Can Alexander Volkanovski go from rugby league to one of the greatest to grace the octagon?



Australian sports fans are in for a treat this February as the UFC roadshow finally hits our shores after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus because of the pandemic. Millions of MMA fans around the world will be watching as Perth’s RAC Arena will be centre stage for UFC 284 on February 24.

The boy from Wollongong, Australia’s own Alexander Volkanovski, the current UFC Featherweight Champion, 2022 Fighter of the Year and pound for pound No.1 fighter on the planet, will participate in one of the most highly anticipated contests of 2023.

He’ll encounter the current UFC Lightweight Champion, and Khabib Nurmagomedov protégé, Dagestan’s Islam Makhachev from the esteemed stable of fighters of the AKA MMA team based in San Jose. AKA is considered one of the longest-running and top-three MMA gyms in the world, with four former Championship UFC title-holders in their stable.

Makhachev, who is on an 11-fight win streak in the UFC, is trained by Khabib, an icon of MMA and one of the most followed athletes with over 34 million followers on Instagram and the most respected Muslim spokesperson on the planet.

Makhachev’s fighting style of grappling is similar to his coach’s, and he will try to overwhelm Volkanovski by taking him to the ground and wearing down the Australian to eventually look for a submission, his trademark.

The two main questions for Volkanovski: will going up a weight division be too much of a disparity, and if he is taken down by Makhachev, can he use his own grappling and jiu-jitsu skills to get back to his feet and continue to control the fight on his terms?

Just like Alexander the Great who never lost a battle, Volkanovski is putting his undefeated record on the line and attempting to become only the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold UFC Championships in two weight classes simultaneously. The first fighter to do so was Conor McGregor back in 2016, beating Eddie Alvarez in UFC 205.

Volkanovski has the advantage of speed, striking, kicking, footwork, and unlimited cardio, to tire Makhachev into making a mistake and eventually breaking him physically as he did to his last opponent, former champ Max Holloway.

Alexander Volkanovski of Australia celebrates his win in the UFC featherweight championship fight. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

According to Volkanovski, being the shorter, stockier guy will be to his advantage. The general consensus is that being built closer to the ground the shorter guys are able to stuff take downs and scramble to their feet more effectively than a taller person.

According to longtime UFC commentator and personality Joe Rogan, Volkanovski’s greatest asset is his fight IQ. There are so many facets to the sport of MMA: striking, kicking, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, cardio, and mental toughness. Having fight IQ and knowing when to combine these elements in a 25-minute, five-round fight is the difference that makes the Australian undefeated in the UFC.

In a recent interview with former champ Michael Bisping, Volkanovski predicts 2023 will be his most successful year.
According to UFC commentator and former double champ Daniel Cormier, Volkanovski’s victory over Machachev will be the biggest upset in UFC history.

What’s in store for Volkanovski if he is victorious?

Doing the impossible and going for a third Championship belt as a welterweight and the only fighter in UFC history to hold three belts simultaneously?

Taking on Conor McGregor for the 155 pound belt?

Or an MMA’s fans dream, the plot twist of luring Makhachev’s coach, Nurmagomedov out of retirement and avenging his protégé’s loss?

Since his rugby league days, Volkanovski has always been the underdog. Victory in Perth on February 24 will catapult the boy from Wollongong into the pantheon of the UFC’s greatest-ever list of fighters to grace the octagon.

Bring on 2023!

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