Following the decision to strip Charles Oliveira of the title after his pre-UFC 274 weight miss, the 155-pound division has been left without a champion and with an inevitable vacant title fight set up for later this year.
But while Oliveira secured an immediate chance to regain the gold after submitting Justin Gaethje inside one round in Arizona, it’s unclear who’ll be opposite him when the lightweight belt is up for grabs next.
If Khabib Nurmagomedov is to be believed, there’s no option other than #3-ranked contender Makhachev. Despite Dana White suggesting that the Dagestani will have to go though Beneil Dariush first, it seems that the developments with regards to the strap have left a Makhachev-shaped hole in the title door.
But despite riding a 10-fight win streak inside the Octagon and boasting a 22-1 record in arguably the toughest weight class in the sport, not everyone is convinced that Makhachev has done enough.
Many, including Oliveira himself, have suggested that Makhachev must defeat a top-five contender before earning the right to compete for top spot. Chael Sonnen, who’s challenged for UFC championships in two different weight classes, thinks that claim is illogical.
During a recent video uploaded to his YouTube channel, Sonnen reacted to seeing the argument against a Makhachev title shot online, claiming that it’s “misleading.”
“I read a thread by the kids on the Underground forum just this morning, and they were predicting that Islam is gonna fight for a world championship, but they were resisting that, saying that Islam would be the first person in history to fight for a world championship who had not defeated anybody within the top five. That’s not factually incorrect, but I do feel that that is extremely misleading,” suggested Sonnen.
“There were trying to say that islam doesn’t deserve it… It’s very misleading… If you have a 22-1 record, which Islam does… That’s very remarkable… In what we all admit is the most difficult division in the entire industry,” added Sonnen. “That’s a beautiful record. And then you want to come out and muddy the waters by saying that he hasn’t defeated anybody in the top five.”
Why is it misleading? Well, according to Sonnen, there’s a big difference between never beating somebody, and never fighting them.
Sonnen: Playground Rules Apply With Makhachev
Sonnen went on to describe why he sees the common ‘not beaten a top five’ narrative as deceptive. The former middleweight and light heavyweight contender suggested that playground rules apply inside the Octagon, meaning that if a fighter is willing to face a high-ranked opponent but they don’t return the favor, the willing athlete moves past them.
“When I tell you I think that’s misleading, the reasons are twofold… It’s a very different thing that you’re saying, that he has not beat anybody in the top five, versus my statement that he hasn’t fought anyone in the top five… I firmly believe that the rules of the playground do carry over to the Octagon. If you have two guys, and one refuses to fight the other guy, the class now has their answer… All of us knew who the baddest dude in the school was, (but) how many times did you ever see that get tested? It carries over to the Octagon.
“If Islam is willing and wants to fight the number two guy, but he won’t give him the match, we’ve got our answer, we don’t have to see it. If Islam is willing and wants to face the number three guy, number four guy, number five guy, and they won’t do the match, we have our answer… When two, three, and four refused to fight him, we’ve got our answer, he’s better than you, move him right past… The statements versus the reality are very different.”
Sonnen went on to cite Khamzat Chimaev‘s situation as an example, claiming that the Chechen-born Swede was risen up the UFC ladder in the most part due to ranked welterweights choosing not to face him.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s take on Islam Makhachev’s title credentials?