This past Saturday in the main event of UFC 294, the lightweight title was on the line. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (26-3) was stepping in on short notice to rematch lightweight champion Islam Makhachev (25-1). These two first fought in February and now they were rematching on short notice.
Originally, Charles Oliveira was supposed to get the fight against Makhachev, but the former lightweight champion suffered a nasty cut which forced him out. On just 11 days’ notice, Volkanovski was willing to come off the couch and take on the dangerous lightweight champion.
If anyone could pull this off, you thought it would be Volkanovski. The fight started very similar to the first one. Both men feeling the other out with Makhachev landing some decent strikes from distance. When Makhachev first shot for a takedown, Volkanovski stuffed it easily. After some clinch fighting, they broke away.
When they were back to striking, Makhachev landed the perfect head kick that sent Volkanovski to the mat. The lightweight champion followed up with big shots and the fight was stopped. It was the first time that featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski had been finished in the UFC.
What’s next after UFC 294?
You have to feel for Volkanovski in this scenario. He saved the card for the UFC by being willing to step up, but with the way he lost, you have to think that his dream of becoming a two-division champion is done as long as Islam Makhachev runs the lightweight division.
From here, Volkanovski will go back to featherweight where he’s still the king of 145. Originally, the UFC was looking at him headlining the first PPV of the year on January 20th against Ilia Topuria in Toronto. That is still what Volkanovski wants to do, however, I think it might be best to wait until February.
I don’t want to see Volk rush back after the knockout loss and with the nasty cut he suffered, he’s going to need some time of no contact. I really think it would be best for him to wait, but as he addressed in the post-fight press conference, he struggles mentally when he doesn’t fight.
He’ll do anything in his power to turn around for January, but as a fan, I’d love to see him wait one more month before taking on the challenge that is Ilia Topuria.