There’s a lot on the line in the forthcoming Lightweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev. Scheduled for UFC 284 on Sat. Feb. 12, 2023 in Perth Australia, it’s the first super fight between champions since Israel Adesanya attempted to claim Jan Blachowicz’s title in March 2021.
Both men are riding huge win streaks into this match up. Volkanovski has largely cleared out the Featherweight division, winning 11 fights in a row to remain undefeated inside the Octagon. Four of those victories were title defenses, and he’s most notably turned away divisional great Max Holloway three times now.
Conversely, Makhachev captured his belt last time out, but that dominant victory over Charles Oliveira also made it 11 in a row for the Sambo ace. On the whole, Makhachev has hardly struggled or lost a round in his run to gold — he barely gets hit.
Due to his recent dominance, Makhachev is widely viewed as a major favorite. He’s the bigger man, and his masterful wrestling seems likely to limit many of Volkanovski’s greatest assets. Despite those problems, UFC Lightweight contender Michael Chandler is optimistic about the Australian’s ability to match his foe’s strength.
“I’m a huge Volkanovski fan,” Chandler told MMA Junkie. “He’s very, very good. Is he gonna be smaller than Islam? Yes, very much so. I do think Volkanovski is gonna do better than we all think he does. He used to weigh 210 pounds, 220 pounds, whatever he was when he was playing rugby. Your body remembers that.
“You carry that strength with you. You carry that power with you. You carry just the hip strength of Islam not being able to take him down. The one thing I see is that Volkanovski is a little bit shorter, so that leverage game of if Islam gets up underneath him, puts his head underneath his chin, he’s gonna be able to lift him off the ground pretty easy.”
Despite those concerns about the wrestling match up, Chandler does see Volkanovski as the clearly better kickboxer. All in all, Chandler is backing the Featherweight king to score the upset and pick up a second title.
“In the striking department, Volkanovski is better than him,” Chandler added. “I think in the speed and the power department, Volkanovski is better than him. So, anything outside of Islam going out there and taking him down in the first minute of each round and holding him down, I think Volkanovski might actually squeak out a decision. Most likely not a finish but a decision.”
We’ll find out one way or another in February.