Former interim UFC lightweight champion, Dustin Poirier is on the cusp of an undisputed title challenge opposite the surging kingpin, Charles Oliveira, however, the Lafayette native believes the streaking Dagestani grappler, Islam Makhachev presents the most difficult obstacle he would have to traverse if paired with any lightweight counterpart, and not the defending champion.
Riding high off the back of an eye-catching year so far, Poirier, the #1 ranked contender in the promotion’s official lightweight pile, last featured in the main event of UFC 264 last month — taking an opening round doctor’s stoppage TKO victory over three-time rival, Conor McGregor, who suffered a fractured tibia in his left leg.
The victory came as Poirier’s second straight over the former two-weight gold holder, following a January rematch with the Dubliner, in which he became the first to stop McGregor with strikes in professional mixed martial arts via a second round barrage at the Octagon fence.
Speaking with UFC roving reporter and analyst, Laura Sanko during a recent ESPN+ Q&A session, Poirier explained that he believes American Kickboxing Academy standout, Makhachev would present the toughest stylistic matchup for him at lightweight today, particularly with past-foe and Makhachev’s teammate, Khabib Nurmagomedov retired.
“For a few years now, I think 155 (lbs) has been one of, if not the toughest division in the UFC,” Poirier said. “It’s been top-heavy for a lot of years, with a lot of contenders waiting for their shot. And now there’s new guys in the mix and it’s growing stronger. But right off the top, I don’t really know. I think Khabib (Nurmagomedov) would, but he’s not in the mix right now. Maybe Islam (Makhachev) — similar style.” (H/T MMA Junkie)
Undefeated in his last eight Octagon walks, Makhachkala native, Makhachev has long been tipped to eventually lift lightweight gold in the UFC — most recently turning in a dominant fourth round rear-naked choke win over Thiago Moises at UFC Vegas 31 in July.
Meeting with former undisputed lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos in a rescheduled outing at UFC 267 at the end of October, Makhachev can make a significant leap toward championship contention with a victory over the Niteroi native.