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.
Prediction: Islam Makhachev to win by submission in Rd4
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.
Prediction: Yair Rodriguez to win by decision
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.