UFC 280: Khabib Nurmagomedov says Islam Makhachev will "roll over" Charles Oliveira

UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov is backing his student Islam Makhachev to defeat Charles Oliveira at UFC 280.

In one of the most highly anticipated UFC lightweight bouts in recent memory, Oliveira is set to face Makhachev for the vacant belt at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi on 22 October.

Makhachev, a Dagestani hailing from the same rugged corner of the world as the undefeated Nurmagomedov, has notched up an impressive 22-1 MMA record, largely thanks to his smothering wrestling.

The combat sambo fighter has more than paid his dues in the division and has accused many a fighter of dodging him as he tried to earna title shot. The proof is in his record, as Makhachev - through no fault of his own - has faced just one top-ten opponent.

But now, the Russian gets his opportunity on the biggest stage and fighter-turned-coach Nurmagomedov is confident his star pupil will be crowned champion.

"I think Islam is more skilled than Oliveira," the Hall of Famer told UFC Russia.

"Secondly, his experience as an amateur fighter. Also, he's at his peak. Islam is at his peak. Islam isn't 23, 26 or 27. He's 30. A week after the fight, he'll be 31. It's the best time for any athlete. It's a time when your mental and physical state should be in synergy. Sometimes your mental state is high, but your physical state is going down.

"Or when you're 27 and at your physical peak, but mentally you're not there yet, because you're just 27, not 31. And Islam is at his peak. I think Islam is better overall. Of course, there are some potential dangers that we're working on where Islam needs to be careful. Other than that, Islam should roll over him."

When he laid down his gloves in the middle of the cage in 2020, Nurmagomedov immediately threw his support behind Makhachev, calling him the division's future champion and has been cage-side for his bouts ever since, seemingly controlling his incredible grappling via a joystick.

With ten consecutive victories and near flawless record, Makhachev will go into the fight as the betting favourite. But the thing is, Oliveira has worn that underdog tag for most of his life.

Born to a poor family in a favela of Sao Paulo, the Brazilian is no stranger to adversity. As a child, he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and a heart murmur, often leaving him completely bedridden. After being introduced to jiu-jitsu, his family helped fund his training by selling cardboard.

Fast forward to the middle of Oliveira's UFC career and four losses from six fights put him on the verge of being let go by the promotion. But again he remained resolute, putting together an 11-fight win streak to get him where he is today.

In addition, Oliveira has been significantly tested in his last three bouts, but still managed to best the explosive Michael Chandler, perennial title contender Dustin Poirier and most recently, knockout artist Justin Gaetjie. And what's more, Oliveira finished them, often in spectacular fashion.

As such, the UFC's next main event really is a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Which aspect represents which fighter is up to you…

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