Watch Islam Makhachev's UFC debut ahead of his next title defense (Video)

Islam Makhachev faced Leo Kuntz, on May 23, 2015 for his UFC debut.
May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Islam Makhachev weighs in for his lightweight bout against Leo Kuntz (not pictured) at MGM Grand Ballroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Islam Makhachev weighs in for his lightweight bout against Leo Kuntz (not pictured) at MGM Grand Ballroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

This article is a part of a new series by FanSided MMA honoring milestones and memories from the past. Watch for a new flashback feature every Thursday.

Long before he became he became the king of the UFC's lightweight division, Islam Makhachev arrived in the promotion with a ton of hype. He was part of a group of fighters from Dagestan trained by the legendary Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov bringing their fighting style rooted in combat sambo to the world stage under the UFC banner.

Makhachev grew up in the gym with Nurmagomedov and his son Khabib. The younger Nurmagomedov is considered by many to be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, finishing his career at 29-0. Before either fighter arrived in the UFC, Abdulmanap envisioned Khabib becoming the champion and then Makhachev earning the belt after his son retired from the sport. This came to be known as "Father's Plan."

Makhachev made his UFC debut on May 23, 2015, against Leo Kuntz at UFC 187. Khabib was supposed to fight Donald Cerrone on that card but had to withdraw from the fight due to an injury. Instead, he and his father would corner Makhachev for his fight.

In what has become a trend in Makhachev's fights he was able to get Kuntz to the mat with a trip in the first two minutes of the opening round. It looked effortless. When the fight returned to the feet, Makhachev showcased great striking from the clinch using short uppercuts and elbows to batter his opponent. Makhachev was able to secure another takedown in the final minute of the round and the clock ran out with him controlling Kuntz from behind and unloading punches.

Makhachev picked up where he left off to start round 2. He used a picture-perfect check hook whenever Kuntz would try to close the distance. About a minute in to the round Makhachev was able to initiate a clinch before spinning around to the back of Kuntz and flattening him out. From there the finish was just a matter of formality.

Watch Islam Makhachev's UFC debut

#OnThisDay in 2015, Islam Makhachev made his UFC debut at UFC 187 🗓 [ Watch the full fight now on UFC Fight Pass ]

Posted by UFC on Monday, May 23, 2022

Makhachev cycled back and forth between punches and threatening with a rear naked choke. Eventually Makhachev was able to slip his arm under the chin of Kuntz and secure the choke. Kuntz tapped at the 2:38 mark of round 2.

Makhachev's UFC debut gave the world a glimpse of the fighter that he would become, but he was far from the champion he is today. He appeared tentative at times in the Octagon and his corner repeatedly stressed that he needed to relax in between rounds. Now known for his humorous interviews, Makhachev had to have Khabib translate for him during his post-fight interview.

Following his debut victory, Makhachev would lose via stunning knockout to Adriano Martins. He has not lost since, amassing a 13 fight win streak including a record tying 12 in the lightweight division, one of the toughest in the UFC.

With a win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 302 on June 1, Makhachev would hold the longest win streak in UFC lightweight history and he would secure third defense of his UFC title. The discussion then becomes whether Makhachev or Khabib is the greatest lightweight in the history of mixed martial arts. You have to wonder if that was all part of "Father's Plan" too.


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