’ of 2021, on Tapology.
In his post-fight interview Islam said, “I cannot be quiet”, and asked for a top name like Tony Ferguson. He now finds himself in a somewhat strange situation with no.11 next to his name yet possessing a skill set that could arguably eclipse anyone in the top 5. Who will be brave enough to welcome this beast of a fighter into the top 10? We shall wait and see…!