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Islam Makhachev rooting for Beneil Dariush to beat Charles Oliveira, vows to dazzle fans with elite striking

Reigning UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is fresh off his first (but perhaps not his last) title defense against current 145-pound titleholder Alexander Volkanovski, spoiling the “champ champ” dreams of “The Great” featherweight kingpin.

Up next?

That could depend on what happens between No. 4-ranked lightweight contender Beneil Dariush and former 155-pound champion Charles Oliveira, who collide on the recently-announced UFC 288 pay-per-view (PPV) card on May 6 in Newark.

“I hope Beneil wins, because I already beat Oliveira, and I need some new challenge,” Makhachev told BT Sport (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “Dariush is going to be a good fight, because this guy has good skills – striking skills, wrestling skills, and grappling skills. That’s why it’s gonna be a good fight. Oliveira, if he wants a rematch, if he shows a good performance, maybe he’s going to be next. I don’t know.”

One of these two fighters may have something to say about that.

“I could have been UFC champion a couple of years ago,” Makhachev continued. “All fighters from Top 10, they avoid me for many years, but I have all the skills. I told everybody I can strike with anyone. Many people say Volkanovski is the best striker in the UFC, but I beat him in his game. I always like to finish my opponents, but I’m going to strike more for sure, because I can strike with anyone and fans love this.”

Anyone but Adriano Martins.

Makhachev (24-1) captured the crown by submitting Oliveira at UFC 280 last Oct. in Abu Dhabi and is widely-regarded as one of the division’s most punishing wrestlers, following in the footsteps of his longtime friend and mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

A jump to welterweight is expected at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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