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Khabib Nurmagomedov's UFC run is considered by many to be one of the most dominant in the promotion's history, rising to become lightweight champion before retiring with an unblemished 29-0 record.
'The Eagle' blazed a trail for fighters hailing from Dagestan, a Russian republic that has spawned an increasing number of promising MMA prospects in recent years.
But one in particular has the potential to eclipse Nurmagomedov's achievements in the sport and is currently on course to pick up his compatriot's legacy with his own run at the lightweight belt.
Islam Makhachev has already amassed a 20-1 record as a professional and is riding an eight-win streak as he prepares to fight Dan Hooker at UFC 267 on October 30.
Victory over 'The Hangman' would be the biggest result of his career to date, though it wouldn't be a surprise to manager Ali Abdelaziz, who told TMZ the 30-year-old is bound for UFC greatness.
"He's in the top five," said Abdelaziz, giving his verdict on Makhachev's place in the pound-for-pound rankings.
"I believe he's destined to be a world champion.
"Dan Hooker – great fighter, great guy, he's showing up for a pay cheque. The only way he can win—a lucky punch, right?
“Islam Makhachev, there's not too many people jumping to fight him.
“I think he is going to be one of the greatest fighters ever. I think he is a better version than (sic) Khabib.
“I truly believe he is. He is not now, but he can be, and I think he's a future world champion for sure.”
Unlike Nurmagomedov, compatriot Makhachev has already given up his unbeaten record after he suffered a surprise first-round knockout loss to Adriano Martins in his second UFC bout in October 2015.
The 30-year-old has been on a tear since then, though, and is touted as a potential threat to lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, who is set to defend his belt against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 on December 11.
It's worth highlighting Nurmagomedov won the lightweight title a little more than six years after his UFC debut, whereas Makhachev is yet to get a shot at the belt after already passing that milestone.
Abdelaziz was also manager to Khabib during his rise to the UFC pinnacle, though he believes the current up-and-comer will prove to be the new-and-improved model.
Nurmagomedov used his sambo style of wrestling to dominate the UFC's 155-pound division and hung up his gloves after submitting Conor McGregor, Poirier and Justin Gaethje in consecutive title defences.
'The Eagle' at times came under scrutiny for showing a lack of striking interest earlier in his career, though it was clear after fights with the aforementioned trio that he was no slouch in the stand-up department.
Makhachev—who is ranked fifth in the UFC's lightweight division—has also displayed a tendency to rely on his superb grappling ability and has just three knockout wins compared to eight submission victories.
That may be the area in which he has to prove the most in order to set himself apart from Nurmagomedov, who collected eight of his 19 stoppage victories via strikes.
A showdown opposite No. 6-ranked Hooker at the end of this month will surely test those attributes, with the lightweight eliminator teed up as a classic striker-versus-grappler contest.
Having wobbled early on in his UFC career, Makhachev is headed nowhere but up as far as his manager is concerned, with Abdelaziz predicting Dagestan's latest champion will be even more fearsome than the last.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov
- Conor Mcgregor
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