UFC 284 takes place Saturday night in Perth, Australia and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski Main Card
Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski
The UFC’s current No.1 pound-for-pound fighter Volkanovski has become so dominant as the long-reigning featherweight champion that he’s now moving up to lightweight to challenge it’s new titleholder, the 11-fight unbeaten Makhachev, who just so happens to be ranked No.2 on the pound-for-pound list.
Even by 145lb standards Volkanovski is on the smaller side, and while that’s never proven to be a problem for him there, it remains to be seen if going up against a naturally bigger man like Makhachev will prove to be a headache for him. The good news however is that though Makhachev has a 4″ height advantage, it’s actually Volkanovski who holds a marginal 1/2″ reach advantage.
For Volkanovski it’s clear that this is a fight where he’ll be eager to keep the action standing and show that same mix of speed, timing, pace, consistency and cardio on the feet that’s proven so hard to beat, with the great and the good of the featherweight division like Max Holloway (x3), Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, ‘The Korean Zombie’ and Chad Mendes all coming up short. He is also a sturdy wrestler, though it’s likely it’ll be his solid takedown defense and ability to scramble back to his feet that he’ll lean on more here.
That’s because Makhachev is known for his relentlessly dominant wrestling ability combined with high-level grappling that’s provided numerous submission finishes over the course of his career. That being said, Makhachev has also worked diligently to be as well-rounded as possible and that increasingly shows in his striking ability, with his title-winning performance against Charles Oliveira demonstrating the kind of confidence, composure and effectiveness on the feet that makes him an even more formidable foe.
It would be wise not to underestimate Volkanovski here given his past resume and the fact he still seems to be finding ways to further refine skills that have already been tried and tested at the highest level.
However, I like the fact that Makhachev has further developed his own striking and while I still believe the featherweight champ is better in that regard, it’ll enable the lightweight champ to be somewhat competitive in the striking exchanges. Meanwhile, with his wrestling being at such a high-level and further enhanced by his natural size advantage it does feel like Makhachev’s mat work will be the deciding factor here, and while Volkanovski will make him work for it, a submission win is a possibility in the championship rounds.
Yair Rodriguez vs. Josh Emmett
The co-main event sees the interim featherweight title up for grabs as current No.2 ranked contender Rodriguez goes up against Emmett, who is on a five-fight winning streak in the weight class.
Rodriguez is a very skilled striker with a dynamic and creative style, mixing up his kicks, punches, elbows and knees in a way that’s certainly eye-catching, but is not just for show and is effective. He’s also fast with his attacks and utilizes good footwork. His ground game just isn’t on the same level however, but he does have some capability to scramble back to his feet if he’s taken down.
Emmett has also proven to be a dangerous striker, though his style is markedly different from ‘El Pantera’. There’s far less variety to his strikes and not as much slick movement, preferring to focus on his boxing ability, working behind the jab and keeping an active output while looking for opportunities to throw in an overhand bomb. Emmett has seriously heavy hands and if he’s not outright finishing opponents with them he often does have them hurt at some stage in the fight, while he’s very durable too.
Emmett comes from a solid wrestling background, but it’s not something he tends to be eager to utilize, instead favoring his fight-ending potential on the feet, which could be a tactical error if he overlooks it here as he would likely have a significant advantage on the mat.
Emmett is also 37-years-old now, compared to Rodriguez still being in his prime at 30, and he’s had his fair share of injury woes in recent years that’s reduced his opportunities to compete. And with Rodriguez already being the quicker, slicker and more versatile striker I feel that he’ll have the edge in the stand-up action here, though he’ll have to fight five hard rounds to emerge with his hand raised to claim the interim belt.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Randy Brown
Perth’s own Maddalena has burst onto the UFC scene in style with three 1st round finishes via strikes in a row and now looks to keep that going against Brown, who is on a four-fight winning streak of his own.
Maddalena’s boxing ability has looked very impressive so far in the UFC, offering up an exceptionally high volume of punches, but thrown with real purpose and accuracy as works to both the body and head with powerful blows that have overwhelmed his opponents in fairly short order.
It remains to be seen how he’ll fare against the also in-form Brown, who will hold a very significant 4″ height and 5″ reach advantage over him and he’s a well-rounded fighter with a lot of UFC experience under his belt.
On the feet Brown will look to make the most of his size advantage with long-range punches and kicks on the outside, while in close he’ll surely be eager to test the striker’s wrestling as he looks to get the fight to the mat and use his crafty grappling ability in search of a submission.
Brown isn’t the most comfortable when his opponent’s are able to start striking on the inside though and it’s in that kind of boxing range that Maddalena excels with his combination work and so I’ll take him to delight the home crowd with a second round TKO victory.
Justin Tafa vs. Parker Porter
Two heavyweights who have been languishing in the lower region of the heavyweight ranks here, with Tafa only 2-3 in his UFC run so far but coming off a head kick KO win last time out, while Porter is 3-2 but coming off a 1st round submission loss.
Tafa is certainly the heavier hitter of the two here in addition to being eight years younger than his 37-year-old opponent, and he’ll also have the home advantage too on Australian soil. He’s a flawed fighter though as he’ll eat plenty of shots while trying to land his own, he’ll become less of a threat the longer the fight goes on and his game is very limited beyond just striking
Porter doesn’t have Tafa’s power, but along with his volume-striking he has more to offer in other aspects of MMA as he can work for clinch and wrestling opportunities too.
Like Tafa, Porter tends to be very hittable on the feet which is a significant concern here, but if he can survive the early exchanges and make this an MMA fight rather than just a striking battle then he should be able to gain the upper-hand as the fight progresses to secure a decision win.
Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield
Crute made a 4-1 start to his UFC run, but the Aussie has since slumped with back-to-back 1st round TKO and KO losses and now will look to steady the ship against Menifield, who on the other hand has won both of his last fights via strikes in the first five minutes.
It’d be wise not to get too caught up on those recent records though as the first of Crute’s two losses came after a first-round calf kick from Anthony Smith led to his foot essentially being immobilized, leaving him unable to continue, while Menifield’s two wins came against Askar Mozharov, who has since been released after it emerged his fighting record was much worse than UFC officials had been led to believe, and a very much in decline Misha Cirkunov, who retired afterwards.
That’s not to say that the 35-year-old Menifield should be overlooked however as he’s a big physical presence, has proven knockout power and there’s also signs his takedown defense is shoring up too.
Crute is the younger man by nine years and he’s also the more well-rounded fighter too. He’s a solid striker, but can overcommit at times and leave himself open defensively, which would be a concern against Menifield. However, Crute does a good job of mixing in his striking with takedown attempts and from there can utilize his effective ground-and-pound and submission ability too.
Crute suffered a 48 second KO loss to Jamahal Hill last time out and a similar result is within Menifield’s wheelhouse, but I do feel ‘The Brute’ will have learned from that and be a bit less reckless, while using his broader skill-set to get his opponent to the mat and go on to earn a decision victory.
UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski Prelims
(Predicted winners in bold)
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Elves Brenner
Joshua Culibao vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
Shannon Ross vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Francisco Prado
Jack Jenkins vs. Don Shainis
Loma Lookboonmee vs. Elise Reed
Shane Young vs. Blake Bilder
Tyson Pedro vs. Modestas Bukauskas