Brett OkamotoESPN staff writer2 min read
ABU DHABI – The first fight between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski in February was a five-round classic that saw both men enjoy plenty of success. The second encounter, at UFC 294 on Saturday inside Etihad Arena, concerned Makhachev only.
Makhachev (25-1) defended his 155-pound lightweight championship in emphatic fashion, knocking out featherweight champion Volkanovski (26-3) with a left head kick at 3:06 of the opening round. This is Makhachev’s 13th straight win, which ranks him third all-time in UFC history, three shy of Anderson Silva’s mark of 16 straight wins. This was Volkanovski’s first finish in a bout since his fourth fight in 2013.
The result was impressive, even considering Volkanovski took the fight on 11 days notice. Makhachev was supposed to fight Charles Oliveira, but Oliveira withdrew due to a facial cut he sustained during training.
“I showed him the low kick, then the body kick, then I changed it to the high kick,” Makhachev said. “This is what we trained in the last two months for Oliveira and nothing has changed, the same for Volkanovski. I want to thank you for that.” [Volkanovski]He is a real hero. He will fight the five rounds and never give up. He is a true hero.”
Australian Volkanovski still holds his 145-pound championship. The UFC has offered him the opportunity to become a two-time dual heavyweight champion in 2023, thanks to his five title defenses over the past three years. Despite the loss, the 35-year-old expressed in his post-fight comments that he wanted to stay busy and continue defending his featherweight title.
“Obviously it was a great setup and a good kick,” Volkanovski said. “It hurts me. He’s a great champion. What are you doing? I back myself every time. Credit to him. I just want to say to the UFC, please keep me busy.”
The two fought in Volkanovski’s home country of Australia, in Perth, at UFC 284 in February. Makhachev won by unanimous decision, but Volkanovski exceeded expectations by frustrating the Dagestani wrestling champion. He finished the fight well, and continued the attack to the delight of the Australian crowd. Volkanovski immediately called a rematch after the loss, still widely ahead of Makhachev as the No. 1 fighter in the world.
Saturday’s fight began with both fighters working the clinch, until Makhachev broke away and rolled Volkanovski into the fence. The left head kick landed cleanly and ended the fight instantly. Makhachev followed him to the floor landing more shots and Volkanovski tried to sit up, but was pinned against the fence and the bout was abandoned soon after.
Volkanovski’s next challenge is expected to be Ilya Topuria at 145 pounds. Options for Makhachev include Oliveira or former interim champion Justin Gaethje.
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”