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Khabib’s coach, Javier Mendez, explains where Islam Makhachev is better

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UFC 259: Makhachev v Dober Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

It ain’t easy being Islam Makhachev and always being compared to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Khabib dubbed Makhachev his protege and declared he’d be the next man to hold the Lightweight title for an extended period of time. So, now every time Makhachev fights, people want to line up his performance next to Khabib’s. And not just Khabib’s performances at the same point in his UFC career ... Khabib’s final G.O.A.T. contender run where he took the belt and defended it in nearly flawless fashion.

So long story short, Makhachev gets a lot of undue criticism for not living up to Nurmagomedov’s hype. Nevermind the fact that he could probably win the UFC belt if given the chance. Nevermind Makhachev is actually better than Khabib in some areas.

That’s all according to his and Khabib’s coach, Javier Mendez, at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA):

Mendez was on the Real Quick with Mike Swick podcast and broke down the differences (and similarities) between his top two Dagestani fighters.

“What Islam has that Khabib never had as good are throws, judo throws, leg sweeps, leg trips,” he said. “I mean Khabib has them, but not to the level of Islam now. I mean all of a sudden, you’re with Islam, you’re going with it and the next thing you know, you’re flying, you’re literally flying.

“Khabib in reality is actually meaner — he’s mean,” Mendez explained. “Khabib is like this: when he controls you, it’s like his whole body controls you. His legs, his toes, his arms, everything locks on to you. Islam is a slightly different approach, while Khabib, it’s like every part of his body is preventing you and he knows what you’re going to do next and he’s got the counter to your counter. and he’s ahead of you. Khabib leaves an opening, and that opening is to let him right hand smash you in your face.”

“He’s unbelievable how he controls you with his hips, his feet, I’ve never seen an MMA fighter control people like that,” Mendez continued. “Islam is a little smoother in how he does his transitions, but they’re both unbelievable on the ground. And don’t forget, they’re both Sambo champions. Two years in a row or maybe more than that. And the only reason Islam is not more of a champion in Sambo is because he hasn’t competed as many times. But both are unbelievable on the ground.”

“One’s a little bit more explosive, Khabib is the more explosive one. But, the other one [Makhachev] is a little smoother in transitioning. He’s like a boa constrictor, he just locks you down on everything. They both do, but one’s more pronounced with the punching, and that’s Khabib.”

Makhachev will get a chance to add another solid name to his resume en route to gold when he faces Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 267 on Oct. 30, 2021 (details here). As a former UFC champion and top contender, “RDA” will be Makhachev’s toughest challenge to date. How he handles it will go a long way toward determining if the Khabib comparisons are fair or if everyone has just piled too many expectations on a fellow Dagestani fighter.