Islam Makhachev was impressive in his UFC debut. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Islam Makhachev entered his Octagon debut at UFC 187 with a considerable amount of hype behind him.
The 23-year-old Dagestani delivered on Saturday, as he dominated fellow newcomer Leo Kuntz en route to a second-round submission victory. Then end came 2:38 into the frame, as Makhachev took his opponent’s back, secured a body triangle and locked in a decisive rear-naked choke.
According to Makhachev, he learned from the best. The Fightspirit Team member spent the last part of his camp working alongside top 155-pound contender Khabib Nurmagomedov at American Kickboxing Academy. Nurmagomedov, of course, was supposed to face Donald Cerrone at UFC 187 before suffering a torn meniscus in training that forced him to him to withdraw from the pivotal lightweight bout.
Instead, “The Eagle” served as Makhachev’s post-fight translator in the aftermath of his initial Octagon foray. Eventually, Nurmagomedov could have some company near the top of the division.
“I was preparing most of the time for this fight in Dagestan, in my hometown, then one month ago I left to train at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. I know I had a lot of people rooting for me and cheering me on, so I could not disappoint them,” Makhachev said. “I feel that I was at the top of my game and tonight I did my best.
“Obviously having Khabib Nurmagomedov in my corner and in my camp makes me have a lot of confidence in my training. He’s the best lightweight in the world and after training with him every day I know that there’s no other lightweight out there who can beat me.”
Makhachev has now won 12 consecutive fights since turning pro in 210, with eight of those triumphs coming inside the distance.