Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, has a tough first title defense ahead of him.
Makhachev heads down under on Feb. 11, 2023, to main event UFC 284 in Perth, Australia, defending his crown against UFC Featherweight kingpin, Alexander Volkanovski. To set up the champion versus champion tilt, Makhachev had to get through his stiffest test to date, former titlist, Charles Oliveira, at UFC 280. The Dagestan native faced little resistance against Oliveira, submitting him in round two with an arm triangle choke (watch highlights).
Along with Makhachev every step of the way has been his former training partner turned coach, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who expected a tough test in Oliveira. “The Eagle” expects Volkanovski to provide an even sturdier challenge.
“I told Islam like even before last fight with Charles Oliveira, I told him, ‘Volkanovski is gonna be tougher than Charles Oliveira,’” Nurmagomedov said during a speaking appearance on Sunday for Class A Events/Penny Appeal Canada (h/t MMA Junkie). “Like, before the fight because it was like if Charles don’t make weight, it’s going to be Volkanovski who is supposed to fight with him. I think he have good experience. Of course experience — Charles and Volkanovski, they have the same.
“They both have good experience,” he continued. “But if you talk about fighting IQ and big heart, I think Volkanovski’s better than him. I think Volkanovski is gonna be tougher opponent for Islam than Charles Oliveira. But, anyways, who cares? We’re gonna finish this guy.”
The bout for Volkanovski will be his first at 155 pounds since his promotional debut in Nov. 2016, defeating Yusuke Kasuya. He’s been a dominant force south of Lightweight in his 10 fights that have followed, defending his title four times.