Islam Makhachev is 'the next best thing' to Khabib Nurmagomedov, according to Dan Hooker

Islam Makhachev is 'the next best thing' to Khabib Nurmagomedov, according to Dan Hooker

Islam Makhachev may not be a world-beater quite just yet, according to Dan Hooker, but he is 'the next best thing' to fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov

Between losing to Adriano Martins in October 2015 and his most recent victory over Thiago Moises on July 17, Makhachev has won eight straight fights, using a wrestling-based style of unrelenting pressure to his advantage against his opponents, often described as 'mauling'. 

He is arguably one of the world's best fighters on current form and is leading a charge of fellow top prospects to the top of the lightweight division by example, including Rafael Fiziev and Arman Tsarukyan. 

Makhachev (20-1) has fought twice in the UFC since the beginning of the year and was back to his brilliant best against Moises in Las Vegas.  

The 30-year-old effortlessly took the back of the Brazilian after overcoming some early adversity before locking in a tight rear-naked choke in the latter stages of the fight. 

However, he faces an entirely different prospect in Hooker, who has won four of his last six fights. It was recently announced the two will fight it out on October 30 at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi. 

Hooker has since claimed that beating Makhachev will show how he would have fared against Nurmagomedov, who retired from mixed martial arts last year.  

“If I could fight any lightweight on the face of the planet, it would be Khabib,” the City Kickboxing star said to MMA Fighting.

“I want to see how I measure up with him. It’s no lie that Islam’s the next best thing.

“Beating Islam is the only opportunity you’re going to get to show what would have happened if you got in there with Khabib when he was champion.

"There’s a lot of exciting aspects about this fight. It’s just another one. I feel like it’s a perfect time for this fight to come together.”

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Hooker also insists that he is feeling no pressure at all, adding that Makhachev is the one who is carrying the burden of expectation on his shoulders. 

“Everyone’s putting him on a pedestal,” he added. “Every guy is showing a lot of respect for his abilities and making a lot of comparisons with Khabib. It will be a great opportunity.

“I feel like this is a massive fight. A win here puts you in title contention. That’s another thing that’s obviously exciting.

“I feel like all the pressure’s on him. We’re fighting in Abu Dhabi. He’s got to go out there and look dominant. ‘What, you can’t beat Dan Hooker with no camp and no training and no team?’ All the pressure’s on him.

“I’m obviously confident I’m going to get the job done, but I don’t feel like the pressure’s on me, even though I’m the bigger-named fighter.

"I feel like the pressure’s on him and we’ll see how he handles the pressure, ‘cause that’s not a position he’s been in during his career yet.”

Nurmagomedov (29-0) recently insisted that he is happily retired as he revealed that he had held talks with UFC president Dana White about a possible comeback a couple of months ago.

"No I don't think so," Nurmagomedov told BBC Sport.

"I don't know if my mind changes and I go a bit crazy, we never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

"Right now I am not drunk on life. I am good, Alhamdulillah."

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