The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently returned to Abu Dhabi for an exciting pay-per-view event, maintaining its track record of high-quality matches for the year. The main event featured a thrilling rematch between the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, and featherweight king, Alexander Volkanovski. Initially, Makhachev was slated to defend his title in another rematch against former champion Charles Oliveira. However, due to an injury, Oliveira had to step down, bringing Volkanovski into the mix at short notice. With an impressive career record of 24-1, Makhachev had not lost a match since 2015 and notably recorded 12 consecutive wins thereafter. Volkanovski, with a remarkable career record of 26-2, broke his near decade-long, 22-match winning streak with a loss against Makhachev which cost him his historic title bid. For Makhachev, this had been his first match since their encounter, whereas Volkanovski had taken an interim opportunity to square off against the interim featherweight champion Yair Rodriguez. Their rematch ended differently, with Makhachev scoring with a right head kick that injured Volkanovski, leading to a decisive victory in just over three minutes.
A fascinating co-main event was held, with an impressive 185-pound title-eliminator showdown between welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and undefeated sensation Khamzat Chimaev at middleweight. Usman, now out of a title bout for the first time in many years, entered the match with a spectacular 9-year, 19-fight winning streak under his belt, which previously included the triumphant acquisition of the UFC welterweight crown from Tyron Woodley in 2019 and five successful title defenses. However, he had recently suffered back-to-back losses against reigning champion Leon Edwards. Chimaev, meanwhile, maintained an unbroken 12-0 overall and 6-0 in the UFC, with his decision victory against former title contender Gilbert Burns being the sole close call of his career. Despite the considerable opposition, Chimaev dominated the opening round of the match, effectively securing him the win with a majority decision, earning him a shot at Sean Strickland’s 185-pound title.
Several intriguing matches are in the pipeline post-UFC 294. Justin Gaethje will face Islam Makhachev, where the former’s formidable striking and All-American wrestling credentials may pose a formidable challenge to Makhachev’s takedown strategies. Magomed Ankalaev and Johnny Walker are set to have their rematch with Ankalaev holding the edge based on their previous encounter. However, the unpredictability of the Brazilian fighter stands as a constant threat. Muhammad Mokaev is up against Alex Perez, with Perez being a well-rounded contender who has challenged for the flyweight crown. Despite losing his last two fights, he demonstrated solid skills against champions Deiveson Figueiredo and Alexandre Pantoja. As such, whether Mokaev can take him down in the grappling remains to be seen. It promises to be a spectacular test and potentially a match delivering a highlight finish. Even if Mokaev were to fail, at merely 23, he still possesses plenty of time for revival, while a victory would breathe new life into Perez’s career.