Islam Makhachev needs a ranked opponent next, and other thoughts

UFC lightweight Islam Makhachev, at 17-1, is in line for a ranked opponent in his next matchup. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

It's Monday, time for another edition of Ariel Helwani's MMA Show, which airs live starting at 1 p.m. ET on Twitter and YouTube. Following the show, the entirety can be heard via the ESPN podcast center.


The UFC went to Russia this past weekend for just the second time in the promotion's history. Alistair Overeem scored the 23rd KO/TKO of his career when he finished Aleksei Oleinik in the first round of the main event. Veteran Roxanne Modafferi beat Antonina Shevchenko via split decision in a hard-fought affair. And Islam Makhachev continued to impress, earning his fifth consecutive win. Those were the main highlights.

This Saturday, former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jacare Souza meets late-replacement Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Sunrise, Florida. The card also includes Greg Hardy, the always-entertaining Mike Perry, hard-hitting Brazilian bantamweight John Lineker versus rising star Cory Sandhagen and former champions Carla Esparza and Andrei Arlovski, among others.

Bellator also has a pretty big show in San Jose, California, featuring two title fights. As for the Helwani Show, we have another jam-packed episode for you later on Monday. But in the meantime, here's a few things on my mind coming off the weekend:

1. Makhachev needs to fight a ranked opponent next. I don't really care who it is, but it's time. I want to know how really good Makhachev is.

2. Every time I think Overeem is winding down, he goes on a run like this. Good on ya, Reem. Sign me up for that Alexander Volkov fight again, depending on when Volkov is ready to return. There has been conflicting info out there as to why he had to withdraw from the fight. Here's hoping his "health issues" aren't too serious.

3. Modafferi is what is right about MMA. I'm thrilled to see one of women's MMA's true pioneers finally thrive in the UFC.

4. Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Ben Nguyen this weekend at Rizin 15 for his 12th straight win. The plan is for him to now rematch Darrion Caldwell at Madison Square Garden on June 14. Though the fight isn't signed, it has been verbally agreed to, according to sources. It's really fun matchmaking. If only other promoters could get along the way Scott Coker and Nobuyuki Sakakibara do.

5. Speaking of MSG, the UFC might be back there sooner than the usual November show. Stay tuned.

6. I was skeptical at first, but I'm starting to get the feeling that the road to Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier won't be as rocky as I initially thought. That's all thanks to Nurmagomedov, who will come off as an even bigger star if and when that fight happens in Abu Dhabi.

7. Conor McGregor competing in an exhibition boxing match at his old boxing club warms my heart. Is this sign of good things to come and a return to (somewhat) normalcy for the Irishman? I hope so.

8. Mike Perry fights this weekend. That's always fun.

9. I think Ilima-Lei MacFarlane is one of Bellator's best representatives. As long as she keeps on fighting, which she does this weekend, and keeps on winning, Coker will push her to the moon.

10. I'm surprised John Gotti III hasn't signed with a major MMA promotion yet.

11. Good on Bellator for not being afraid to sign Leslie Smith, considering her strong stance on unionization.

12. UFC should listen to Israel Adesanya and not rush him back so soon versus Robert Whittaker. I believe they will, too.

13. I don't care how many people were in the field, the fact that CM Punk is still actively competing in martial arts tournaments is all you need to know about the man. He was never in this for the fame or the money, and I hope he has finally proved that.

14. I was in Canada this weekend, and I missed ESPN+ (which isn't currently available in Canada). It's really convenient.

15. Muhammed Lawal said after his loss at Rizin that this is his last year fighting. This makes me sad. Lawal is one of the great characters in the sport's history. My postfight interview with him after he beat Gegard Mousasi in 2010 to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in Nashville, Tennessee, remains one of my favorites. Look it up on YouTube. He couldn't walk after the fight so we had to do the interview in his locker room while he laid down on some mats, crying. I can't help but wonder what his career might have been like had he not suffered so many injuries and setbacks.

16. Big-time MMA is back in Sunrise, Florida, this weekend. First time I covered an event there was Oct. 4, 2008, the night Kimbo Slice lost to Seth Petruzelli in one of the more bizarre nights in MMA history. Sure, EliteXC was a mess at times, but they were really fun to cover. I particularly miss $kala.


Today's lineup + times

1 p.m. - Alistair Overeem

Overeem will talk about his win over Oleynik in Russia this past weekend and what's next for him.

1:15 - Paulo Costa

Borrachinha will fill listeners in on who the rising middleweight contender wants next.

1:30 - Chris Weidman

I'll talk to Chris about his recent neck surgery and his road back to the Octagon.

1:50 - Deron Winn

Winn will preview his UFC debut on June 22 in Greenville, South Carolina.

2:05 - Dustin Poirier

What has life been like for Poirier since winning the UFC's interim lightweight title? We'll also get a status update on his bid to unify the belt with Nurmagomedov in September.

2:25 - Jon Fitch

I'll discuss with Fitch his Bellator welterweight title fight this weekend against champion Rory MacDonald.

2:45 - Colby Covington

What's the latest on a UFC welterweight title fight with Kamaru Usman? Covington fills us in.

3:05 - Jorge Masvidal

Masvidal will help preview his upcoming fight with fellow UFC welterweight contender Ben Askren at UFC 239 on July 6.

3:25 - Paddy Holohan

The former UFC fighter will describe why he chose to retire from MMA, and what life will look like after fighting.

3:45 - Ross Pearson

Pearson, who won Season 9 of "The Ultimate Fighter," also chose to retire in April. He'll discuss that decision and what's next for him.