Islam Makhachev stuns Alexander Volkanovski with head-kick KO in first round at UFC 294

Islam Makhachev stunned Alexander Volkanovski with a first-round knockout on Saturday, retaining the lightweight title in their rematch at UFC 294.

In February, Makhachev outpointed Volkanovski – who holds the featherweight belt – in the latter’s native Australia, in a competitive clash that left many fans desiring a rematch.

Few expected it to come at UFC 294, but 11 days before the event, Makhachev’s original challenger Charles Oliveira suffered a severe cut over his eye. And with that, the door opened for Volkanovski.

The 35-year-old relished the chance to avenge his narrow loss to Makhachev, but there was to be no revenge for him – only a repeat as the Russian triumphed again, and in finer fashion this time.

Midway through the first round of the main event, southpaw Makhachev skimmed his left shin off Volkanovski’s head, wobbling and dropping the featherweight king. Makhachev, 31, followed up with a fierce flurry of hammer fists to the grounded Aussie, whose brow split open amid the onslaught.

Referee Marc Goddard stepped in, confirming an emphatic victory and title defence for Makhachev, the mentee and childhood friend of UFC lightweight great Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The result extended Makhachev’s win streak to 13 fights, dating back to 2015, when he suffered the sole loss of his professional career. Meanwhile, Volkanovski was beaten for the third time as a pro, though he remains undefeated at his preferred weight of 145lbs.

Makhachev seals the finish against Volkanovski (AP)
Makhachev seals the finish against Volkanovski (AP)
Volkanovski was left bloodied by the fight-ending sequence (AFP via Getty Images)
Volkanovski was left bloodied by the fight-ending sequence (AFP via Getty Images)

“Alexander The Great” rebounded from his first loss to Makhachev by stopping Yair Rodriguez in July, retaining the featherweight title against the then-interim champion. He will look to respond to his latest defeat when he takes on his next title challenger – likely Ilia Topuria in January.

Meanwhile, Makhachev could be set for a rematch with Oliveira, whom he was originally due to face at UFC 294 and whom he submitted in October 2022 to win the lightweight belt. The 155lbs title was vacant at the time of that bout, which took place in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Arena like UFC 294, after Oliveira was stripped of the belt for missing weight in May 2022.

Meanwhile, Volkanovski’s featherweight title reign dates back to 2019, when he took the belt from Max Holloway. The Australian has since outpointed Holloway a further two times, while also winning his other three title defences – against Brian Ortega on points, and against Chan Sung Jung and Rodriguez via TKO.

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