The UFC main event starts at 2:00pm EST with a fight in the men’s lightweight division between Islam Makhachev and lightweight champion Alexander Volkanovski for the lightweight championship. Islam is currently favored at -258 on the moneyline with a -5.5 point spread at -145 odds. Read on for more UFC 294 predictions and best bets for both this fight and the co-main event of Kamaru Usman vs Khamzat Chimaev.
UFC 294 Prediction
It has been anything but a smooth road to the start of UFC 294 as both the co-main and main event have featured last second changes due to injury. Charles Oliveira suffered an injury while training for his rematch against Islam while Paulo Costa has to get surgery to treat an infection. Replacing Oliveira is Alexander Volkanovski, potentially getting one last chance to become a double belt champ as the current featherweight champion. As for Costa, legendary Kamaru Usman makes his debut in the middleweight division to take on Khamzat Chimaev with the winner most likely getting a title shot against Sean Strickland.
Islam Makhachev Vs. Alexander Volkanovski
It may have not gotten the hype it deserves as it was a last second decision, but this is a highly anticipated rematch after facing off earlier this year. While Islam got his hand raised by unanimous decision, the fight was a lot closer than it appeared as Volkanovski did an impressive job with his striking and staggered Islam at times.
While some are questioning if Volk is prepared for this fight, I find it hard to believe he would take this on short notice if he wasn’t. He’s been vocal about his desire to become a double champ, potentially serving as his last chance to do so if he loses a second straight time to Islam. His cardio should remain in elite form in correlation to accepting this on short notice, even after going through a minor surgery after his last fight.
With expectations of Volkanovski being in fighting form, then this one should mirror what we saw in their first fight. Islam will look to use his superior grappling ability to lay on top of Volk and secure control time while Volkanovski tries to pick apart Islam with his striking. That was made apparent in their first bout as Islam comfortably won in control time while Volkanovski bested him in significant strikes.
Alexander Volkanovski is about that.
One of my favourite moments from the first fight 👏🏻
— Lewis Simpson (@LewisSimpsonMMA) October 17, 2023
The issue with relying on his striking is that Islam is a very intelligent fighter and more than able to avoid danger by taking Volk to the mat. Even if it’s in ugly fashion, Islam has no qualms with securing the boring grapple heavy win rather than try to mix it up in a dangerous striking situation against Volk as shown in the tweet above.
When this goes to the ground, Volk has shown an improvement in his grappling defense and is able to keep Islam in place and avoid potential submission opportunities. That still leaves him prone to another decisive loss in the long run but gives us bettors an angle to wager on involving this fight.
Pick: Fight to go the distance
Kamaru Usman Vs. Khamzat Chimaev
While rumors swirled about Volkanovski replacing Oliveira, Kamaru Usman shocked the nation by stepping in for Paulo Costa after he had to step out due to surgery. Usman comes off of two straight losses to Leon Edwards, losing by a flash KO in their first bout and by decision in their second fight.
Usman has been vocal about moving up in weight, potentially serving as a more comfortable weight class for his build. While he certainly has the frame to remain in elite form, it may be too little too late as he looks more hobbled after his stint against Edwards.
📊Kamaru Usman has 97% takedown defense rate. Leon Edwards is the only fighter to take him down. pic.twitter.com/xbFKVIcgBK
— HOME OF FIGHT (@home_of_fight) October 14, 2023
His chin is drastically regressing, and he is absorbing significant strikes at a higher rate. A direct correlation to aging as Usman is currently 36 and looking more sluggish with each passing fight. That spells potential disaster against Khamzat who is a well-rounded striker. Chimaev currently averages 7.3 Significant Strikes per Minute and lands them at a 59% clip.
Worse yet for Usman, Chimaev will be one of the more dangerous submission artists that he has had to deal with as Khamzat averages 3.5 submissions per bout. Getting Usman to the ground will be no easy task, but on the off chance Chimaev gets an opening against the slow-moving Usman then he will be in a good position to pick apart an exposed limb when on the ground.
Pick: Khamzat Chimaev wins inside the distance