Every­thing you need to know about the card in Abu Dhabi, where the Russ­ian-speak­ing tops of the best fight league in the world fought.

On Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 21, in the evening in Abu Dhabi (UAE) at the Eti­had Are­na, a large UFC 294 tour­na­ment was held, where Russ­ian-speak­ing stars of the pro­mo­tion fought. The pre­lim­i­nary card fights began at 17:00, and the main card began at 21:00 Moscow time.

In the main event of the evening Islam Makhachev defend­ed his light­weight belt again against Alex Volka­novs­ki. And the Chechen star Khamzat Chi­maev made his debut at mid­dleweight — imme­di­ate­ly against the ex-cham­pi­on Kamaru Usman.

Espe­cial­ly for Men Today, sports jour­nal­ist and com­men­ta­tor Alex­ey Safonov named his favorites for the main fights of the evening.

Forecast for the fight between Islam Makhachev and Alex Volkanovski

Islam Makhachev (24–1) is the dom­i­nant light­weight cham­pi­on and Khabib’s best friend. He trained with him since child­hood and was con­sid­ered even more tal­ent­ed. In the UFC, Islam won 12 fights, and in Octo­ber 2022 he became the cham­pi­on, stran­gling Charles Oliveira.

Makhachev picked up the belt after Khabib and shows sim­i­lar dom­i­nance. Volka­novs­ki (26–2) is the only one who gave Makhachev prob­lems in his first title defense. The Aus­tralian had a com­pet­i­tive fight with Makhachev, lost on points, but in the end he knocked down the cham­pi­on before fin­ish­ing him off.

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Volka­novs­ki is an ana­logue of Makhachev, but from feath­er­weight. Alex also dom­i­nates his UFC divi­sion: he won 13 times in a row and defend­ed the title five times in a row. In the rank­ing of fight­ers, regard­less of weight cat­e­go­ry, Volka­novs­ki is sec­ond, Makhachev is third.

Aver­age odds for the fight:

Islam Makhachev — 1.37
Alex Volka­novs­ki — 3.4

Why is Makhachev such a big favorite and is this justified?

Volka­novs­ki is a feath­er­weight fight­er who moves up to Makhachev’s divi­sion to make his­to­ry and become a dou­ble cham­pi­on. Fight­ing in some­one else’s weight room is always a risk: Makhachev is big­ger, he is used to this weight and has an advan­tage.

In the first fight, Volka­novs­ki sur­prised: he did not allow Makhachev to move him and con­trol him on the ground for a long time. But due to greater activ­i­ty, Islam took the rounds on points.

Now it will be even more dif­fi­cult for Volka­novs­ki: he is com­ing on as a sub­sti­tute — 10 days before the tour­na­ment, Charles Oliveira with­drew due to an injury in train­ing.

Islam Makhachev vs. Alex Volkanovski

A full train­ing camp is extreme­ly impor­tant for a fight­er: they spend months prepar­ing for a fight to get into peak shape. Volka­novs­ki is a phe­nom­e­non and he is a very hard work­er. But he won’t come out in per­fect shape, and men­tal tough­ness may be the key to suc­cess.

“Islam Makhachev, nat­u­ral­ly, is a big favorite in the rematch with Volka­novs­ki. But I’m sur­prised why there is such a big gap in the odds. Yes, Volka­novs­ki did­n’t have a prop­er train­ing camp. Yes, it is notice­ably small­er.

But Volka­novs­ki is one of the guys who always trains. It must exist in some min­i­mal form. Whether this is enough for Makhachev is a big ques­tion. But the main thing is not the phys­i­cal con­di­tion, but the moral one.”

“Volka­novs­ki is crazy, he is able to yell, go for­ward, no mat­ter what, turn the fight around.”
Alexey Safonov

Alex­ey Safonov Jour­nal­ist, ex-UFC com­men­ta­tor

Psy­cho­log­i­cal pres­sure could be a prob­lem for Makhachev. Volka­novs­ki has noth­ing to lose because he will remain the feath­er­weight cham­pi­on. At the same time, he will earn good mon­ey and try to become a dou­ble cham­pi­on. Makhachev has a cham­pi­onship, a rep­u­ta­tion and his entire long-term career at stake — this is a much big­ger bur­den.

“There will be enor­mous pres­sure on Makhachev, and he him­self may be afraid of it,” says Alex­ey Safonov. — If Makhachev gives up, Volka­novs­ki can take advan­tage of it. He can go ahead by using his ath­let­ic inad­e­qua­cy. I see this as a chance for Alex.”

“Of course, Makhachev is the favorite. But I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Volka­novs­ki wins.”
Alexey Safonov

Alex­ey Safonov Jour­nal­ist, ex-UFC com­men­ta­tor

Forecast for the fight between Khamzat Chimaev and Kamaru Usman

Khamzat Chi­maev (12–0) moves up in weight and makes his UFC mid­dleweight debut. A Chechen who com­pet­ed for Swe­den will hold his first fight under the UAE flag (he refused to com­pete for the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try after the burn­ing of the Koran by local nation­al­ists).

Chi­maev is a UFC super­star. This is a very bright and intim­i­dat­ing fight­er who amazed every­one with his ground lev­el. From the first sec­onds he attacks his oppo­nent and destroys him in the fight. He does­n’t notice his oppo­nents, and only Brazil­ian Gilbert Burns was able to stand with Chi­maev for three rounds, los­ing by unan­i­mous deci­sion.

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Chi­maev won all of his vic­to­ries at wel­ter­weight, but has now moved up a weight class. All because in the last fight he failed the weight cut and came out with a strong advan­tage. Then the orga­ni­za­tion demand­ed that he fight in his weight divi­sion, and now Khamzat is a mid­dleweight.

Chi­maev was sched­uled to fight Paulo Cos­ta, the top-ranked Brazil­ian who once had an unsuc­cess­ful fight for the UFC title, los­ing to Israel Ade­sanya. But Cos­ta with­drew due to a severe staph infec­tion, and a for­mer wel­ter­weight cham­pi­on jumped in as a replace­ment, also on 10 days’ notice. Kamaru Usman (20–3).

Khamzat Chimaev vs. Kamaru Usman

This is a great fight­er, but now he is on the decline: he lost the belt and lost twice to Leon Edwards — includ­ing by knock­out.

Yes, in both fights Usman com­pet­ed, and in the first he won until the last round. But he suf­fered great­ly dur­ing his career: now he has bad kneesand it’s obvi­ous — he winces even at the weigh-in.

What are Usman’s chances of winning?

This is the most unusu­al choice of oppo­nent: Usman is a for­mer wel­ter­weight cham­pi­on who dom­i­nat­ed the weight divi­sion for many years and even broke Khabib’s record for back-to-back wins in the UFC. He did not fight at mid­dleweight and will be infe­ri­or to Chi­maev in size.

Aver­age odds for the fight:

Chi­maev’s vic­to­ry — 1.30
Usman­’s vic­to­ry — 3.7

“What speaks in Usman’s favor is that he’s had a lot of top fights in the UFC. He had oppo­si­tion, which Chi­maev did not have. But every month he looks more and more like a man who finds it dif­fi­cult not only to fight, but sim­ply to live. When Chi­maev turns on his trade­mark pres­sure, he won’t need wild car­dio to defeat Usman,” Alex­ey Safonov is sure.

“I believe that Chi­maev should press and win in his sig­na­ture style. Unless, of course, Usman is mis­lead­ing us with his phys­i­cal con­di­tion.”
Alexey Safonov

Alex­ey Safonov Jour­nal­ist, ex-UFC com­men­ta­tor

On paper, Usman is a more skilled fight­er than Chi­maev. In the UFC, no one could trans­fer him and take him down, so he is an incon­ve­nient oppo­nent for Chi­maev, whose ground is his main weapon. But Usman’s health is very wor­ry­ing, because he is already 36 years old.

“In terms of expe­ri­ence and endurance, Usman is much bet­ter, he is a more bal­anced fight­er. But Kamaru is look­ing more and more like Jeff Mon­son because of his bad knees. This is the main dis­ad­van­tage, in addi­tion to the fact that it is objec­tive­ly small for 84 kilo­grams.

Usman has always impressed in the wel­ter­weight divi­sion. But I know guys who com­pete in Russ­ian pro­mo­tions, and at 77 kg they are much big­ger than Usman. What can we say about 84 kg,” says Alex­ey Safonov.