This Saturday Australia will see if one of their own will be the latest addition to the multi-division champ club. UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski has moved up in weight to take on Islam Makhachev, who is hoping to defend his title for the very first time.
This bout pits number one vs. two in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings and, predictably, it’s a really hard fight to call. Both men have looked tremendous throughout their UFC careers with styles that can smother, overwhelm and outfox their opponents.
When it comes down to who will come out on top when they meet, we’re split. Five BE staffers are picking Makhachev and four are with Volkanovski. You can see who picked whom below.
And don’t forget to tell us who you think will win in the comment section below.
Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Anton Tabuena: We know how great Volkanovski is, and there’s still some aspects of Makhachev’s game that we haven’t seen against top level opponents. On the feet, Volkanovski should be the faster and much more technical and layered striker, so I can see avenues where he can outpoint him and win a decision. But there’s also the question of power difference, and whether Volkanovski can handle and take shots the same way he does at featherweight, or if it can look like Holloway’s unsuccessful bid at lightweight. Volkanovski is strong in his own right, with very good takedown defense and scrambling ability, but it will be a tough task to constantly get back up and keep fending off a much bigger and stronger wrestler. Makhachev isn’t Khabib, and they have different approaches with takedowns and top control, but if he fights smart and sticks to that “Father’s Plan” approach — even if it entails a lot of clinching by the fence instead of shots from the outside — he should still be the logical pick here. Heart says Volk, head says Islam. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Zane Simon: I can see pathways for Alexander Volkanovski to win this fight. He’s developed a very slick halfguard sweep game from guard that makes him super difficult to hold down. And it’s got the same basic structure as the scramble that Charles Oliveira used to escape Makhachev’s top game early in their fight. And, if Volkanovski can keep this fight standing, he’s one of the very best out there at removing tools from an opponent’s arsenal. Makhachev’s striking is function as long as his wrestling is a threat, but if Volkanovski and neutralize that threat, then neutralizing the striking seems like a much more simple task. The thing is, however, that there’s no real version of this fight I can see where Volkanovski doesn’t get taken down and have to figure things out from there. When he’s on the front foot, he’s very susceptible to getting grounded by reactive shots. And if he’s just going to stay on the back foot, then Makhachev will get a lot of chances to create various entries. Any fight that starts with Volkanovski gets taken down, and then... is a fight I have to pick Makhachev to win. Islam Makhachev by decision.
Eddie Mercado: I’ve never seen Volk lose.
Tim Bissell: Makhachev is definitely made the ‘who has he fought?’ argument more redundant after his dismantling of Charles Oliveira. However, I’m still swayed by what Volkanovski has been able to do against the legitimate cream of the crop of his division (albeit a more shallow division that what has been around at lightweight over that time span). I think Volk will pose a different kind of problem than Makhachev has faced to, date. The Dagestani may very well ace that test and smother the smaller fighter for the entirety of the fight. However, I think there’s an equal or greater chance that Volkanovski’s mobility, intelligence and tenacity can overcome the rather sleepy offence of Makhachev on route to slim decision win. Alexander Volkanovski by decision.
Staff picking Makhachev: Kristen, Dayne, Stephie, Zane, Anton
Staff picking Volkanovski: Eddie, Lucas, Chris, Bissell
This poll is closed
About the author: Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. (full bio)