Having claimed the UFC lightweight championship in some style, Russia’s Islam Makhachev is waiting on news of his first defense, while it’s yet to be confirmed, the likelihood is that the 31-year-old will be taking on an Australian challenger in the shape of Alexander Volkanovski.
If the fight does come off, it could be one of the closest and most thrilling title bouts for some time. Assuming it’s confirmed, will Makhachev vs Volkanovski live up to the hype?
Living up to Expectation
Islam Makhachev claimed the vacant UFC lightweight championship in October when he took on Charles Oliveira at UFC 280. The Russian fighter started as the clear favourite, according to the MMA odds and it was a dominant performance from the very first bell.
Makhachev edged the first round but wasn’t in the mood to wait for a judges’ decision. Early in the second round, he knocked Oliveira to the ground with a punch before finishing the bout with an arm-triangle choke.
It was a stunning display that earned the experienced lightweight the title belt and the Performance of the Night bonus. It also sent out a warning to potential challengers that Islam Makhachev intended to hold on to that title belt for some considerable time
Alexander Volkanovski appears to be the next name in the frame, but can the Australian possibly take the crown from the current champion?
Rise of Makhachev
Those who have studied Islam Makhachev’s rise through the MMA ranks suggest he’s a nice guy away from the sport. Once inside the Octagon, a transformation takes place and he turns into something of a monster.
The Russian’s record tends to back that up and there is a high ratio of wins by submission as opposed to knockouts. This suggests that he has the capability to make his opponents suffer, rather than despatching them relatively painlessly via a quick knockout.
He also likes to get the job done quickly and has a number of first round wins under his belt.
In his early career, Islam Makhechev competed in the martial art of Sambo. The discipline is used extensively in the military and he rose through the ranks to become the world champion.
There are obvious comparisons to the great Khabib Nurmagomedov, but many believe these to be justified. He’s been marked down as a special fighter from a very early age and Makhachev has started to deliver on that potential with a first UFC title.
Alexander the Great
Alexander Volkanowski originally started out as a rugby league forward. He is relatively short in stature at 5 foot six inches in height, but he is a real scrapper. While the stats show that a number of his overall wins have come via knockout, decisions were required to separate many of his earlier battles.
His diminutive frame can also mean that there is less of a target for opponents to aim at. He is also fast moving and other fighters may need to be more patient when he faces them in the Octagon.
Maybe that relative lack of height also meant that opponents have underestimated Alexander Volkanowksi in the past. As his record has developed, it’s clear the Aussie demands respect.
The Tale of the Tape
The comparative records of these two fighters underline the expectation ahead of the proposed fight. Islam Makhachev’s time as an MMA exponent has been exceptional.
The title bout against Charles Oliveira was Makhachev’s 24th as a professional. In that time, he’s recorded 23 wins while his solitary defeat came against Adriano Martins at UFC 192, way back in October 2015.
But what of Alexander Volkanovski? At the age of 34, he has marginally more experience than his opponent with 26 pro fights under his belt. The Australian has enjoyed 25 victories with a solitary loss coming before he joined up with the UFC promotion
There’s little to split the two men in terms of their overall records, but most will install Islam Makhachev as their favourite. Around half of Volkanovski’s fights came prior to signing with Ultimate Fighting Championship while Makhachev has spent a higher proportion of his career in the elite division.
If we can be certain of anything, any fight between these two men is likely to be a swift one. The comparative records of each fighter show that they both like to finish the contest within three rounds.
Volkanovski has a higher ratio of wins by decision and ten of his first 26 professional MMA bouts have gone the distance. Eight of Islam Makhachev’s 24 fights have also lasted for a full three rounds, but the recent trend is to get the job done quickly.
All fans of combat sports want to see a close match up so, will Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanowski really live up to the hype? If we purely look at the fighters’ records in isolation, the answer has to be yes.
In over 50 combined professional contests, the two proposed opponents have lost just one fight each. Those respective losses both came at an early stage in their careers, and that means that the two men have since embarked on long winning streaks.
We won’t know for certain until they have stepped into the Octagon together, but these are two fighters at the top of their game, and Makhachev vs Volkanowski may just prove to be one of the most thrilling UFC fights in recent memory.