It simply doesn’t get bigger than this… The UFC continues the start of the year with another impressive and promising fight show. This time, all the action will take place in Perth, Australia, with the UFC 284 event, which promises to pamper us with Oceanic talents and intriguing matchups.
What makes this one so exciting, you might ask? It’s the headline fight of the event, which will pit the two best current pound-for-pound fighters of the entire UFC against one another. It’s the featherweight champion and the top-ranked fighter Alexander Volkanovski (25-1-0), who will host Islam Makhachev (23-1-0), the lightweight champion, in his homeland.
This champion vs champion clash will take place in the lightweight division as Volkanovski is moving up a weight class with the goal of becoming a two-division UFC champion. This means that Makhachev, as the lightweight champion, is the one with the belt on the line. However, by claiming a win, he will replace his adversary as the UFC pound-for-pound king. The stakes are high for both fighters, but the prize couldn’t be more tempting.
The speedy Aussie earned a contract with the UFC late in 2016. Prior to that, he participated in Australian and Asian MMA promotions, where he registered 13 wins and his only career defeat to this day. He kicked off his UFC reign with a bang, delivering seven consecutive victories, some against such household names as Chad Mendes and former champion Jose Aldo. This impressive run led to Volkanovski earning the right to challenge Max Holloway for the UFC Featherweight division title in December 2019. After five action-packed rounds, Volkanovski realized his dream of becoming a world champion via unanimous decision by judges.
Soon enough, seven months later, the newly crowned champ made his first title defense in a rematch against Holloway, in an even closer fight than the first one, winning by a split decision. Two years later, after two more title defenses (against Brian Ortega and Jung Chan-sung), it was time for a trilogy fight with Holloway. This time around, the champ masterfully controlled all five rounds and won unanimously, erasing any doubt as to who’s the best of the two and cementing his status as the division’s undisputed king.
The Russian entered UFC in 2014 with a spotless 11-0 record, accumulated across MMA competitions in his homeland. After celebrating a win in his UFC debut, he suffered his first career loss at the hands of Brazilian Adriano Martins in a controversial yet brutal first-round knockout.
After his so-far only career upset, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successor went on a rampage, finishing off anyone that crossed his path. As of early 2022, Makhachev managed to pick up ten successive triumphs, earning him a title shot against Charles Oliveira, a former champion, who got stripped of the belt after missing weight in his previous bout last October. The Brazilian, who still holds the record for most wins by submission (16) and most finishes (19) in the UFC, was unquestionably Makhachev’s greatest challenge to date. Despite these impressive stats, Makhachev dominated his opponent, finishing him with an arm-triangle choke in the second round, thus securing the Lightweight division title.
Experience and style
Makhachev competes in a higher-weight division, so obviously, the Russian fighter is the visibly bigger fighter, standing full 10 centimeters taller than Volkanovski. However, the Australian is no stranger to going against a taller opposition. And not only in the MMA. Before his fighting career, the 34-year-old played rugby at a semi-pro level as a forward, a position devoted to far larger players. Yet he beat the odds, excelling among the taller oppositions, and was even described as one of the best.
Both fighters also share an evidently contrasting fighting style. While Volkanovski is a striker, with nearly half of his victories coming by TKO or KO, Makhachev is a well-renowned grappler, finishing off almost half of his opponents inside the Octagon by different methods of submission. Here again, some might write Volkanovski off, but let’s not forget he has been showcasing one of the best-ever takedown defenses in UFC, having escaped seemingly impossible situations throughout the years.
As far as durability goes, even though both have a similar amount of fights, Volkanovski has recorded an average fight time of 16:50 during his career compared to Makhachev’s 9:06. The Australian certainly packs a more significant experience in title fights, having successfully defended his belt three consecutive times and facing a handful of experienced and highly ranked fighters. In contrast, Makhachev’s only truly remarkable opponent has been Charles Oliveira for the champion title. However, we all know how that fight ended.
What are the odds?
The bookmakers have the Russian fighter as an overwhelming favorite ahead of the bout. OlyBet sportsbook offers the odds of 1.26 for Makhachev, while Volkanovski stands at 4.00. Does that bother the currently highest-ranked fighter in the UFC? Certainly not. “People will keep doubting me, and that’s fine. I love being the underdog. I’ve made a career of it. They can keep doubting me, and I’ll keep proving them wrong. I’ll keep proving myself every time I step in the cage”, the Australian has stated.
The Russian seems as confident as ever, but again – it might prove costly to him going against the tough and slightly more technical Volkanovski, who is still undefeated in his UFC era and boasts one of the best-rounded skill sets in the association. At the end of the day, we are guaranteed to be pampered with an epic showdown that will determine the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. This is anybody’s fight.