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ALEXANDER Volkanovski gets a second stab at joining MMA’s GOAT conversation tomorrow night after a 11th-hour call up to challenge for UFC gold in a second weight class.

The Aussie featherweight champ tried and failed to take the lightweight belt from Islam Makhachev at home in Perth back in February.

But the close nature of the contest – Islam won three rounds to two on points – set the rivalry up towards a rematch sometime in the future.

Makhachev, 31, was originally scheduled to defend his 155lb crown against another former champion, Charles Oliveira, here in Abu Dhabi at UFC 294.

That was until the Brazilian suffered a cut in his final sparring session last week, which prompted the UFC to make the call and offer 35-year-old Volk a chance at redemption.

On just 11 days notice, Volkanovski aims to capitalise on his quickfire second chance and join an elite club of two-weight UFC title holders.


At the start of the year, Makhachev used his natural physical advantages to dictate the range with his boxing and to take Volkanovski down in grappling exchanges especially early in the fight.

But Volkanovski warmed into the fight and routinely scored big shots in the pocket and bounced back up from takedowns against the dangerous Dagestani.

Round four ultimately became the swing round, with the judges siding with Islam and his grappling ground control as the deciding factor.

But it was Volkanovski who landed the last meaningful shot of their first encounter, when he dropped Makhachev with a big right hand with just a minute to go.

Both are desperate to put the record straight here in UAE, which with its strong Muslim population and destination of choice for holidaying Russians will be very pro-Makhachev on the night.


There has been a lot of talk about round one in Abu Dhabi simply being a continuation of their fight from February, so more like round six. If that’s that case then you can be sure Volkanovski will start much quicker.

And he likely has to. Taking a five-round fight at less than two weeks notice is incredibly tough for any man, even the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport.

Volk (26-2) has to approach this fight as a three-round sprint. As he said himself this week: “Kill or be killed!”

That approach obviously works two ways. He could catch Makhachev early, set a pace the Russian isn’t happy with and force him backwards and onto the back foot.

But it also opens the challenger up to mistakes, being too over eager to connect and falling into the traps of the champion – who likely hits harder and is certainly far more potent with submissions.

He who dares wins, even when the odds are stacked against them.

And whilst he’s going to have to risk it all to land clean, Volkanovski’s fortitude will be rewarded with truly legacy defining moment.

TIP: Volkanovski by KO – BOOSTED TO 23/4


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