UFC 284 Picks: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski Prediction

by | Last updated Feb 11, 2023 | mma

UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski Picks
When: Saturday, February 11, 2023
Where: RAC Arena, Perth, Australia

Fight Analysis:

UFC 284 features a momentous main event, with UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev taking on UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski for the 155-pound title. While it seems to be an ambitious fight for the smaller Volkanovski, his UFC record is above reproach. But Makhachev, fresh off his dominant title-winning triumph over Charles Oliveira in October, is on an 8-year unbeaten streak, and it’s difficult to remember him being really challenged in the octagon. Let’s break this fight down, as there are a lot of moving pieces.

Islam Makhachev, 23-1 (4 KOs, 11 Submissions), (-400) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (25-1 (12 KOs, 3 Submissions), (+310)—Odds by Bovada
Champion Islam Makhachev will battle fellow champion Alexander Volkanovski for the UFC Lightweight Title on February 11 in Perth. While having competed at lightweight before, this is Volkanovski’s first real test at 155 pounds following an ultra-successful title run at 145 pounds. After four defenses at featherweight, he takes on the heavily-favored new champion Makhachev. At 31, three years Volkanovski’s junior, the lightweight titleholder has been dominant, stopping his last five opponents and running through Oliveira with remarkable ease. What are Volkanovski’s chances in all reality?

A former rugby player who clocked in at over 200 pounds, I’m not sure the extra poundage will be a big hindrance for Volkanovski. It’s the opponent who is the bigger concern, not the poundage. He is squat, even for a featherweight, and will be giving up several inches in height to Makhachev. He is deceivingly rangy, however, as Volkanovski actually has a one-inch reach advantage. While their records are similar, each having one loss from far back, it is Volkavovski who is the more-proven battler at this level. He hasn’t lost in nearly ten years, and while Makhachev has a similar run of eight years, Volkanovski has faced better fighters and is more-proven over the five-round distance. With three wins over future Hall of Famer Max Holloway and a slew of wins over other top featherweights, Volkanovski’s work at 145 pounds has been thorough. Meanwhile, Makhachev has seen some lulls in his run to the top, and other than the win over Oliveira, his resumé is relatively thin.

It’s going to take more than geography to beat Makhachev, but this fight is in the Aussie champion’s home country can’t hurt. He brings to this matchup a level of quickness that Makhachev hasn’t seen in his run to the title. And again, it was an impressive run, but one where he didn’t see a lot of the type of quality Volkanovski represents. The Aussie champ has a large variety of strikes, strong takedown defense, can get guys down, and is a really squirmy guy who can be difficult to pin down. In Makhachev’s only loss, he was coldcocked with a single right hand, something Volkanovski is more than capable of delivering.

It doesn’t bode well for Volkanovski that he’s of small stature for a featherweight, taking on a massive 155-pounder. Makhachev looks like a welterweight. He’s from the Khabib camp. He’s one of those guys, otherworldly wrestlers who know how to use the leverage that comes with a 4-5 inch edge in height. His route to success is simple, yet difficult to dissuade. He gets a hold of you and then grinds you down. The grappling these guys are capable of is different than what UFC opponents are used to seeing in the octagon. And while just being from that camp doesn’t immediately translate to being an all-time great like Khabib, the fact that he’s the champion and also that type of guy reflects what a handful he is.

When examining how Volkanovski can beat Makhachev, a lot of routes seem problematic. Whatever prowess Volkanovski has in the area of grappling would seem to be negated. Sure, he can use his skills to defend and not be completely lost at sea when scrambles ensue, and Makhachev gets his way, but this is not his domain. If looking for someone to stop Makhachev, you’d almost want to see someone who is perhaps not as versatile as Volkanovski, but someone who is ultra-brilliant in one area. You could say maybe Volkanovski picks him apart with quick strikes while avoiding the danger zone, but without the real standout KO power, can he play that game for 25 minutes without the wheels coming off?

I still can’t help but think there’s this underlying quality to Volkanovski that is hard to account for properly when doing a standard appraisal. I have no problem with the notion that Makhachev is too big and too good. You could even say this is a good matchup for him, with his biggest threat being that he might be outmaneuvered, while Volkanovski faces the possibility of getting strangled or submitted. Still, the Aussie is as crafty as they come. He has great hands, always excelling in takedown-defense, with the speed and movement to carry out his fight plan and not fall into the squeeze of submission experts.

It’s not easy to pick a guy you kind of think is going to lose. Whatever case we build up for Volkanovski, the prospects of beating Makhachev just puts a dimness on it. In a straight-up sense, the answer is Makhachev. But it’s not often you jump on a +310 underdog and get a talent of Volkanovski’s ilk, a future hall-of-fame champion who hasn’t lost in a decade. Even if you think Makhachev wins two out of three of these matchups, it’s a good value. On those merits, I’m going to take a whirl on Volkanovski at the underdog price.

My Pick to Win: I’m betting on Alexander Volkanovski at +310 betting odds. It is an issue of value. It is also steeped in the notion that Volkanovski’s recent dominance isn’t being accounted for enough, nor is his talent. I don’t think it’s that crazy to think maybe Makhachev hasn’t seen a guy like this before and that Volkanovski is cute and quick enough to eke out a decision win. Bet your UFC and Super Bowl LVII picks for FREE by scoring a 100% real cash bonus on your first deposit of $100 to $300 when you use bonus code PREDICT100 at MyBookie Sportsbook! They have Super Bowl squares where you can get in for as little as $3 and as much as $555!