The UFC is set to deliver an electrifying night of mixed martial arts action this weekend, as the lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, faces an unexpected challenger in the form of featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. This epic rematch will take place at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi and is one of the most anticipated fights in recent memory. Volkanovski steps in on just 11 days’ notice after the original opponent, Charles Oliveira, suffered an eyebrow cut during training. This sudden turn of events sets the stage for a thrilling showdown between two champions in what is perhaps one of the most exciting rivalries in UFC history.
Islam Makhachev (31) has been on an impressive 12-fight win streak, making him the longest active streak holder in the UFC. The Russian fighter’s dominance in the lightweight division has solidified his status as one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters. Originally, he was scheduled to defend his title against Brazilian superstar Charles Oliveira. However, Oliveira’s unfortunate injury created an opportunity for a new contender, Alexander Volkanovski.
Volkanovski, the reigning UFC featherweight champion, has been chasing the dream of becoming a two-division champion. The 35-year-old Aussie faced Makhachev in February at UFC 284, where he came agonizingly close to securing a victory, only to lose via unanimous decision. Volkanovski was keen on a rematch ever since, and he’s got his wish, albeit on extremely short notice.
How They Match Up
Makhachev and Volkanovski are two world-class fighters with different strengths and unique styles. Here’s how they compare in key areas:
Striking: Volkanovski’s striking skills have elevated him to the pinnacle of the featherweight division. He is known for his technical striking and impressive output, landing 6.25 significant strikes per minute, nearly three times more than Makhachev’s 2.35. While Makhachev is no slouch on his feet himself, it’s hard not to give Volkanovski a slight edge in the striking department.
Grappling and submissions: Makhachev holds an advantage in grappling and submission skills. He has won 11 fights via submission, compared to Volkanovski’s three. Makhachev is also more active in seeking submissions, attempting an average of 1.1 per 15 minutes compared to Volkanovski’s 0.2. However, it’s worth noting that Volkanovski boasts impeccable submission defense, having never been submitted in his 28 fights.
Wrestling: Both fighters are excellent wrestlers, but Makhachev displayed his wrestling prowess in their first encounter. He completed four takedowns over five rounds, amassing over seven minutes of control time on the canvas. Volkanovski’s wrestling is formidable, but Makhachev’s takedowns and defensive skills give him a slight edge in this category.
Although both fighters have had a similar amount of fights in their MMA careers, Volkanovski has faced significantly more high-profile fighters. His resume includes wins over José Aldo, Brian Ortega, Chad Mendes, and Max Holloway (three times!). During his illustrious career, he has amassed 26 wins and only two losses compared to Makhachev’s 24-1-0 record.
Short-Notice Circumstances for Volkanovski: The short-notice nature of this fight poses a significant challenge for Alexander Volkanovski. While he may not have been in a fight camp, he was undoubtedly training. However, with limited time to prepare for Makhachev, he faces a steep uphill climb to develop a game plan that can secure him victory.
A Change in Focus for Makhachev: On the other side, Makhachev was gearing up for a completely different opponent, Charles Oliveira. The abrupt switch to face Volkanovski presents its own set of challenges. Makhachev must shift his game plan and mindset from a grappling-based Oliveira to a striking-oriented Volkanovski in a short time frame.
This fight is incredibly difficult to predict due to the short-notice circumstances and the unpredictability it brings. If both fighters had a full camp to prepare, Volkanovski might have a slight edge, given their closely contested first fight. However, under the current circumstances, it’s hard to bet against Makhachev, who won their first encounter. His extra advantages, combined with wrestling and submission skills, could prove invaluable, possibly leading to another close victory.
This rematch is a high-stakes affair. If Volkanovski secures a win, he will become a simultaneous two-division champion, a feat that has only been earned by four fighters in UFC history – Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, and Henry Cejudo. However, if he loses, it might be a long time before he gets another title shot, especially considering the competitive nature of the lightweight division. For Makhachev, a win would solidify his status as a dominant lightweight champion and provide redemption in a rivalry that has been brewing since their first encounter.
What are the odds?
The UFC 294 main event between Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev is a clash of champions, a rematch that has been eagerly awaited by fans worldwide. The short-notice circumstances add an element of unpredictability to the fight, making it even more intriguing. Despite Volkanovski’s status and legacy, Makhachev is an overwhelming favorite going into the bout. OlyBet sportsbook has rated his success at 1.36, while Volkanovski has to settle with the odds of 3.25.
Both fighters have much to gain and lose in this high-stakes showdown. Whether it’s Volkanovski’s redemption or Makhachev’s continued dominance, the outcome of this battle will have a lasting impact on the UFC and the entire MMA world. Don’t miss the fight show, as this time it will take place at Baltics-friendly time on October 21st from 21:00.