Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) retained his title after knocking out short-notice replacement Alexander Volkanovski (26-3 MMA, 13-2 UFC) in Round 1 this past Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. In the post-fight news conference, UFC CEO Dana White said rebooking Makhachev’s originally scheduled rematch vs. Charles Oliveira makes sense next.
But Gaethje (25-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who claimed the “BMF” title with a knockout of Dustin Poirier at UFC 291 in July, sees Makhachev easily handling Oliveira (34-9 MMA, 22-9 UFC) again.
“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.
“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.”
Volkanovski gave Makhachev a tough outing in their first fight at UFC 284, but Makhachev was able to defeat him much more definitively the second time. Gaethje knows dethroning Makhachev will be a tough task, but he’s up for the challenge.
“He’s on a 13-fight winning streak,” Gaethje said. “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).
“(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.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 294.