With Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2 headlining UFC 294, the landscape of the event has undergone a remarkable transformation, completely altering the complexion of the fight night.
Originally scheduled to feature Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira facing off for the second consecutive year with the UFC lightweight title hanging in the balance, a bad cut above Oliveira’s right eye in training forced the Brazilian away from the contest, opening the door for featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski to step up on short notice and face Makhachev for the second time.
Less than a day later, the co-main event pairing between Khamzat Chimaev and Paulo Costa underwent a transformation as well, with Costa being removed due to recent elbow surgery and replaced by former welterweight ruler Kamaru Usman.
The fact is that events at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi are always electric, and the winds of change sweeping over this card have raised the anticipation for UFC 294 to a whole other level. This one is going to be special.
In fact, the UFC 294 prelims are as exciting and thrilling as the main UFC 294 fight card. The main card features Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2, Kamaru Usman vs Khamzat Chimaev, Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker, Ikram Aliskerov vs Warlley Alves, and Said Nurmagomedov vs Muin Gafurov.
Now let’s have a look at the prelims and be honest with us, don’t they deserve a place on the main card? We’re talking about Tim Elliott vs Muhammad Mokaev, Mohammad Yahya vs Trevor Peek, Javid Basharat vs Victor Henry, Abu Azaitar vs Sedriques Dumas, Mike Breeden vs Anshul Jubli, Nathanial Wood vs Muhammad Naimov, Viktoriia Dudakova vs Jinh Yu Frey, and Shara Magomedov vs Bruno Silva. It sure looks like early Christmas for all UFC lovers!
Now let’s breakdown the top 3 fights of the event and see some possible outcomes and what could lead to them.
- Makhachev vs Volkanovski (Lightweight Title)
- Usman vs Chimaev (Middleweight)
- Ankalaev vs Walker (Light Heavyweight)
Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2 (Main Event UFC 294)
The upcoming rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev is set to be a thrilling battle. In their first encounter, it was evident that both fighters are evenly matched in striking, with Makhachev displaying some effective southpaw striking. However, Volkanovski holds a slight edge in striking, given his higher output of significant strikes.
In the earlier UFC 284 : Makhachev Vs Volkanovski encounter, Volkanovski outperformed Makhachev in striking, landing 70 significant strikes compared to Makhachev’s 57. He also displayed a substantially higher average of 6.25 significant strikes per minute, nearly three times that of Makhachev, who averaged 2.35.
When it comes to grappling, Makhachev is the submission specialist with 11 wins by submission, compared to Volkanovski’s three. However, Volkanovski’s submission defence is nearly flawless, making it uncertain whether Makhachev’s submission skills will be effective.
In wrestling, Makhachev showcased his prowess in their first fight, completing four takedowns and controlling the mat for over seven minutes. While Volkanovski defended takedowns well, Makhachev’s wrestling skills are hard to match.
In Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2, Volkanovski and Makhachev both face the challenge of preparing for a short-notice fight. Volkanovski, despite being in good condition, has limited time to devise a new game plan against Makhachev, whom he couldn’t defeat less than nine months ago.
Makhachev, although in good shape, is also adapting to the sudden change, having originally prepared for a different opponent. Both fighters are adjusting to the unexpected rematch with little time for preparation.
While the outcome remains uncertain, fans can expect an exciting battle between two elite competitors. From where we see it, as of now, the scales seem to be tilting slightly in Makhachev’s favour for Makhachev vs Volkanovski 2 showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Usman vs. Chimaev (Co-main Event UFC 294)
MMA fans worldwide are filled with excitement in the lead-up to UFC 294, where they eagerly await the clash of titans in the showdown between Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman and Khamzat “Borz” Chimaev.
Usman, an impressive 4.46 significant strikes per minute with a remarkable 52% accuracy rate, faces off against Chimaev, a striking dynamo with 7.30 significant strikes per minute and a highly accurate 59% strike rate.
When the action gets heated, defence becomes crucial. Both fighters have their own style when it comes to defence. Usman showcases a solid 54% evasion rate, demonstrating his ability to avoid strikes effectively. On the other side, Chimaev, while still maintaining a respectable 41% defensive percentage, tends to be a bit more aggressive.
But it doesn’t end there; the ground game is a defining aspect of MMA. Breaking down the grappling stats of the two pros, Usman averages 2.96 takedowns per 15 minutes, with a 45% takedown accuracy and a nearly impeccable 97% takedown defence.
On the other hand, Chimaev leads in takedown stats with 3.98 takedowns per 15 minutes, an exceptional 57% accuracy, and a perfect 100% takedown defence.
Another noteworthy aspect is that Usman’s fights tend to go the distance, with an average duration of 17 minutes and 35 seconds, showcasing his incredible endurance. In contrast, Chimaev’s fights are short and intense, lasting an average of just 5 minutes and 1 second.
These fighters bring an intriguing mix of striking, defence, and grappling skills to the Octagon, making this upcoming battle a must-watch for MMA enthusiasts. Again, despite Usman’s prowess and long-lasting reign in the division, odds seem to be tilting more in Chimaev’s favour. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed for an epic showdown between the two.
Ankalaev vs. Walker
A month before a new light heavyweight champion is set to be crowned, the stage is set in Abu Dhabi for a showdown between two fierce contenders: Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker. This clash could very well determine the number one contender in the 205-pound weight class.
Magomed Ankalaev, at 31 years old, returns to the octagon, eager to bounce back from his last encounter, a split draw with Jan Blachowicz at UFC 282 where they battled for the vacant title. Ankalaev, a well-rounded Russian fighter, had secured an impressive nine-fight win streak leading up to the draw. His return to the octagon for his third pay-per-view appearance in Abu Dhabi is a pivotal moment as he aims to solidify his spot among the top contenders for a title shot.
Johnny Walker made an explosive entry into the UFC five years ago, launching his career with three consecutive first-round stoppage victories. After a challenging stretch that saw him claim only one win in five fights, the towering Brazilian fighter has made a triumphant comeback with three consecutive wins, most recently displaying finesse and patience in a decision victory over Anthony Smith in May.
What makes this matchup truly intriguing is Walker’s continual evolution and adaptability in his fighting style. He still embodies the aggressive, attacking fighter archetype, which could push Ankalaev to open up more during the fight. Ankalaev has shown moments of patience and precision in the past, but he’s a force to be reckoned with on the ground. This is an area where Walker has faced difficulties before, making the fight’s dynamics all the more captivating.
With Jamahal Hill sidelined for the next several months and Jiri Prochazka and Alex Pereira set to battle for the vacant title next month at Madison Square Garden, the winner of this encounter could stake a strong claim for a championship opportunity in the first half of 2022024, especially if they secure a dominant and memorable victory.
Ankalaev’s previous encounter with Jan Blachowicz, the current UFC Light Heavyweight champion, adds another layer of significance to this bout. The fight’s outcome could very well determine the next title contender in the competitive 205-pound division, with Ankalaev making a strong case for a title shot.
For Walker, a victory against Ankalaev would be a significant milestone, potentially propelling him towards a title shot, pending the timeline for Jamahal Hill’s return. MMA fans can hardly wait to witness this high-stakes showdown at UFC 294.
UFC 294 promises to be a remarkable event, marked by significant changes in its line-up. The unexpected shift of fighters has only heightened the anticipation. The main card, headlined by Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2 and Usman vs. Chimaev, offers intense battles that will have a lasting impact on MMA divisions.
Beyond the main card, the prelims showcase top-notch fights that could rival any main card. With a mix of striking and grappling, UFC 294 guarantees an unforgettable night for MMA enthusiasts worldwide. This event is a must-watch, offering a blend of excitement, drama, and high-quality combat.