Islam Makhachev successfully exemplified another facet of his game in the UFC 294 headliner. As the reigning lightweight champion, he defended his title with a first-round knockout of Alexander Volkanovski in their rematch at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. Makhachev landed a powerful head kick and proceeded to finish his opponent off with a series of follow-up punches. The fight concluded at the 3:06 mark of Round 1, a stark contrast to their first meeting which had resulted in a hard-fought unanimous decision in favor of Makhachev.
At the post-fight press conference, Makhachev expressed his satisfaction in his performance. “My coaches have told me I have a good head kick. I always try to land the kick when I fight,” he explained. The strategy of launching kicks proved beneficial against an opponent like Volkanovski, whose shorter stature made it easier for Makhachev to land successful hits. Completing the fight in the first round was satisfying for Makhachev, who was averse to the idea of potentially getting criticized for only winning in the championship rounds due to taking the fight with short notice.
With his successful rematch against Volkanovski, discussion quickly shifted towards Makhachev’s next potential opponent. UFC CEO Dana White suggested the possibility of a fight with Charles Oliveira, who was originally scheduled to fight. Justin Gaethje has also shown a significant amount of interest in a championship opportunity. White, however, was particularly favorable towards Oliveira, noting, “You’ve got to give it to Oliveira. Oliveira is ready to go.” The CEO was unable to provide a more definitive answer at the time.
Makhachev displayed a professional attitude towards the situation, showing readiness to fight any contender. “It’s not my job. Dana has to work on this. I just will sign the contract. Just send me the name,” he mentioned. Additionally, despite being open to fighting anyone, Makhachev expressed dissatisfaction with the concept of another rematch. He shared his belief that fighting new opponents would be beneficial in his growth as a fighter. His previous match against Oliveira ended in a second-round submission, and Makhachev predicted a similar outcome if they were to fight again.