Islam Makhachev defeated Dan Hooker at UFC 276, and a week later Justin Gaethje was better than Michael Chandler at UFC 268. Somehow, with these victories, the two of them stood out as the main candidates for the attack on the title of champion in the first months of next year.
Gaethje is primarily at the expense of his results in recent years, and Makhachev at the expense of a large winning streak, with dominant performances. However, behind that is a large number of not very reputable opponents with whom he fought.
It would be said that Makhachev still needs a few more victories until the fight for the title, while Gaethje certainly deserved his new chance after he was stopped at the last one by the now-retired champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
After all, this is his only defeat in the last six fights. In one of his statements, he said that his attack on the title would save the integrity of the sport and that he sees that it only makes sense to him.
That statement was transmitted on ESPN's Instagram, and then a comment by Khabib Nurmagomedov, a friend, mentor, and one of Islam Makhachev's coaches, appeared there.
"You've been finished three times in your last eight fights. You had a chance to become a champion, but you fell asleep. Islam is in a series of nine victories." "He has three fights in 2021 and he all ended with a stoppage.
Just shut up and admit to yourself that Islam deserves to fight for the title, not you, ”Khabib wrote, addressing Gaethje directly, to which he received over a thousand different responses from fans. Within that series, Makhachev has victories over only two ranked fighters.
Thiago Moises was then 15th in the standings, while Dan Hooker was the sixth fighter of the lightweight challenger rankings at the time of their fight at the end of October. Makhachev took fourth place after the last victory.
According to many, too fast, looking at the competition he overcame, but it is justified by the dominance he presented in those fights. Although, as Khabib noted, he did three fights in 2021, Makhachev had previously been one of the least active fighters on the UFC roster, which actually affected his slower rise to the top.
He actually started to get hotter only after Khabib officially retired. He announced that his successor will reach the title in 2022, which he will hold for years, and it seems that he has now decided that it should be done in the first months of next year.