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Forbes
Forbes
21 Oct 2023


UFC 294: Makhachev v Volkanovski 2

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 21: (R-L) Islam Makhachev of Russia kicks Alexander ... [+] Volkanovski of Australia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 294 event at Etihad Arena on October 21, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The much-anticipated and somewhat rushed rematch between UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev and UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski ended much differently than their first meeting.

On Saturday at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, Makhachev scored a stunning, first-round KO win over Volkanovski with a well-placed head kick in the first round. Makhachev set the kick up perfectly with a series of left kicks to the midsection, and he’d attempted a takedown moments before landing the decisive blow.

Here is a look at the finish from Spinning Backfist:

Volkanovski stepped in to replace Charles Oliveira, who was originally slated to face Makhachev on just 11 days notice to save the main event of one of the biggest shows on the UFC’s calendar.

Unfortunately for Volkanovski, his risk and sacrifice didn’t render Octagon success.

Makhachev placed the kick right above Volkanovski’s right eyebrow, immediately creating a gash and sending the rugged Australian careening to the canvas. There were a few follow-up shots, but those were mostly inconsequential as referee Marc Goddard was already moving in to stop the fight after the head kick.

The victory made a strong statement that might call an end to the mini-rivalry between Makhachev and Volkanovski. The two men fought back in February with Makhachev escaping the classic bout with a controversial unanimous-decision victory. Volkanovski came on strong in the final 15 minutes of the fight leaving some wondering if the judges had gotten things right, and at the very least, if the result would be different in a rematch.

In the rematch, Makhachev left no doubt.

Fight Night Picks’ Craig Martin wasted no time declaring Makhachev the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world moments after the victory.

Bookies’ Adam Martin points out the consistent element in the two KO losses Volkanovski has had in his career.

It has been 10 years since Volkanovski has been finished. The first KO loss happened in his fourth fight as a pro. So much has changed since then, it is tough to draw a sensible connection to those events.

However, UFC star Conor McGregor did post this on X after the KO:

After the fight, Volkanovski urged the UFC to keep him busy.

He still plans on defending his featherweight title in January against Ilia Topuria as planned. That’s a fight that will have even more eyeballs considering Volkanovski was made to look more vulnerable than ever against Makhachev.

As for Makhachev, he refrained from stating his preference in his next opponent. The champion left it to UFC President Dana White and his team to line up the next challenger.

In the meantime, the 155-pound king’s highlight reel got a little longer and a lot more impressive.