Islam Makhachev’s Increased Confidence in Striking Could Cost Him the Fight Against Dustin Poirier at UFC 302

There is nothing wrong with confidence. When was that the case? But when you’re talking about Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier at UFC 302, it’s a different story.

It has been said many times in the past that Islam Makhachev is a better striker than Khabib Nurmagomedov. Not only fellow fighters, even trainer Javier Mendez and former two-division champion Daniel Cormier believe that Islam Makhachev is superior on the feet.

More recently, Makhachev’s trainer also opined that the Dagestani fighter is a better pure boxer and Muay Thai fighter than Dustin Poirier. Does it indicate that Makhachov will look to beat Poirier? Not likely.

Islam Makhachev
Islam Makhachev’s striking trainer gives exciting hints about his next fight. (Credits: YouTube)

When Poirier raised this question during the pre-fight press conference, Makhachev reminded the former interim champion that it’s MMA and not boxing. However, if you look at Islam Makhachev’s fighting style, despite the comparison, it is not quite like Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Islam Makhachev is much different than Khabib Nurmagomedov

You wouldn’t hear a lot of praise for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s striking from his fans, let alone MMA fans in general. The reason is simple, Nurmagomedov was not that good. What made him great, and one of the greatest fighters of all time was his grappling.

Every month or so, the same video goes viral where Khabib can be seen throwing haymakers (in the air). Once again, fans flood the comment section in a pure reminder to “Khabib fans” of his bad striking. However, there is more to it.

Despite the obvious disadvantage on the feet, Nurmagomedov dominated every striker he ever faced, and that wasn’t just because of his grappling, but his striking which was built around his obvious game plan.

Khabib’s ability to pressure his opponents, take them down and then keep them there was next to none. And what did he use to put himself in that position? His knocking. Nurmagomedov’s striking was built around securing those takedowns. But that is not the case with Islam Makhachev.

Even though both fighters like to take the fight to the ground, and play to their advantages, Makhachev’s striking is not based around his grappling skill. And that is a problem. Well, sometimes.

Islam Makhachev has shown a tendency to engage in striking unlike Khabib Nurmagomedov

Islam Makhachev has mentioned several times, even in the lead up to UFC 302, that he wants to fight Poirier. The lightweight champion did the same against Charles Oliveira, and expressed his desire to finish Alexander Volkanovski on the feet when they first shared the cage. He did that in the second fight, but the first fight proved that Makhachev makes mistakes that Khabib Nurmagomedov has avoided throughout his career.

No wonder you don’t see a photo of Khabib Nurmagomedov bruised and battered after a fight. The reason is simple, Nurmagomedov has never put himself in those situations. He always fought defensively on the feet, and aggressively on the ground. As for Makhachev, he likes to be explosive everywhere.

In that sense, Islam Makhachev is quite similar to fighters like Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones and we saw that in the first fight against Volkanovski. Fighters who are elite grapplers, but who also like to strike.

When Makhachev was having trouble putting the former featherweight champion away, he began to rely on his striking, more importantly his counter striking, which by the way, is one of the best in the game right now. However, when you’re on your feet, it’s a game of inches. And we saw that in the fight against Volkanovski, where the featherweight champion not only hurt Makhachev several times, but also secured a knockout in the final round.

Now that’s not something you’re going to see from Khabib, who will knock you down 21 times if he has to, to win the fight.

Dustin Poirier has a real chance to win the undisputed gold at UFC 302

Taking on a seasoned veteran in the form of Dustin Poirier, Islam Makhachev has little to prove as he looks to join Khabib Nurmagomedov, BJ Penn, and Benson Henderson for the most title defenses in the UFC’s lightweight division. But achieving this rare milestone will be easier said than done against someone like Dustin Poirier, who has proven his mettle time and time again inside the Octagon.

Dustin Poirier
Dustin Poirier made amends with Islam Makhachev ahead of UFC 302. (Credits: Twitter/X)

Now obviously a lot will depend on the improvements Poirier has made in his takedown defense, but it’s safe to say if there comes a point where Makhachev decides to play striking against Poirier, it may not go as planned for the lightweight champion,

Expect Dustin Poirier to come out guns blazing against Islam Makhachev in what many believe will be his last UFC fight. In addition, fighting in his hometown of Lafayette, everything seems to point to a possible retirement; win or lose

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