By: John Welch
Islam Makhachev continued the legacy of the late Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov this past weekend at UFC 280 when he claimed the UFC lightweight title with a dominant submission win over former champion Charles Oliveira.
Immediately following his championship victory, Makhachev dedicated the win to the Nurmagomedov family during his octagon interview.
“This belt [is] for my coach Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov,” said Makhachev. “Many years ago, he told me, ‘Just train hard and you’re [going to] be champion.’ And I want to give this belt [to Khabib]. Him and his father [made] me.”
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov is the late father and coach of former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is teammates and close friends with the newly crowned Makhachev. Khabib retired in Oct. 2020 following his father’s passing earlier that year.
Almost exactly two years later, Makhachev claimed the title once held by Nurmagomedov in the same arena in which he retired.
In addition, Khabib was in Makhachev’s corner during the match.
The highly anticipated matchup was a clash of styles as Oliveira looked to implement his Brazilian-Jiu-Jitsu skills against the infamous Dagestani sambo-wrestling style. In the end, it was the dominant wrestling game of Makhachev that led him to a second-round submission by head-and-arm choke.
Makhachev’s first title defense is almost certain to be against pound-for-pound king and UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski, who was the back-up fighter for the main event, exchanged competitive but respectful words with Makhachev in the octagon following the fight.
“The lightweight [title] on the line, pound-for-pound [status] on the line, let’s do it,” said Volkanovski.
The rest of the event had plenty of notable moments, especially the featured bout on the main card between former bantamweight champion Petr Yan and rising star Sean O’Malley.
After a bloody fifteen minutes, it seemed as if Yan had done enough to get his hand raised. He completed six of his thirteen attempted takedowns with over five minutes of ground control time, and slightly out-landed O’Malley in total strikes.
However, it wasn’t enough for the win as O’Malley was awarded the split-decision victory. During his octagon interview, O’Malley himself didn’t seem completely convinced he won the fight, as his usual post-fight showmanship was put on hold for a much more authentic showcase.
“I didn’t know [if I had won] honestly,” said O’Malley. “I thought it could’ve went either way. I’m [going to] have to rewatch it. I had to go somewhere I’ve never been before. That’s what happens when you fight the number-one guy in the world.”
No judges were needed in the co-main event between Yan’s former rival, bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling, and former champion TJ Dillashaw. Sterling put an absolute beat-down on Dillashaw on his way to a dominant TKO finish in the second round.
Just a few seconds into the fight however, Dillashaw appeared to pop his shoulder out of the socket, which severely prohibited his performance in the fight. In the first round, Sterling completed three of four takedowns and landed eighty total strikes to Dillashaw’s eight.
After the round ended, referee Marc Goddard brought in the cage-side physician to check the status of Dillashaw’s shoulder. By this time, Dillashaw’s corner had already popped it back into place, and he was allowed to continue by the doctor.
The injury proved to be too much to handle for Dillashaw as Sterling landed brutal ground-and-pound strikes to stop him with just over a minute to go in the following round.
During his octagon interview Dillashaw explained the longevity of his injury and how it impacted his training camp and performance.
“I completely blew my shoulder out at the end of April as soon as I started getting ready for this,” said Dillashaw. “I probably dislocated it a good twenty times throughout training camp. This is by far the toughest training camp I’ve been through because of that, emotionally. I was talking s**t about his weak [striking] because I didn’t want to wrestle. I knew that was the case, and I told the [referee] in the back before we came out that most likely my shoulder is going to pop out. If it does, I’ll get it back in, please do not stop it.”
Despite the controversy and injury at UFC 280, there were still plenty of performances that made the card much more than that. Beneil Dariush proved the odds makers wrong with a unanimous-decision win over Mateusz Gamrot, and Belal Muhammad finally made people remember his name with an impressive TKO victory over undefeated contender Sean Brady.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was in the corner of Muhammad during his fight as well as his training camp, which evidently made him dig deep to find the victory against a tough challenger in Brady.
“When coach Khabib talks, I listen,” said Muhammad.
Nurmagomedov, who has been cornering his fighters since his own retirement, has certainly continued his father’s legacy. From Makhachev’s new championship status to his own coaching accolades, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov’s plan is still very much alive with his son.