Featherweight champion Volkanovski gave lightweight champion Makhachev arguably the toughest test of his career in their title fight at UFC 284 in February. Makhachev defeated Volkanovski by unanimous decision after a competitive five rounds.
Makhachev (24-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC) was scheduled to rematch Charles Oliveira next, but Oliveira was forced out due to a cut. Stepping in on less than two weeks’ notice will be Volkanovski (26-2 MMA, 13-1 UFC), who will get his desired rematch in Saturday’s UFC 294 headliner at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view at a special time of 2 p.m. ET following prelims on ESPN+.
“If there’s anybody who’s going to be in shape and ready to fight a five-round title fight in 10 days, it’s going to be Alexander Volkanovski,” Cormier said on his YouTube channel. “He’s the pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter in the world. He has shown guys time and time again the guys at 145 cannot compete with him. He has been as dominant of a champion as we’ve seen in a really long time, and in the first fight with Islam, he had a lot of moments of success. Anytime you hear a fight like that get announced, you wonder the thoughts of the teams. Obviously, Volkanovski is very confident after what he did in the first one.
“But when you hear Islam talk or you look at his posts on Instagram, Islam immediately says, ‘Thank you for taking the fight. Don’t use it as an excuse.’ I believe that in Fight 1, Islam might have overlooked the guy a little bit. I think he took him a little bit light because he expected to be able to finish him. I felt Makhachev fought a little bit too aggressively early. If you know Islam, you know that’s not the way that he fights. I thought he had this idea that he was going to finish him because he was smaller and he was surprised by how good Volkanovski is. I don’t imagine that’ll happen again this time.”
Cormier is even more excited about the UFC 294 headliner now. Volkanovski immediately called for a rematch in Abu Dhabi after falling short against Makhachev in Perth, and will get his wish – even though the circumstances aren’t ideal.
“I believe that the pay-per-view actually got bigger because there is so much interest in Islam vs. Volkanovski,” Cormier said. “If people would have called for it, the rematch could have happened right now. The UFC has always been open to it. Volkanovski already has gone on and beaten somebody else.
“He always said he would be in Abu Dhabi. He always said he would keep himself readily available in case something happened. This is a very rare case though, because you don’t generally get the backup guy or the guy that’s not scheduled to fight in the fight. That’s happening for Volk.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 294.