Alexander Volkanovski may be considered the underdog as he prepares to move up a weight class to challenge newly-crowned lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, but he’s received the backing of a man who knows the fight game inside out.
UFC Hall of Famer and former heavyweight champion Bas Rutten has picked Volkanovski to win the champion-versus-champion clash in Perth, Australia on February 12, and cited the Aussie’s performances in recent title defenses as evidence of his ability to overcome adversity and prevail on the biggest stage of all.
Makhachev is riding an 11-fight win streak heading into the fight, as he prepares to put his lightweight title on the line for the first time against featherweight champ Volkanovski, whose win streak dwarfs that of the Russian.
“Alexander the Great” heads into the bout on a formidable 22-fight win streak, with victories over a who’s who of the 145-pound division. Despite his impressive form, Volkanovski is a sizable underdog as he moves up to 155 pounds to face a significantly larger champion in Makhachev.
But, nonetheless, Rutten sees a path to victory for Volkanovski, and believes the former rugby player has what it takes to dethrone Makhachev.
Speaking to Submission Radio, Rutten said, “Volkanovski. I’ll put my money on him. Yeah, I put my money on him.
“I’ve been so impressed with the guy, and also the way he reacted outside, and he’s just a really good guy with that endless energy. He can keep pushing, pushing, pushing.”
Rutten said that Volkanovski’s relentless tenacity could be the key to victory, as he backed the Australian to take Makhachev into deep waters and beat him with his proven conditioning over the five-round championship duration.
“If he just fights every takedown, if he fights constantly fighting, you know, get him tired, see if he can get him tired. And I know Makhachev’s got great stamina as well, but I think Volkanovski’s got a really good stamina and he should really use the gas tank.
“With Ortega, the submissions that he was in that I thought he couldn’t get out, he simply got out. He’s a Terminator. He has endless energy. He’s gonna come for Makhachev.”
Rutten predicts a tough, grueling war between the pair when they face off in Perth, and reminded people that, despite their wrestling and grappling credentials, the threat of the knockout is there for both men.
“This is a tough fight, man,” he said.
“I know he’s been steamrolling through everybody, Makhachev has. But Volkanovski, he impresses me every single time when I see him fight. And if there is a guy who can do it, I believe that he can do it.
“He can stop him, even. That’s a big one. But you know, if a punch connects, both have been knocked out by the way. Only once, but both of them. So, they are susceptible.”
“I mean, (Volkanovski’s) so good, he’s so good. And then the fight against Ortega. I was there, and I go, the guy’s a freaking animal!”