Alexander Volkanovski thinks that talent and skills alone won’t be enough to dethrone UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev at UFC 284, but says he has the key attribute needed to get the job done.
UFC featherweight king Volkanovski is moving up to 155 pounds to challenge newly-crowned lightweight champion Makhachev in the main event in Perth, Australia. It’s a bout between the UFC’s number one and two-ranked fighters on the pound-for-pound list, and No. 1-ranked Volkanovski is heading into fight night as a sizable underdog, with the oddsmakers setting him as a +310 chance.
Volkanovski will be conceding size and weight to his opponent on fight night, but former Bellator champion and lightweight contender Michael Chandler highlighted one key quality in the Russian’s game, saying Makhachev does the basics so well and doesn’t make many mistakes.
Speaking to reporters during media day in Perth, Volkanovski addressed that assessment and suggested that the Russian’s approach is a risk-averse one, which helps him avoid trouble in fights.
“He doesn’t take unnecessary risks. That’s the proper way of doing it,” he said.
“We all know what they’re good at what they want to do. They’re calculating their sense, you know. Some people are saying that he can strike – it’s underrated. But then you’ve seen a lot of people that say it’s not good. But it is calculated. That’s something that he does very well, he doesn’t over-commit too much.”
Then he added, with a smile, “He does sometimes.”
“He will fight on the back foot and wait for the right time to shoot, and things like that. His distance game isn’t too bad. So little things like that, he does well – like I said, he’s calculated.”
Moving up a weight class to take on a champion with a reputation for not making mistakes offers the biggest test of Volkanovski’s MMA career to date. But the Aussie said that finding the path to victory and preparing accordingly has been his M.O. throughout his career, and he’s looking forward to showcasing that again this weekend.
“I always find them, though. Right? That’s my thing,” he said.
“You can’t get too carried away because we know he wants to shoot, as well. So that’s what’s good about him. He is patient, he will stay on the outside. You over-commit, he will make you pay, you know? If you over-commit incorrectly, it can be a long night for you.
“But obviously, I’m a calculated fighter. That fight IQ is definitely gonna have to come into play. I need to turn up, you know? This isn’t a fight where I can just come in and I will see what happens. I need to be on my game. But I’m always on my game, always prepare how I should and you’re gonna see me turn up, and I plan on raising two belts at the end of it.”
Makhachev is the latest elite-level athlete to emerge from Dagestan and rise all the way to the top, and Volkanovski has great respect for the skills and attributes exhibited by the lightweight champion and his teammates. Their fighting style has proved to be the Kryptonite for so many fighters over recent years, but Volkanovski thinks that relentless preparation will help him overcome that at UFC 284.
“It’s pretty obvious that they got a strong ground game. They do have a certain style, very good MMA-specific style. And people haven’t been able to capitalise on it – not capitalise on or deal with (it) or figure that out,” he said.
“You’ve got to train, how you mentored, you got to prepare for these guys properly. Because again, if you’re just gonna go there and just think you can just do anything you do in a jiu-jitsu room, you need to change it up.
“You need to study these guys, study their movements, details. I could be wrong, but I don’t think other teams or other fighters did enough of that. But we always do that. We always gameplan properly, prepare properly, and always prepare for the worst. So, no matter what happens in there, I’m not going to be shocked, I’m not going to be puzzled.”
It’s as fascinating a championship clash as you can find in the sport in 2023, with the two top pound-for-pound fighters on the planet set to face off in Perth. It may be a real test for Volkanovski, but the Australian hero said he will find the route to victory and walk away victorious on home soil.
“I’m going to be going for it the whole time,” he said.
“And again, if there’s anyone for the job to figure any puzzle out, I’m the man. I truly do believe that, and I get to show that on Sunday.