The UFC is back this weekend with a monstrous PPV, one of the biggest of the year. In the main event, Islam Makhachev looks to defend his Lightweight title for a second time against Alexander Volkanovski, who steps in on eleven days' notice to replace Charles Oliveira. In the co-main event, Kamaru Usman steps in on ten days' notice to replace Paulo Costa to debut in the Middleweight division against the undefeated star Khamzat Chimaev. We're going to break down the biggest fights of the card, discuss how the fighters can secure the wins, and how each fight impacts the sport we love.
The featured prelim of UFC 294 is a highly-anticipated Flyweight showdown between undefeated British-Dagestani wrestler Muhammad Mokaev vs. divisional veteran and former title challenger Tim Elliott, who's riding a two-fight win streak. Since joining the UFC in 2022, Mokaev has had dreams of becoming the youngest UFC Champion, but with less than a year to go, time is running out. A win over Elliott is crucial for Mokaev to advance into the upper ranks of the Flyweight division so he can continue to move toward the title. For Elliott, this is just another day in the office, and it's an office he's very familiar with; as soon as the referee starts the bout, Elliott will tie Joseph Benavidez for the most Flyweight bouts in UFC history at nineteen. He'll try to defend his ranking as the #10 ranked contender. This matchup can be exciting wherever it goes, but with both men having extensive wrestling credentials, we'll likely see some fantastic Flyweight scrambles on the mat.
The middle of the main card is where the action gets serious. Magomed Ankalaev will return since his draw at UFC 282 to face Johnny Walker, who at one point was 1-4 in his last five, is now riding a three-fight win streak. The methodical Ankalaev will look to break Walker down with his patient striking and dominating grappling. Walker will likely use his explosiveness and high-level striking to upset the odds, as he currently stands as a +270 underdog. A win for both fighters would be huge, as they're both on the cusp of a Light-Heavyweight title shot and will likely face the winner of Jiri Prochazka vs. Alex Pereira, which goes down at UFC 295.
The co-main event for UFC 294 is one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year. The former Pound-For-Pound King, Former UFC Welterweight Champion, and consensus second-greatest Welterweight of all time will move up to Middleweight to face one of the biggest superstars in the sport, the undefeated phenom and the record holder for fastest turnaround victories in the UFC, Khamzat Chimaev. If that sentence alone doesn't get you excited about this matchup, we don't know what will. Furthermore, Dana White has confirmed that the winner of this matchup will receive a title shot at Middleweight vs. the Champion Sean Strickland. Usman is taking this on short notice but still enters the fight with a silent confidence. He'll be looking to use his powerful straights and elite takedown defense to stop Chimaev in his tracks. In contrast, Chimaev will attempt to do what he does to everyone: charge at full speed and ragdoll Usman with his overwhelming standup and wrestling. It's "The Nigerian Nightmare" against "Borz," and there will be fireworks.
Heading into UFC 284, we thought we would get all the answers. Is Islam Makhachev far too strong for Volkanovski at Lightweight, or will Volkanovski's skillset be too much to handle? Turns out, the first match left us with more questions than answers. Makhachev, dubbed one of the strongest wrestlers in UFC history, could only control Volkanovski for seven minutes and secured just four out of nine takedowns. On the other hand, "The Great," who was supposed to have a massive striking advantage, was dropped in the first round and cracked multiple times throughout the contest. We knew these two were incredible, yet they still exceeded expectations. Now, we get to watch it all over again. This time, Makhachev must stick to a game plan like the first fight: allow Volkanovski to attack first, then counter with takedowns and secure control time and damage on the mat. Volkanovski, on the other hand, will need to engage Makhachev more, utilizing his leg kicks and fast movement to not fall behind on the scorecards. With two of the three Pound-For-Pound fighters in the UFC fighting again, there is no way this fight won't deliver.
If these fights deliver, this could be one of the year's best cards. As a member of the Verdict Community, let us know the matchup you're most excited about in the comments below.