UFC 294 to feature Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira 2
Late last night UFC President Dana White announced the main event for UFC 294, which is scheduled to go down on October 21 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. Headlining that card will be UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev defending his title against Charles Oliveira. The bout is a rematch from last year’s UFC 280, where Makhachev beat Oliveira to win the vacant lightweight title.
This was the right fight to make
Despite the fact we’ve seen this fight before, Makhachev vs. Oliveira is still a dynamic and thrilling match-up. Makhachev may have bested Oliveira with relative ease in their first fight, but since then Oliveira scored a first round demolition of Beneil Dariush.
Had this been an immediate rematch, I may have felt like we needed to see someone else in this spot, but given that Oliveira looked tremendous versus Dariush (and that we are coming off Makhachev’s incredible fight with Alexander Volkanovski), this booking feels both fresh and warranted.
Though Makhachev seems to have the best shot at getting his hand raised again (at least according to Vegas), there are reasons to talk yourself into picking Do Bronx to reclaim gold at 155.
Prior to his historic winning streak that culminated in a championship win, Oliveira’s career was defined by inconsistency. He would look sensational on an undercard, tapping Nik Lintz and Myles Jury, but look terrible (or terribly prepared) whenever he had a shot against a Max Holloway or an Anthony Pettis. Then things seemed to click and he matured into one of the most terrifying match-ups in the sport, a fighter who was truly capable of knocking anyone out cold on the feet or choking anyone to sleep on the ground.
Oliveira’s maturation process may help him now. He knows what it’s like to go back to the drawing board and come back with a vengeance. So it might not be wise to go all in on Makhchev rolling Oliveira over again, with ease.
Other options for Makhachev pale in comparison
Makhachev himself recently stated that he wanted to fight UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards at UFC 294, presumably at welterweight. That was met by an audible groan by my colleague Evan Zivin. He wrote that double champs should be banned! And I see his point.
Despite the buzz of seeing a fighter hoist two belts, double champs rarely meet the obligations of defending both titles. One person holding two belts usually results in at least one division suffering, as contenders wait for a chance to face the pre-occupied champ or for the belt to be vacated.
Amanda Nunes could be the exception to this rule. Though only because one of her championships was from a division that did not really exist.
Moving up to welterweight would have also been a ridiculous move for Makhachev, given that he has only one lightweight title defense under his belt (to a featherweight) and that there is a slew of great fighters in his division he has never faced. Makhachev’s record is impressive and dominating, but Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Beneil Dariush are nowhere to be found.
Other options for Makhachev included another fight with Volkanovski, which feels like it will happen eventually. However, Volkanovski may have a new challenger waiting for him at 145 lbs in the shape of Ilia Topuria.
Another option, which many of us had dreaded, was the UFC pulling a fast one and slotting Conor McGregor into an undeserved title fight (based on bad bloods and perceived PPV buys alone). Given McGregor’s conveyor belt of outside-of-the-cage issues, his bizarre USADA status and his odd behaviour it feels like even the UFC may have doubts over whether McGregor is worth the risk of booking in such a prestigious spot.
All in all, the UFC matchmakers deserve praise for avoiding those pitfalls and making the right fight; for champion, the challenger and the fans.
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