Makhachev knocks out Volkanovski in rematch

ABU DHABI — The first fight between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski in February was a classic, five-round affair that saw both men enjoy a lot of success. The second meeting, at UFC 294 on Saturday inside Etihad Arena, belonged solely to Makhachev.

Makhachev (25-1) defended his 155-pound lightweight championship in emphatic fashion, as he knocked out featherweight champion Volkanovski (26-3) with a left head kick at 3:06 of the opening round. It is Makhachev’s 13th consecutive win, which ties him for third all time in UFC history, three shy of Anderson Silva‘s mark of 16 in a row. It marked the first time Volkanovski has been finished in a bout since his fourth fight back in 2013.

The result was impressive, even considering Volkanovski took the fight on 11 days’ notice. Makhachev was supposed to fight Charles Oliveira, but Oliveira withdrew due to a facial cut suffered in training.

“I showed him the low kick, body kick then I just changed to the high kick,” Makhachev said. “This is what we trained the last couple months for Oliveira and nothing changed, same thing for Volkanovski. I want to say thank you to [Volkanovski], he is a real champion. He is going to fight all five rounds and never give up. He is a real champion.”

Volkanovski, of Australia, still holds his 145-pound championship. The UFC offered him the opportunity to become a two-weight champion twice in 2023, thanks to his five title defenses over the past three years. Despite the loss, the 35-year-old expressed in his postfight comments a desire to stay busy and continue defending his featherweight title.

“Obviously, it was a great setup, a good kick,” Volkanovski said. “It hurts me. He’s a great champion. What do you do? I back myself every single time. Credit to him. I just want to say to the UFC, please keep me busy.”

The two fought in Volkanovski’s home country of Australia, in Perth, at UFC 284 in February. Makhachev won by unanimous decision, but Volkanovski exceeded expectations by thwarting the Dagestani champion’s wrestling. He finished the fight on a high note, pouring on offense to the delight of the Australian crowd. Volkanovski immediately called for a rematch after the loss, and he was still widely ranked ahead of Makhachev as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Saturday’s fight began with both fighters working in the clinch, until Makhachev broke off and rotated Volkanovski toward the fence. The left head kick landed clean and essentially ended the fight instantly. Makhachev followed him to the ground to throw more shots and Volkanovski tried to sit up, but he was pinned against the fence and the bout was waved off shortly after.

Volkanovski’s next challenge is expected to be Ilia Topuria at 145 pounds. Makhachev’s options include Oliveira or former interim champion Justin Gaethje.

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