FirstPick: Ranking Islam Makhachev lower than Jon Jones as P4P best is a mistake

Islam Makhachev proved his status as a P4P best fighter on the planet.

FirstPick: Ranking Islam Makhachev lower than Jon Jones as P4P best is a mistake

Should Jon Jones get the nod over Islam Makhachev as the P4P great? (Source: IMAGO/Instagram)

Islam Makhachev stayed true to his resolve on Saturday at UFC 302 with a hell of a performance. Solidifying his position as the #1 pound-for-pound fighter or standing ground for others who consequently didn’t already have him there. The Dagestani outshone as an all-around Mixed martial artist in all avenues. But for some, he couldn’t outshine the absent G.O.A.T Jon Jones.

The Team Eagles MMA top crop met Dustin Poirier in the feature main event of UFC 302. The lightweights went blow-to-blow in the bid for the undisputed gold, with Makhachev coming out on top. Islam Makhachev summed up a plethora of records with his performance; there was little change in the UFC Official pound-for-pound listings, though, with him maintaining the top position since Q4 of last year.

However, that wasn’t the consensus. UFC CEO Dana White sparked a big counter by saying he respects Makhachev, but Jon Jones remains the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. Here’s a breakdown of why that would be a colossal error in judgment.

P4P debate plusses: Islam Makhachev

The question of who the best fighter on the planet is one of the most widely hot topics in the game. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has had the rankings since 2013. With no proper gospel definition, a good summary is a fighter’s value relative to top crops of different weights. Consequently, Islam Makhachev put himself quite high up in the debate.

Islam Makhachev has a lot more going on than Jon Jones in the active roster
Islam Makhachev has a lot more going on than Jon Jones in the active roster (Source: Instagram/IMAGO)

The 32-year-old, a Combat Sambo expert, has quite a wrestle-heavy attribute, being strong inside the clinch. A 4x Russian Sambo champion and Combat Sambo world titleholder, it’d be weird to expect otherwise. Makhachev favors chaining off singles, burst shots, single limb takedowns, or separation (for armbars). This was very evident at UFC 302 as well.

The Layfette lightweight veteran did have some anti-wrestle strategies up his sleeve, though. Poirier kept the pace up with intense volume shots, close-range connects, and a standup game. He even tactfully split his stances whenever Makhachev opted for his signature lean-ins and single-leg takedowns. But as a P4P top fighter should be, Makhachev adapted to the cause.

Conceive, believe, over-achieve!

In prime essence, a fighter deemed the top P4P should be an all-around expert. White has long advocated for Jones to be the one, hence the counter. Now, so is the 5′ 10″ southpaw out of Russia. He submitted the submissions expert (Arm triangle; R2 – 3:16 mark) Charles Oliveira to win his guard. His thunderous shin kick to the head and subsequent ground-and-pound on one of the best kickboxers came next.

Similar to the G.O.A.T., an all-around Islam Makhachev has beaten rivals in their own games
Similar to the G.O.A.T., an all-around Islam Makhachev has beaten rivals in their own games (Source: Instagram/X)

Notably, Makhachev defeated Alexander Volknaovski twice, once getting the unanimous nod and another time ending it violently. He has proved he can mold to the cause on more than one occasion. More ironic is the fact that he outdid Poirier’s guillotine dreams with one of his own. He finally slid back and rolled into transition with a D’Arce choke at the 2:42 mark of Round 5. These are the very signs that the best in the world can do it all.

P4P debate minuses: A kingdom without a King

Indisputably one of MMA’s all-time greats, “Bones” has been an inactive champion. Flawed logic and whatnot, fans, analysts, and peers are right to consider him the G.O.A.T. However, the upside for Makhachev is that he will likely be active for much longer than Jones. The Team Jackson’s MMA Acoma heavyweight has stalled the state of his division with media antics and profuse barbs on peers. He is also losing supporters due to inactivity.

Unlike Islam Makhachev, Jon Jones is a G.O.A.T. titleholder in absentia
Unlike Islam Makhachev, Jon Jones is a G.O.A.T. titleholder in absentia (Source:

His fight and win over Ciryl Gane is crossing 14 months now. By his own admission, he is stalling the ebb of fights in the division just for one mere maiden defense of his undisputed gold. Granted, it’s a “Jon Jones” maiden defense. But would that mean he’s above the rest? How would his kingly disposition fare when he leaves the kingdom?

Jones is dead set on a legacy battle with Stipe Miocic when the duo return. At the tail end of the performance output, facing each other is quite legacy enough. But the UFC grind is not dependent just on Jones. Once a light-heavyweight phenom, his legacy will be as a 1-fight veteran at heavyweight. The number of combined fights he and Miocic have over the last few years do not even stand up to Islam Makhachev. Considering his P4P worth would be inciting “ghosts of fighters past.

“What have you done for us lately?” 

When the final fight event rolled in on Pay-per-view, ESPN+(10 p.m. ET), the Dagestani shot off on all cylinders this Saturday. He immediately leaned in for a superior clinch, with the opponent having to spend the rest of the opening frame on his back, helpless. It was an all-around Makhachev outboxed consensus best boxer Dustin Poirier for over four rounds.

Jon Jones has been a step behind due to his prolonged inactivity
Jon Jones has been a step behind due to his prolonged inactivity (Source:

Net, he grossed 6-to-1. 26-to-24, 18-15, and 18-11 more significant strikes landed than ‘The Diamond.’ All except for the fourth round, where Poirier found more success in pockets of surefire strikes. He even grazed Islam Makhachev with a deep cut above his brow. Going toe-to-toe with a boxer is a huge matter for a lifelong wrestler; also, the signs of a true pound-for-pound.

MMA has always been an “output” game and a “what’s your feats” stat. Here’s a look at the “Boogeyman” to that end.

Details matter

Currently, at 26-1 MMA and 15-1 UFC, he passed his third bid on undisputed gold and broke some records along with it. He now ties with mentor Khabib NurmagomedovB.J. PennBenson Henderson, and Frankie Edgar for triple-title defenses. On the topic of Khabib, he supplanted his longtime streak. Makhachev’s 14-win UFC streak is now the longest active among fighters on the roster. “Active” is a good takeaway. It lies only behind Kamaru Usman’s 15 and Anderson Silva’s 16 consecutive wins.

Islam Makhachev showed pound-for-pound worth of levels, at UFC 302
Islam Makhachev showed pound-for-pound worth of levels at UFC 302 (Source:

Makhachev became the sixth fighter in UFC history to earn submission wins based on five or more different techniques. Frank Mir, Chris Lytle, Oliveira, Stefan Struve, and Jim Miller also boast the feat. Even in the last, he went through the dynamic range of armbar, Kimura, two more armbar attempts, chokes, and even a guillotine before finally using a D’Arce.

He consequently earned his fifth “Fight-Night” bonus in his past four, breaking the “Jan Blachowicz” curse of losing out a strap after a clash against another champion holding a belt. With the major number of ballot appearances shown and fights won dominantly, it’s no wonder that MMA publication/coverage sites rank him No. 1. MMA is the ultimate number-grinding game. Even Jones isn’t safe from that pitfall.


A big P4P debate negative until now was that Makhachev supposedly had a short haul of ranked opponents in the 155-pound division. Moreover, he couldn’t duck blame for slower rebounds and nitpicking opponents. He is now rightfully the No. 1 P4P, defended his title twice in 2023, went through strike barrages of a thirty-one-fight veteran lightweight, and still came out a champion.

Islam Makhachev can justifiably tread ahead of Jon Jones in P4P rankings
Islam Makhachev can justifiably tread ahead in P4P rankings (Source: IMAGO)

Islam Makhachev also has victories over three opponents who have been present in the UFC’s official pound-for-pound rankings (Poirier, Volkanovski twice and Charles Oliveira). While the metric of P4P is weirdly compound, he has done much inside his 14-win streak. Jon Jones will always remain an all-time favorite, but personally and logically, Makhachev ranks over Jones at present.

Jon JonesIslam Makhachev
Jon JonesIslam Makhachev
Fight statistics (as of writing this)27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC26-1 MMA, 15-1 UFC
Strikes landed per minute4.292.65
Strike accuracy57%59%
Takedown Avg.  – Average Takedowns Landed per 15 minutes1.933.19
Takedown accuracy45%53%
Sub. Avg. – Average Submissions Attempted per 15 minutes0.51.1
Wins since 2020UFC 247: Jones vs. Reyes (Feb. 08, 2020)

UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane ( Mar. 04, 2023); last voting ballot appearance for P4P considerations
UFC 259: Blachowicz vs. Adesanya (Mar. 06, 2021)

UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Moises (Jul. 17, 2021)

UFC 267: Blachowicz vs. Teixeira (Oct. 30, 2021)

UFC Fight Night: Makhachev vs. Green (Feb. 26, 2022)

UFC 280: Oliveira vs. Makhachev (Oct. 22, 2022)

UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski (Feb. 11, 2023)

UFC 294: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2 (Oct. 21, 2023)

UFC 302: Makhachev vs. Poirier (Jun. 01, 2024)

Per (UFC Record Book), Islam Makhachev is No. 2 in top win streaks and No. 8 in most submission wins. Jon Jones is No. 1 in most Title Fight Wins

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