UFC 294: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2 Preview & Best Bets

A UFC Lightweight Title bout headlines UFC 294 as the champion Islam Makhachev defends his belt against UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

  • Date: Saturday, September 21, 2023 | Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Etihad Arena – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | TV: PPV

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Magomed Ankalaev vs. Johnny Walker

No. 2 ranked Light heavyweight Magomed Ankalaev faces No. 7 Johnny Walker. Ankalaev is riding a ten-fight unbeaten streak, having fought to a no-contest for the UFC Lightweight title against Jan Błachowicz. Walker comes in on a three-fight win streak, beating Ion Cutelaba, Paul Craig, and Anthony Smith.

Walker is three inches taller and will have a seven-inch reach advantage. He showcases a wild and unpredictable side at times. Both fighters have similar knockdown rates at 0.66 and 0.69 knockdowns per 15 minutes. They have similar outputs at 3.55 and 3.85 significant strikes landed per minute while absorbing 2.15 and 2.58. Ankalaev attempts slightly more takedowns but has a much better takedown defense rate at 86 percent to Walker’s 60.

Ankalaev is the more conservative and calculated of the two, but Walker is the more athletic. Ankalaev is the outright favorite at -355, but the value lies in him winning by decision at +230.

Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev

No. 1 ranked welterweight Kamaru Usman enters as a last-minute replacement for No. 6 ranked middleweight Paulo Costa. He’ll face No. 4 ranked welterweight Khamzat Chimaev in a middleweight title eliminator. Confused? Good. Usman is looking to rebound from back-to-back losses against Leon Edwards, before which he had a 19-fight win streak. Chimaev is undefeated at 12-0, with six straight UFC wins.

Chimaev is two inches taller, but Usman will have a one-inch reach advantage. Usman has been one of the best defensive wrestlers in the UFC for the better part of the last decade, not suffering a scored takedown until his last fight. In his previous contest, Usman looked like a declining fighter, with wear and tear catching up to him. Meanwhile, Chimaev has dismantled every fighter he has faced, finishing them all but Gilbert Burns (six knockouts, five submissions, one decision).

With Chimaev as the favorite at -290, a prime Usman would be an easy bet. However, Usman is starting to show his age. Take Chimaev to finish the former champ by knockout at +220.

UFC Lightweight Championship Main Event

Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski

  • Odds to Win: Makhachev -260 | Volkanovski +205
  • How Will Fight End: KO/TKO +220 | Submission +260 | Decision -110
  • Will the fight go the distance? Yes -102 | No -124

UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski moves up in weight again to challenge UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev. Volkanovski’s second opportunity at the belt came about after an injury to Charles Oliveira. This bout will be Makhachev’s second title defense after capping his 12-fight win streak by beating Volkanovski in their last fight. Volkanovski boasts 26 wins and two losses over his entire MMA career, with one loss at welterweight and the other at lightweight against the UFC champion.

Volkanovski will have to overcome a severe size disadvantage, coming in four inches shorter and from a lighter weight class. Still, he’ll have a one-inch reach advantage. Makhachev averages just over ten minutes of fight time to the Aussie’s 17-plus.

They’re separated by 0.07 average knockdowns per 15 minutes. There’s a massive discrepancy on the feet, with Volkanovski landing 6.25 significant strikes per minute to Makhachev’s 2.35. Volkanovski absorbs 2.09 more significant strikes per minute but will have an edge in speed.

Regarding grappling, the Lightweight Champion averages 3.24 takedowns to Volkanovski’s 1.86. He also enjoys a 90 percent defense rate compared to Volkanovski’s 69, averaging 1.05 more submissions per 15 minutes.

Their last fight was extremely close, but Volkanovski is taking this bout on short notice. The odds are much different this time. Makhachev was a -400 favorite last time but is favored at -260 for this one. Makhachev should take this by decision, but there is no doubt the value is with Volkanovski at +205.

UFC 294: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2 Betting Card

  • Ankalaev by decision (+230)
  • Chimaev by knockout (+220)
  • Volkanovski to win (+205)

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