UFC 294 came with a few notable asterisks. The main and co-main events especially, saw former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski step into major, difficult bouts on just a few days notice. In Usman’s case, the result was a highly entertaining and competitive 15 minutes of action against ‘Borz’. In Volkanovski’s case, the ‘Great’ found himself on the wrong end of a KO loss just 3 minutes into the opening round.
Even if there’s a solid argument that the City Kickboxing talent put himself in position to take a hard loss inside the Octagon, that doesn’t change the fact that his opponent, lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, put on one hell of a performance. With the victory, the Dagestani, notched his first KO due to standing strikes since a 2018 win over Gleison Tibau.
Joe Rogan wowed by Islam Makhachev’s striking skills
Longtime UFC commentator Joe Rogan wasn’t in attendance for UFC 294. The world famous podcast host stopped traveling with the UFC for international events way back in 2016. Paul Felder took over his duties this last Saturday in Abu Dhabi. But, that doesn’t mean the former Fear Factor host wasn’t still watching the fights. Instead, Rogan hosted a ‘Fight Companion‘ watch party for the event. That’s where fans got to see his live reaction to Makhachev’s thrilling win.
“Oh my God! He head kicked him,” Joe Rogan enthused (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Wow! What a shocker. Who would have saw that coming? It was amazing. Shin to the dome, opened up a cut. It was perfect. Islam, man. He showed a bunch of new sh*t. That front kick, and he was throwing that kick to the body, and then he threw the same kick to the head.”
“I’m just so impressed that he won that way,” Joe Rogan added. “He showed so much improvement. He really made adjustments because they must have trained for Volkanovski again,even though he wasn’t fighting Volkanovski (originally).
“I’m sure they went over all the different things that Volkanovski did, and what are the counters to those things, and he shut a lot of it down. He shut down that switch kick to the outside leg, throwing that front kick up the middle, set up the head kick.”
“He knocked (down) Oliveira in the last fight – remember, his striking was his weakest point. Now it’s f*cking as dangerous as anybody in the division. You knock out Volkanovski? Sh*t.”
Makhachev reacts to KO & cautions Volkanovski over quick turnaround
Alongside Makhachev’s extreme display of skill, one of the other major storylines to come out of UFC 294 was Alexander Volkanovski’s desire to stay busy. Speaking to fans in the Octagon and media after the event, the City Kickboxing star made a plea to UFC bosses. Notably, don’t use his loss here to deny him a chance to defend his belt against Ilia Topuria this coming January.
“You just need to keep busy. That’s why I asked the UFC to keep me busy,” he said at his UFC 294 post-fight presser. “I need to be keeping busy, I need to be in camp. Otherwise, I’m gonna do my head in.”
But if that’s Volkanovski’s hope, Makhachev would caution against it. After his win, Makhachev gave his thoughts on Volkanovski’s desire to jump right back into fight camp. To his way of thinking, the kind of loss Volkanovski suffered on Saturday should require much more rest and recovery.
“He has to (take a break),” Makhachev said of Volkanovski (transcript via MMA Junkie). “He has a big cut on his eye. He (took) a very good kick. That’s why he has to take some rest—100 percent.
“If he’s smart, if his team is smart, he has to take a couple of months rest because this is not like I choked him or body kick. This was a head kick. Not just his coach, but his doctor and his team have to make (that) decision.”
At the moment, the UFC has the 35-year-old Aussie penciled in to face Islam Makhachev at UFC 297 on January 20th in Toronto, Canada. That card is also expected to play host to a featherweight top contender’s bout between Arnold Allen and Movsar Evloev, as well as a middleweight bout between Chris Curtis and Marc-Andre Barriault.
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