At the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) successfully defended his title by knocking out Alexander Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) in the first round. UFC CEO Dana White suggested that a rematch between Makhachev and Charles Oliveira, the originally scheduled rematch, would make sense next.
However, Gaethje (25-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who earned the “BMF” title with a knockout victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 291 in July, believes Makhachev would easily handle Oliveira (34-9 MMA, 22-9 UFC) once again.
Gaethje emphasized his claim by stating, “I’m No. 2. I knocked out Poirier,” Gaethje told ESPN. “I mean, Charles Oliveira is ahead of me, but he already lost to Makhachev. I have not fought Makhachev. It’s a fresh matchup, a new matchup, and I think that’s what the fans are looking for.”
He continued, “I think (Makhachev) would have dominated Oliveira just the same. Oliveira beat me, MMA math doesn’t work. I’ve said (Makhachev is) not Khabib (Nurmagomedov), but I think he might be (as good). So I just want to go out there and figure it out.”
In their initial encounter at UFC 284, Volkanovski provided Makhachev with a challenging fight. However, Makhachev’s victory in the rematch was much more decisive. Gaethje recognizes the formidable task of dethroning Makhachev but is undaunted by the challenge.
“He’s currently on a 13-fight winning streak,” Gaethje acknowledged. “He’s been absolutely dominant outside of the first Volkanovski fight. But again, that’s such a tough matchup for someone that’s coming in grappling heavy. I think him attacking this as a striking-heavy fight seemed to be absolutely (the right game plan).”
Reflecting on Volkanovski’s unique grappling style, Gaethje stated, “(Volkanovski) is a bowling ball. It’s hard to hold a bowling ball down. It is what it is. That was impressive. I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve been doing this sh*t for a long time, but I’ve earned my spot. I knocked out Dustin Poirier. Is Islam Makhachev beatable? I don’t know, but I’m going to give everything as I always have.”
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