This Saturday night Australian featherweight Alex Volkanovski (15-1) will take on Kiwi Shane Young (11-3) on the FS1 main card of UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Tybura. That match-up was solidified last week after previous opponent Humberto Bandenay (14-4) pulled out with an injury. Bandenay was the third opponent to pull out of this bout.
Volkanovski was originally scheduled to face rising Canadian prospect Jeremy Kennedy (11-0). Though Kennedy, like Bandenay, got injured. After Bandenay was pulled from the card, the UFC’s first replacement was Drex Zamboanga (7-2) from the Philippines, but visa issues quashed that. Finally, with just a couple of days to spare, Young was signed.
Volkanovski admitted to Bloody Elbow that it’s been strange to have such a sudden change in opponents, especially when they have such drastically different styles. This was especially true when grinder Kennedy was replaced by flashy knockout artist Bandenay. However, Volkanovski stated that the late changes do not have him feeling ill-prepared.
“When I’m training; I’m prepared for anything,” he said. “I’m not going to make excuses about that. I train with whoever I can, all different sizes, shapes, and styles. So the change in opponents hasn’t been too bad and I don’t think it’s going to make that big a difference on my performance.”
All of the fighters who had been slated to face the 5’5” Volkanovski are taller and possess reach advantages. Young has three inches on Volkanovski and fought at lightweight just two years ago. Their clash on Saturday will be fought at 150lbs.
A slightly bigger opponent isn’t going to worry Volkanovski, who himself has fought as heavy as middleweight.
“I’m used to big boys,” he said. “I train with big boys all the time. I’m like one of those little chihuahua’s that thinks they’re ten feet tall. So I don’t think it makes a difference. If anything, with my style of fighting, with how much I like to get on the inside, being the shorter man gives me an advantage.”
“Pretty much straight away I knew I was stronger than him,” said Volkanovski of his dominant victory over the Japanese veteran. “I had him covered pretty well, but at the same time, I was really worried because I was sick leading into that fight.”
Volkanovski revealed that two weeks prior to the Hirota fight he was sidelined with a flu that prevented him from training. Then, the week before the fight, he suffered a nasty staph infection that required antibiotics.
“So I knew I had him, but I was worried about how long my energy would last. I wanted to finish the fight, but at the same time, I didn’t want to drain myself trying to finish it. When I had him hurt and when I had him up against the cage, I felt like I could have pushed for the take down and could of got it, but I was worried I was going to gas. So I tried to fight as smart as I could, knowing how sick I was in the last two weeks.”
Now at full health, Volkanovski is extremely confident he’ll have the beating of his late replacement opponent come Saturday night. And he’s hoping to use the fight to show off his impressive finishing skills (only three of Volkanovski’s 15 wins are via decision).
“With me, you can expect a finish from anywhere,” he said. “If I’m sitting in half guard I’m going to throw bombs and expect a knockout coming from them. If I’m off my back you can probably expect a knockout there! I’m always going for the finish, no matter where I am. I don’t like to settle in positions for too long. I like to give my gloves a good run out, so expect fireworks on Saturday.”
If Volkanovski does what he is expecting, he plans to use his time on the microphone to call out an entire class of UFC fighters. “I want people to know that I’m one of the good guys and I’m really going to push for getting a fight with one of these bad boys. Boys that think they’re hard and want to talk a lot of s—t. They’re the guys I want to fight. But right now, I have a guy in front of me who I need to worry about. I’ll call out one of these bad boys after that.”
Alex Volkanovski vs. Shane Young opens up the main card of UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Tybura. You can watch it at 10pm ET live on Fox Sports 1.
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