Confident … or cocky?
Newly-crowned lightweight champion Islam Makhachev had an opportunity to cross paths with reigning featherweight titleholder Alex Volkanovski before and after the UFC 280 pay-per-view (PPV) event last month in Abu Dhabi.
The scouting report? “He’s a short guy.”
That’s why Makhachev and his head coach, former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, are preparing for victory when the promotion books the Makhachev-Volkanovski “champ-champ” fight for the UFC 284 PPV card in Perth.
A tactical mistake, according to neighboring New Zealander Dan Hooker.
“For Islam to turn around very quickly and to call out Alexander Volkanovski, who I feel like they’re doing it because obviously it’s a chance at the number one pound-for-pound, but I feel they’re kind of looking down and being like, oh man, we’ll go snatch up this featherweight real quick,” Hooker told Submission Radio. “But they’re really in for a whole lot of trouble. That’s an incredibly difficult man to hold on the ground. Like, he keeps saying he’s short and stuff like that, but holding him on the ground, holding a guy that’s that stocky on the ground is incredibly difficult. So, I feel like he’s in for an incredibly tough test in Alex Volkanovski in Perth.”
UFC is expected to make the fight official in the coming weeks.
The bout would be contested at 155 pounds, which means Makhachev assumes all of the risk. He’s expected to defeat the smaller opponent regardless of skill set (see this recent example) but a loss would be catastrophic for his legacy.
Especially considering it’s just a few weeks old.
“Volkanovski can box, he have amazing experience,” Nurmagomedov said. “How many time he defend his title, everything? But brother, this is like … Thai clinch gonna kill him. Even if he know this, let him prepare this. How many month, five month, six month? This guy [Islam] doing this 20 years. Let him prepare this: clinch, wrestling, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman, grappling, Thai clinch, left hand.”
UFC 284 is set for Feb. 12, 2023 at RAC Arena in Perth.