Islam Makhachev crowned new UFC lightweight champion at UFC 280
UFC 280 live from Abu Dhabi was a star-studded card for the ages that featured two championship fights. The main event was a self-fulfilled prophecy for new champ Islam Makhachev. Makhachev made quick work of former champ Charles Oliveira to claim the vacant lightweight crown on Saturday night. The win completed an incredible journey for the pupil of UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov, who many consider the GOAT, predicted this moment would happen before anyone. During his last fight in the UFC, he entered the press conference laying his belt on the table passing the torch to Makhachev by saying “future champ.”
Two years later Makhachev proved Nurmagomedov’s prediction to be accurate. "I'm already waiting when he retired," a smiling Makhachev said, admiring his title. "I want to fight for this belt. This is my dream." Makhachev had a tough task in front of him facing Charles Olivera who has the most submission wins in UFC lightweight history. Makhachev took the former champion down in Round 1 before dropping him in Round 2 and securing an arm-triangle choke. After the win, featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski was called into the ring to make the push for a champ vs. champ fight in Volkanovski's backyard of Australia in February.
In the other title fight on the night, Aljamain Sterling took advantage of a hurt TJ Dillashaw to score the TKO victory and retain his title. Dillashaw told reporters after the fight that he blew out his shoulder in April and it continued to be an issue throughout training camp. The injury again came up in Round 1 when it appeared that Dillashaw's shoulder popped out before his corner was able to get it back into place. The next opponent for Sterling could very well be Sean “Suga” O”Malley who won a controversial decision on this card as well.
“The Suga Show” pulled out a gritty and bloody split decision over Petr Yan, the former champion in a Fight of the Night type of battle. Skeptics felt that Yan was victorious. However, judges had it 29-28 for O’Malley and 29-28 for Yan. O’Malley did the most damage with his striking and cut Yan open in the wild back-and-forth third with a knee. Yan landed several good strikes and hurt and dropped O’Malley in the second round. O’Malley had dropped him earlier in that sequence. O’Malley was ranked the #11 bantamweight in the world before this fight will very likely be the next contender for Sterling’s belt.
UFC 280 is officially in the books, and it was a card that will have more long-term results than short. From this card we will get Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski in a winner take all match. Also, this card paves the way for an Aljamain Sterling vs Sean O’Malley a bout which puts two of UFC’s most exciting young stars against each other.