Islam Makhachev has solidified himself as one of the most dangerous grapplers in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, using his outstanding wrestling to dominate his opponents and to eventually set up fight-ending submissions.
It’s reminiscent of the way Khabib Nurmagomedov — Islam’s mentor — worked his way up to the top of the Lightweight division with the same methods.
But, as great as Makhachev is when it comes to grappling, Beneil Dariush isn’t sweating his technique one bit. That’s the reason he won’t shy way from grappling with him when the two collide on Feb. 26, 2022, in a pivotal 155-pound showdown.
“I don’t really think too much about Islam – I think about me,” Dariush told RT Sport. (transcribed by MMA Junkie). “What do I do in my fights? I’m a grappler, obviously, so I’m not going to be like, ‘Oh, he’s a grappler – I can’t grapple.’ Of course I’m going to try and grapple.
“I know how to strike, so of course I’m going to use my striking,” he continued. “I’m not a person where I feel like, ‘Oh, I have to do this in order to win the fight.’ I feel comfortable everywhere. So if I want to wrestle, I’ll wrestle. If I want to strike, I’ll strike. If I want to counter, I’ll counter. I can do all things, so I’m not worried about it.”
According to Dariush — himself a great grappler — he’s often compared to Makhachev, revealing that even though they might have some similarities to their arsenals, they are two completely different fighters.
“A lot of people say we mirror each other because we’re both Southpaw. We’re almost the same height – I think he’s a little bit taller than me – and if I don’t get too crazy, I try to be also very methodical. So there’s differently a mirror there.”
Both men are on tremendous win streaks in the stacked 155-pound division, with Makhachev winning nine straight and Dariush seven in a row. That being said, the winner of this fight will likely earn his first-ever shot at winning a UFC title.
Whether it comes before (or after) Justin Gaethje gets another crack at the belt, though, remains to be seen.