Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski will battle for the Lightweight crown TONIGHT (Sat., Feb. 11, 2023) at UFC 284 inside RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.
Makhachev lived up to Father’s plan. Following in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s footsteps, Makhachev methodically worked up the Lightweight ladder and then stomped Charles Oliveira (watch it), proving all doubters wrong in one of the most dominant challenger-turned-champion performances in recent memory. As a result, he’s technically the new champion, but he’s more than established at the top because of his current 11-fight win streak. Volkanovski won seven bouts before his own title win, a mantle he’s defended four more times since. He’s clearly asserted himself as the best 145-pounder in the world, also claiming the top spot on the pound-for-pound list in the process. As a result of his dominance, he created this opening for a foray up to Lightweight as the rest of the division tries to catch up.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Charles Oliveira (UFC 280), Arman Tsarukyan (UFC Fight Night 149), Dan Hooker (UFC 267), Bobby Green (UFC Vegas 49), Drew Dober (UFC 259), Thiago Moises (UFC Vegas 31), Gleison Tibau (UFC 220)
Key Losses: Adriano Martins (UFC 192)
Keys to Victory: A Combat Sambo master, Makhachev makes use of Southpaw fundamentals on the feet only long enough to gain the clinch. Once he’s chaining takedowns from the clinch and gaining top position, there’s no one better.
Makhachev’s end game here is obviously to score the takedown, let’s not pretend otherwise. Still, he’s the bigger man and doesn’t want to waste energy forcing takedowns. It behooves him to strike enough to earn Volkanovski’s respect, just as he did against Oliveira. Against the shorter man, he doesn’t need more than a hard left kick and crisp cross to be a real threat.
Countering Volkanovski’s kicks seems like a wise move. The Australian is a genuinely great kicker, and that’s likely his best tool to mitigate Makhachev’s reach edge. If, however, Makhachev cracks him with a couple lefts or, better yet, times a caught kick with a double leg, that will really make the Australian think twice.
Once on top, the focus should be on control. Volkanovski is going to try to scramble like hell, and Makhachev’s goal should be to ensure that the Featherweight “Great” is wasting energy without improving position.
Key Wins: Max Holloway (UFC 276, UFC 251, UFC 245), Brian Ortega (UFC 266), Jose Aldo (UFC 237), Chad Mendes (UFC 232), Chan Sung Jung (UFC 273)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Volkanovski might be the most well-rounded fighter on the roster. He’s not historically much of a submission fighter, admittedly, but Volkanovski’s ability to fight masterfully from his back foot, pressure fighters, and wrestle his ass off certainly puts him in the conversation.
He can do it all.
“The Great” has to mix it up here. That’s not to say he should be offensively wrestling or pursuing the clinch on his own, but Volkanovski cannot win this match solely by fighting on the counter. He’ll get herded into the fence eventually, and while I won’t call that a death sentence, it’s a big freaking problem.
Volkanovski has to back Makhachev up too. He cannot be tentative in exchanges; Volkanovksi has to be attacking while leading, in the pocket, and while avoiding the clinch. Hell, when Makhachev does manage to clinch up, Volkanovski needs to be framing and elbowing.
Damage adds up. If Volkanovski is constantly hitting and scrambling relentlessly, he stands a real chance at upsetting the Lightweight king.
For the first time in UFC history, the top two pound-for-pound fighters will collide.
Makhachev’s first title defense is a doozy. Size advantage or no, Volkanovski hasn’t lost in a decade. He’s riding one of the best win streaks in UFC history. Ending that run means something, and while there are still major challenges left at 155 lbs., it goes a long way in proving Makhachev’s greatness and confirming his grip on the division.
Conversely, this is Volkanovski’s chance to break into the ranks of the all-time greats. If the Aussie achieves double champ status by taking out Makhachev, his resume really jumps from outstanding to simply legendary. It would be a wild accomplishment, the type that has very rarely come to fruition in our sport’s short history.
At UFC 284, Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski will go to war in the main event. Which champion reigns supreme in this super fight?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 284 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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