- Islam Makhachev is the favorite at -375.
- Alexander Volkanovski is the underdog at +290.
- Volkanovski moves up to the lightweight division to challenge Makhachev for the title.
- It’s Makhachev's first title defense.
A rare champion versus champion showdown will happen this Saturday, February 11, inside the RAC Arena in Perth, Australia, as reigning UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski (25-1) moves up in weight to challenge the UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev (23-1).
It's SUPER Fight Week!!
— UFC (@ufc) February 6, 2023
Volkanovski is shooting for a rare double-weight division status despite the tremendous UFC odds stacked against him because Makhachev is the UFC betting favorite at +290 against the Australian champion, which comes in as the underdog at -375.
”The Great” will also put his number one pound-for-pound ranking on the line against the Dagestani champion, who currently sits as the number two on the list.
Islam Makhachev Recent Fight Results
Islam Makhachev was an undefeated prospect with an 11-0 record when the UFC signed him in 2014. He accumulated this immaculate record in the Russian MMA circuit. Makhachev made his UFC debut in May 2015 and submitted Leo Kuntz in the second round to notch his maiden promotional victory.
Five months after the dream start in his UFC journey, Makhachev suffered his first career loss at the hands of Adriano Martins in a debatable and controversial result, wherein the referee stepped in to stop the fight via TKO in the opening round in favor of Martins.
That early debacle in his path to the top was used by the Makhachkala, Dagestan native to put on an incredible run, starting with back-to-back unanimous decision wins over Chris Wade in September 2016 and Nik Lentz in February 2017.
Then, Makhachev knocked out Gleison Tibau in January 2018 and submitted Kajan Johnson in July 2018 to extend his streak to four. The hype around him continued to steamroll in 2019 as he picked up two decision wins against Arman Tsarukyan in April and Davi Ramos in September.
Makhachev had a one-year sabbatical in 2020 due to travel restrictions that forced him not to see action during that year. He also helped his long-time friend and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov prepare for his last fight in October 2020 before retiring and relinquishing the lightweight title.
But since he returned in March 2021, he has become an unstoppable force by finishing all his opponents. First, Makhachev pulled an Arm-Triangle Choke against Drew Dober in March 2021, then submitted Thiago Moises in July 2021 in the fourth round of their fight night main event match via Rear-Naked Choke.
The 31-year-old capped off 2021 with another submission victory. This time, it was Dan Hooker who got victimized with a first-round Kimura. In February 2022, Makhachev picked up his 10th straight win against Bobby Green via first-round TKO, who replaced Rafael Dos Anjos as a late replacement opponent.
These ten successive triumphs for Makhachev were enough to earn him an outright title shot against Charles Oliveira in October 2022. The 2016 Combat Sambo World Champion fulfilled his dream to be Khabib Nurmagomedov’s successor as the 155-pound champion after a second-round submission win over Oliveira.
Alexander Volkanovski Recent Fight Results
Alexander Volkanovski began his MMA career in the higher weight class, specifically as a welterweight, and competed in the Australian and Asian MMA promotions, where he recorded 13 wins (including 11 stoppages) and one defeat until he earned a contract with the UFC in November 2016.
In his debut under the Las Vegas-based promotion, Volkanovski instantly impressed with a second-round TKO victory against Yusuke Kasuya. He followed it up with four more wins over Mizuto Hirota, Shane Young, Jeremy Kennedy and Darren Elkins.
These wins have pushed Volkanovski’s name to the top of the division, where he faced perennial contender Chad Mendes in December 2018 and former champion Jose Aldo in May 2019. “The Great” secured two victories against the two big names, with a second-round TKO over the former and a unanimous decision against the latter.
Because of these seven straight wins, the Aussie earned the right to challenge Max Holloway for the UFC Featherweight Title in December 2019. Volkanovski maximized the opportunity with a unanimous decision nod from the judges to realize his dream of becoming a world champion.
Due to how close the first fight went against Holloway, Volkanovski was pitted in an immediate rematch with the Hawaiian in July 2020. The result of the second meeting was even tighter and more controversial as the fight ended in a split decision in favor again of Volkanovski.
Despite the continuous criticism about his title reign, the City Kickboxing representative fended off two more challengers, Brian Ortega, in September 2021 via a unanimous decision win and Chan Sung Jung in April 2022 with a fourth-round stoppage victory.
Volkanovski’s latest fight was a trilogy match with Max Holloway in July 2022 to finally end the chapter against his rival. In the third meeting, The 34-year-old displayed a masterful performance to lopsidedly defeat Holloway unanimously and cement his status as the undisputed king of the 145-pound division.
Makhachev vs. Volkanovski: Tale of the Tape and Fight Analysis
On paper, Islam Makhachev is a visibly bigger fighter than Alexander Volkanovski as he competes in the higher-weight division. Aside from that, the defending champion will have a four-inch height advantage at 5-foot-10 against the featherweight champion, who stands at 5-foot-6.
Additionally, Makhachev will enjoy a four-and-a-half leg reach upper hand against the challenger. The only edge that Volkanovski has is a one-inch reach of 71.5 inches compared to Makhachev’s 70.5 inches. Stylistically, both champions have contrasting styles, with Makhachev being the grappler and Volkanovski being the striker.
This difference in fighting style is evident in their record, as 50% of the Australian’s wins are by way of TKO/KO, while the Russian’s favorite method of victory is by way of submission, which accounts for 48% of his triumphs. In terms of durability, Volkanovski has the lead because of his longer average fight time of 16:50 against Makhachev’s 9:06.
Offensively in the striking department, Volkanovski lands more significant strikes per minute at 6.79, equivalent to 57%, while Makhachev only finds the target at 2.37 per minute at 59%. Defensively though, the American Kickboxing Academy representative has better numbers of 0.95 absorbed per minute (66% defensive rate) against the City Kickboxing athlete’s 3.53 (60% defensive rate).
The grappling numbers see a massive advantage for Makhachev against Volkanovski as he has the better takedown average per 15 minutes – 3.42 against 1.71; takedown accuracy rate at 65% against 36%; takedown defense at 88% against 73%; and submission average per 15 minutes at 1.27 against 0.22.
Regardless of the statistical numbers between the two champions, this match will be an epic showdown that will determine the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA today. Volkanovski’s high championship level could play a big role in this match, plus his hunger is visibly seen in the build-up to the match.
On the other hand, Makhachev seems confident of getting past the featherweight champion. In one of his interviews, he even stated that he is willing to move up in weight to challenge the welterweight champion next. But this confidence might prove costly to him because Volkanovski is a very tough opponent and must not be taken lightly.
Not to mention that Makhachev will be fighting without Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner, so it might affect his preparation and mental state going into the bout. Lastly, Volkanovski will have the speed advantage against Makhachev, which could be enough to crown him as a two-division world champion.
Official Prediction: Unanimous decision victory for Alexander Volkanovski.
See the entire Makhachev vs. Volkanovski fight card and odds here.