Bo Nickal gives less-than-glowing review of Islam Makhachev’s wrestling ahead of UFC 302

Bo Nickal gives less-than-glowing review of Islam Makhachev’s wrestling ahead of UFC 302

UFC middleweight star Bo Nickal doesn’t put Islam Makhachev’s wrestling in high esteem ahead of the lightweight champ’s return.

Bo Nickal, Islam Makhachev

Makhachev will face Dustin Poirier in the UFC 302 main event on Saturday in Newark. He returns to defend the UFC lightweight title after back-to-back wins over Alexander Volkanovski in 2023.

Makhachev, a top protégé of UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov, is known to have smothering wrestling and ground-and-pound. His striking has also vastly improved during his professional career.

Nickal, a former NCAA Division I wrestling national champion, is an encyclopedia of knowledge in the craft. While he respects Makhachev’s skillset, he doesn’t put Makhachev’s wrestling up with the top wrestlers in the UFC.

Former NCAA champ Bo Nickal on Islam Makhachev’s wrestling

During a recent episode of the Nickals and Dimes podcast, Nickal was asked how he’d rate Makhachev’s wrestling compared to some of the other top UFC names.

“It’s alright, I honestly haven’t watched a ton of film on him, I’ve watched some, and his wrestling is not like Khabib [Nurmagomedov]’s,” Nickal said of Makhachev. “Khabib has much better wrestling in my opinion overall, but he’s got tricky, sneaky stuff…

“I think his striking is maybe a little better than Khabib’s, a little sharper…it’s okay. It’s better than average. It’s not like world-class wrestling, but it’s good.”

Nickal has been brutally honest with his assessments of some of the top fighters in the UFC. He’s downplayed Khamzat Chimaev’s wrestling repeatedly ahead of a potential middleweight clash down the line.

Makhachev is looking to win his 14th consecutive fight and his third successful title defense. He earned the then-vacant belt by tapping out Charles Oliveira at UFC 280.

Makhachev has the chance to silence Nickal and some of his other detractors this weekend. While Nickal respects the lightweight champion’s skills, he doesn’t consider Makhachev’s wrestling to be elite.

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