Makhachev vs Volkanovski – Prediction & Preview
It’s fight week, and the UFC 284 main event has us all prophesizing on who will be the true UFC pound-for-pound king. Will it be Khabib protégé Islam Makhachev, or the seemingly invincible Aussie, Alexander Volkanovski?
Let’s take a deep dive into the strengths and weaknesses of each fighter, and see if we can draw an early conclusion on this all-time-great matchup.
Fighter Strengths & Weaknesses
An incredible Dagestani phenom. Islam is going to be 5 inches taller, and will hold a MASSIVE weight and strength advantage come fight night.
Islam has great left side kicks from the southpaw stance, he mixes it up well, hiding his telegraphs and keeping his opponent’s guessing whether it’s going to hit the leg, body, or head. He’s also been developing his boxing, and has crisp, purist punches, and some fantastic counter hooks (like that which dropped Oliveira).
His greatest strengths lie in his grappling. Islam utilises wonderful trips, and has a sky-high IQ within the clinch, being able to capitalise on the smallest mistakes and turning disadvantageous positions into great opportunities.
Ground fighting is Makhachev’s bread and butter, his offensive submissions and smothering wrestling are second to none. He’s fond of isolating limbs and putting his whole body behind his submissions. His most consistent technique is the arm triangle, which he often executes from mount.
Whilst his striking isn’t top-tier, it’s well supported by his world class MMA grappling, which allows him to throw techniques with less caution. This is a double-edged sword (see Adriano Martins fight). However, since that loss, he’s cleaned up his striking a lot and rarely leaves any openings.
Volkanovski battles against almost every disadvantage in this fight, from height, to weight, to age, to many other factors.
Volk’s timing and agility are unparalleled, his three outings with Max were a perfect display of game-planning and execution. It’s safe to say that if Volk finds holes in his game, he drills them relentlessly in camp.
Volk is one of the best leg kickers currently in the UFC, he mixes them up well by targeting both the outside and inside of the leg. He uses these kicks to open combinations, and draw his opponents in for quick reactive counters, which is something Volk does better than anyone else.
He has shown tremendous submission defense (Ortega), and the ability to overcome and subdue strong wrestlers (Mendes). He also has 25+ minute high-pace cardio (Max x3), and insane reactive combinations (Max again).
Being the smaller and more agile man, Volk will be able to move his hips for good TDD, and he’ll be harder to keep down. His shot selection is great, but he’ll need to watch out for his low leg kicks being caught, which happened against Ortega when he got caught in that guillotine. Somebody like Islam won’t let that mistake slide.
Makhachev vs Volkanovski – Prediction
It WILL go to the ground
There’s a lot of speculation on what this fight is going to look like if it hits the floor. However, it’s less of an ‘if’, more like a ‘when’ the fight hits the floor, because it’s inevitable with a fighter like Islam.
Makhachev is MUCH larger than Volkanovski
Volkanovski is bulking to make lightweight (155lbs), but Makhachev cuts to lightweight, and will likely be 170lbs+ inside the cage. The size disparity will be comical, and with it we’ll see a strength difference, which lies with Islam and his grappling.
Volkanovski has shown vulnerability to caught kicks and having his back taken by various fighters. In some of these instances, he’s been locked up in submissions that would have slept lesser men. This is the sort of mistake he can’t be making against the likes of Makhachev.
It’s one of those types of fights where one guy needs to be perfect for 25 minutes (Volk), whereas the other only needs to be perfect for 1 (Islam). Although Volk has shown the ability to be perfect for 5 rounds, I think the size, strength, and grappling disadvantages don’t do him any favours.
Volkanovski may also have troubles with Islam’s strong left kicks, as the shorter man, he’ll have to instigate his own striking exchanges, otherwise he’ll be at the mercy of Islam’s ranged attacks.
As a consummate martial artist who’s always improving, it’s a shame to pick against Volkanovski. In this instance, I’ll be picking Islam Makhachev to pull off a finish in the first 3 rounds.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Or do you have a whole other take that nobody has considered? Drop a comment below!
Mathew is a UK-based combat sports journalist. He currently works for MMA Knockout, part of the Sports Illustrated FanNation network. The Fight Fanatic is Mathew’s one-man operation. His past bylines include Heavy on UFC, Sportskeeda, and MMA UK.
Contact Mathew via Twitter or through [email protected]