Former Strikeforce lightweight champion Josh Thomson has recently gone on record stating the differences between former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and No. 11 ranked UFC lightweight contender Islam Makhachev.
Thomson, teammate of both men, has gone as far to say that they aren’t anything alike, which may come as a surprise to some. Many of us had thought they were just about the same fighter.
Well, any of us that believed that are, and were wrong.
This all stemmed from a question he and John McCarthy were asked on episode No. 130 of the Weighing In Podcast.
“There is no similarities, I don’t know who told people they were similar, they’re not similar at all.
“Stylistically they’re way different, I’ve said that for the last month or so. Islam is more of a foot sweep, hip toss, you know, don’t get me wrong, he can shoot doubles and then singles and stuff, but he’s not that.
“He’s the guy that’ll snatch your single, lift and elevate, because he’s tall, he’s about 5’11”. For the weight class, that’s ‘pretty tall for 155 pounders.
“But he is physically strong and we saw that in his last fight (against Drew Dober). Once he gets into the clinch, he’s looking to foot sweep you, inside trip you, which we saw, I mean, he’ll hip toss you, he’s all finesse.
“Don’t get me wrong, Khabib is finesse as well, and people don’t realize the transitions that he does. But his is more of the double leg to the single leg, back to the double, the lift, the slam, the control, the lace the legs…
“Islam is all those things as well, but he chooses to make it a little bit easier for himself because he’s so good in the foot sweeps. He’ll pull you out, he’ll bounce you off the fence, (then) foot sweep you, inside trip you. He’ll, you know, lift you a little bit with the hip, put the leg between your legs, then he’ll pick that back or inside trip you.
“He’ll just find ways to take you down. But it’s more effortless in terms of, he’s using your momentum and your movement against you. When you think you can step, he foot sweeps you from that position.
“There’s little things that he does to help set it up also. When he takes you down or when he goes to foot sweep you, when he goes to inside trip you, when he goes to hip toss you, he actually locks your glove down underneath his armpit.
“So he waits, he slides, he goes overhook, and he grabs around the elbow, and he slides it all the way down until he gets to your glove and then he locks it in. So your glove is stuck in his armpit, and that’s how he hip tosses you.
“So then he controls the elbow, he goes head and he lifts a little bit, and then you’re taken down and have nothing to post (up) on. They do a lot of little great sneaky things. They’re just both, they’re completely different.
“On the stand up, Khabib is really good with his, he kind of like dips down to get the takedown, but he doesn’t do it. He comes up with a hooking left, comes in with a right hand, then drops in on the legs. Or he goes overhand right hand, left hook, right to the body, or overhand right right into the takedown.
“He (Khabib) has what works for him, but he knows what is best for him. (Which) is getting to the double leg, or getting to the single, then the double and runs it.
“Islam is finesse in terms of on the feet. You guys haven’t seen how good he is. He’s very good, he’s very composed. I get concerned though that he can get complacent in terms of we’re used to sparring with 16 oz gloves.
“Now, they do a lot of small glove sparring, which helps a lot for them, but you’ve got to be careful how much damage you take like that; cuts, you know, black eyes, all those things, sometimes broken noses, fat lips. You know, all those things happen with small glove sparring.
“But they work very well together. Islam to me on the feet, he’s got a sneaky fast head kick from that rear leg, because he’s a southpaw. What he’s really good at is he throws the straight left, then he rips the body very well. He got a little bit of that from (Luke) Rockhold as well.
“So he’s got some good stuff in there, he’s calm and composed, he just doesn’t throw a whole lot with speed and power, it’s more of set combinations that he’s comfortable throwing. And that may get him in trouble with someone who’s very fast and explosive on the feet.
“Other than that they’re nothing alike. I mean they are not, they’re completely different fighters. The fact that they just train together is really what makes them alike, but they’re not alike at all.”
This was incredibly interesting to hear, especially considering how similar most of us believed Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev to be.
Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, Khabib’s late father, was the lifelong coach for both talents, and that’s where a lot of these similar traits come from. However, the former Strikeforce lightweight champion is right, they’re completely different fighters.
They both have incredible wrestling, and overall grappling in general really, and they both have stellar top control.
Other than that, they are quite different. There’s everything Josh Thomson said, and considering we’ve never trained with either of them, it was great hearing that technical side of differences he listed.
There are however a couple of things he didn’t mention. Nurmagomedov is more of a boxer on the feet that’ll throw occasional flying knees, while Makhachev is more of a distance kickboxer.
The only other thing he didn’t really touch on, is that Nurmagomedov has the most vicious ground-and-pound in this sports history, and when Makhachev gets his opponents down, he’s using all his leverage possible to keep them down and eventually submit them.
Makhachev doesn’t reign down punishment from the top like his world champion coach. Instead, he uses patience and technique to wear his opponents out, and former champ-champ Daniel Cormier, who’s also their teammate, said Makhachev is better than Nurmagomedov in straight wrestling.
That really speaks volumes to this kids potential.
Have any of these differences, or the lack of similarities come as a surprise to you?
We at MyMMANews have also done our own similarity breakdown between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Khamzat Chimaev, an article you can find right here.
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.