Alexander Volkanovski advances, measures Islam Makhachev – Orange County Register

By TRISTAN LAVALETTE The Associated Press

PERTH, Australia — UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev’s jibes about an alleged lack of height are unlikely to faze Alexander Volkanovski.

He worked as a concrete worker, played rugby and grew up in the working class town of Wollongong south of Sydney. He can fight back.

“It’s been happening forever… even on the football field,” Volkanovski said of his 31-year-old Russian rival’s taunts. But: “Nobody has ever just overpowered me.”

At 5-foot-6, defending featherweight champion Volkanovski, four inches tall and 15 pounds, will surrender to Makhachev (23 wins, 1 loss) if he moves up a division for the lightweight title fight, the main event of UFC 284 Sunday in Perth, the capital of the state of Western Australia.

With top pound-for-pound fighter status on the line, Volkanovski (25 wins, 1 loss) will have a sold-out crowd of 13,000 right behind him in what is expected to be a fevered RAC Arena. But even with that, Volkanovski is the underdog against Makhachev’s impressive wrestling and grappling skills.

“He doesn’t take any unnecessary risks. He doesn’t overdo it,” Volkanovski said of Makhachev, who has 11 submission wins in his 23 career wins.

“He will fight on the back foot and wait for the right time to shoot. His distance play is not bad. He’s calculated, brilliant on the fundamentals. He’s a great fighter.”

Direct-shooting Makhachev insists his superior size will lead to a one-sided fight and defense of his light belt.

“It’s a different division. I’ll hit him,” he said. “I want to knock him out. I know I’m the best MMA fighter because I have all the skills – punching, wrestling, grappling.”

But Volkanovski, 34, whose strength and punching power have fueled his rise in mixed martial arts, scoffed at his opponent’s confident prediction.

“Hit? It’s an unnecessary risk. He won’t do that,” said Volkanovski, who has been gorging on extra calories to gain weight.

“If he thinks I’m going to be just a weak little featherweight, he’s going to be in for a nasty shock.”

MMA in Australia is gradually emerging from a niche, its growing popularity evident by the hundreds of fans who turned out for the fighters’ public practice ahead of the first UFC event to be hosted in the country since the COVID-19 pandemic .

Among the other fights on the card, Josh Emmett will face Yair Rodriguez for the interim featherweight title belt and Parker Porter will face New Zealand’s Justin Tafa. Alexander Volkanovski advances, measures Islam Makhachev – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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