UFC 294 Main Event Changes to Makhachev vs. Volkanovski II
Less than two weeks from UFC 294…the main event has gone through a major transition. Charles Oliveira is out of the fight against Islam Makhachev. As such, it’s presented featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski a major opportunity to become a dual division title holder in this bout for the lightweight strap.
Do Fans Deserve More than UFC 284 Re-Run?
Astute MMA fans will recall that Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski already fought one another this year. 10 PPVs ago, back in February at UFC 284, these two topped the card. While it was a close fight that went the distance, the majority of paying customers would like some variation in the product they are paying for. This could have been a re-match that fans clamored for in the future, but not just eight months after the original bout. That said, it did get the Fight of the Night award last time, so if it’s anything like that, most PPV customers should be able to look past the repeat booking.
Is 10 Days Preparation Enough for the Fighters?
Changing the opponent for a major UFC card less than two weeks out before the event. Is it really ok? However, this isn’t even the latest change that MMA cards have made to their promotions. Injuries occur, and the show must go on, but is it fair to the fighters? The pre-existing party now has to re-address his gameplan, while the combatant stepping into the fight might be entering rather cold if they weren’t already in a fight camp regime.
Ultimately, both fighters have the chance to decline the fight when it is changed at late notice, but this comes with multiple risks. The champion could be accused of not welcoming all challengers, while any fighter not accepting a last-minute bout could see their future bookings take a downward trend as they were unwilling to help the company.
Fight Remains the Same for Makhachev
In many ways, Islam Makhachev will be unaffected by the late change. The Russian fighter hasn’t lost a fight in over eight years, and even with that very minor blemish on his resume, his 24-1 record stands up as one of the best in the contemporary fight scene.
Furthermore, he’s already beaten Alexander Volkanovski and Charles Oliveira in his last two fights. While he would have been training more for his rematch with the Brazilian, he will still remember his preparation for the Australian fighter and simply fine-tune his last-minute preparation. For a pro like Makhachev, it doesn’t matter who the UFC puts in front of him. He’ll still go into it believing he can win.
Makhachev has regularly succeeded right here in Abu Dhabi with some of his biggest career wins in the UAE. That includes his kimura submission victory over Dan Hooker in 2021 as well as the arm-triangle choke when he submitted Charles Oliveira to win the then-vacant UFC Lightweight Championship. Another win for the Russian here in Abu Dhabi could make it somewhat of a home advantage for him going forward.
Risk and Reward for Volkanovski
At the age of 35 and now with 28 matches under his belt, Alexander Volkanovski has been around the block in terms of mixed martial arts. The Australian has been relatively active in 2023, with this set to be his third fight of the year. With his record at 26-2, Volkanovski has the somewhat unique opportunity to be a UFC champion in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions, just like Conor McGregor did in yesteryear, albeit at short notice.
Volkanovski’s Featherweight Championship will stay with him no matter what happens in this fight. He’s held that title since UFC 245 in December 2019 when he defeated Max Holloway. After that night, nobody has been able to take the gold away from him. If he wins this fight, he’ll handsomely increase his stock in UFC and the wider MMA world for sure.
His lone loss in that time came against Islam Makhachev when he challenged for the UFC Lightweight Championship. The fight went the distance but was a unanimous decision victory for the Russian fighter. Subsequently, there’s a lot of jeopardy in this re-match. Should he lose, it pretty much puts him to the back of the lightweight pile, as well as putting an additional L on his record, as featherweight contenders lick their lips in anticipation.
What about Oliveira?
Charles Oliveira won’t be completely exiled from the lightweight picture just for suffering an injury. Dana White might not be immediately pleased with him for the abrupt changes, but the Brazilian is still a commodity with a huge following from Brazil and beyond. Should Makhachev retain the belt, then UFC fans will most likely get the original Makhachev-Oliveira fight. It does, however, get a bit more complicated if Volkanovski takes the title. After all, he’ll be in both divisions, and Makhachev may want to exercise a re-match himself.
Oliveira would be well to keep active when possible just to keep showing the UFC management, the wider MMA world, and the fight fans that he’s worthy of the top spots in the sport. If he’s lucky, he might be able to squeeze on the UFC 294 card with that iconic Paddy Pimblett vs. Tony Ferguson fight.
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