A second title win for Islam Makhachev over Alexander Volkanovski! Another tough test by Khamzat Chimaev passed! A controversial no-contest! That, plus a lot more happened when UFC 294 took place at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night.
Here are some quick thoughts on the latest pay-per-view offering by the UFC.
Islam Makhachev beats short-notice challenger Alexander Volkanovski
There are many different ways to write the lede for this weekend’s UFC card. Here’s a very opinionated way of looking at it that I can get away with in an analysis piece like this: The fighters who had weeks to prepare for a fight in their own weight class beat the fighters who had days to prepare for a fight in a different weight class.
Islam Makhachev beating Alexander Volkanovski for the second time is a strong statement no matter the circumstances. However, you can’t ignore the scenario that this fight surrounded. Volkanovski only entered this matchup just over a week ago, stepping in for Charles Oliveira. He had days to prepare, train, and game plan for a five-round fight.
But the performance here from Makhachev was quite something. The UFC Lightweight Champion caught Volkanovski in the first round with a head kick after scoring a few clean blows on him before. The head kick dropped Volkanovski, and Makhachev was quick to follow-up on this. He landed ground and pound shots on the featherweight champ until referee Marc Goddard called an end to the fight.
It’s likely never a great decision for someone to take a title fight on a week’s notice. When you factor in that it’s against someone Volkanovski already lost to and in a division he isn’t frequently in, that’s even more reason to not do so. The evidence of why you shouldn’t was on full display this Saturday.
Saturday did further prove that Makhachev is a legitimate champion at lightweight. While Saturday’s win for Makhachev certainly has an asterisk to it, it’s part of a streak of wins that dates back to 2016. And as of tomorrow, he will officially be a full year into his lightweight reign. He is undoubtedly the king of lightweight.
Makhachev is legit. I’m not going to make some massive claim about where he stands in all of MMA currently or in more all-time discussions. However, I think it’s easy to say that he is legit and the rightful king of lightweight at the moment.
Chimaev remains undefeated, beats former middleweight champ
Heading into Chimaev’s fight this weekend, I was quite certain he would win. Instead of wondering if he would win, I was more curious to see how much resistance he would be up against. While undefeated, Chimaev isn’t invincible – as illustrated by his UFC 273 fight against Gilbert Burns. So the curiosity for me was really around how human Chimaev would look against a former champ, albeit one that took this fight on a week’s notice and is moving up a weight class.
Usman provided a solid amount of resistance for Chimaev and proved to be a decent test for him. The fight started as a one-way performance for Chimaev, but became closer in the later rounds.
Chimaev was able to get on the back of Usman in the first round and spent most of that round there. The second round was close, as most of the frame saw them trade punches in a back-and-forth stand-up battle. Chimaev was able to close out this round with a takedown.
The third round saw the duo engage in a much more lively battle on the feet, where Usman was the much more aggressive fighter. Chimaev stifled this by scoring a takedown.
Chimaev struggled in this fight, but what can you expect when he’s facing a former champion who is still in their prime. This fight certainly further pronounced the holes in Chimaev’s game, especially the fact that he can struggle against a striker who is coming forward and throwing. If it’s true that he’s next for a title shot, it will be interesting to see how that goes.
Light heavyweight bout ends the way nobody wanted it to
UFC 293 is such a “what could’ve been” card. You have fights like the main event and co-main, where the fight was changed in the weeks leading up to it. And you have fights like Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker.
Ankalaev vs. Walker survived to fight day, but the bout didn’t go as anyone hoped. Due to an illegal knee to the head of Walker, the fight was given a first-round no contest stoppage ruling. This decision carries controversy with it – Walker claimed he was able to fight and seemingly tried to continue with Ankalaev even after the bout was called off.
However, the defense of the octagon-side doctor is the fact that he asked Walker if he knew where he was, and Walker didn’t reply.
At face value did this look like an early stoppage? Yes. But the fact that Walker was shaken up does complicate things. A fair point made by some online is that Walker wasn’t given the full five minutes of recovery before being assessed. That’s very true as well.
Overall, it’s just a bummer that this went the way it did. This was a clash of two ranked talents at light heavyweight, and it would have been a big win for either of them. I’d imagine they will run this one back at some point.
If you give Nurmagomedov a neck, he’s gonna want a guillotine choke
Said Nurmagomedov saw a present and took it. Muin Gafurov shot in for a takedown on Saturday night, leaving his head fully exposed for a submission. Nurmagomedov didn’t hesitate at this opportunity, putting in a guillotine choke that made his fight end in just over a minute.
The wild part? That’s not even his quickest guillotine choke win. In 2022, he put away Cody Stamann in just 47 seconds. That’s his fourth guillotine win of his career.
In a busy division like bantamweight, it’s easy to forget about someone like Nurmagomedov. He’s one to remember, though. He has now won four of his last five, with three of those victories coming via finish.
About the UFC 294 prelims…
The prelims for UFC 294 were not entirely thrilling. With five decisions through eight bouts (and one of the three finishes being a no-contest result due to a gruesome groin shot), it was a lot of sitting on their hands for the Abu Dhabi crowd. However, the stoppage wins on the prelims are worth mentioning as well.
In arguably the biggest test of his UFC campaign thus far, Muhammad Mokaev showcased his wrestling against veteran Tim Elliott before submitting him in the third round with an arm triangle choke. Mokaev now boasts an impressive undefeated record of 10 wins, with four victories in the UFC. In a thin division like flyweight, it’s likely that he will start getting the big-deal challenges very soon.
Mike Breeden also scored an upset victory, handing Indian prospect Anshul Jubli his first pro loss with a third-round finish due to strikes. It was likely a cathartic performance for Breeden, who went winless for the first two years of his UFC run.
If you want bout-by-bout results of tonight’s show, check out my colleague Eddie Mercado’s results piece.
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