UFC 284: Alexander Volkanovski unfazed by Islam Makhachev’s comments about his height

In almost every interview he gave before his first lightweight title defense, champion Islam Makhachev mentioned the height or absence of featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovskiy.

Like most of Volkanovskiy’s opponents, Makhachev is taller. The Russian, who won the belt in October by defeating Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi, is 5ft 10in, or 4in taller than 5ft 6in Volkanovski.

“There is breaking news,” Volkanovski said of Makhachev, referring to his height. “I have been short all my life. I was short when I was in rugby league. [athletically]. I managed to get over it, I think. I’m a short guy and I always had to find ways and stuff, so I built a whole style around me and my height.”

Indeed, Volkanovski has managed to achieve good results in MMA despite his height. After his only career defeat, which happened in welterweight in his fourth pro fight with Corey Nelson, Volkanovski did nothing but win. He has 22 consecutive victories to his credit, including 12 in a row in the UFC.

It should be noted that although Volkanovski is 4 inches shorter, he has a slight reach advantage: 71 inches compared to Makhachev’s 70. It is probably reasonable to understand that he is short, not small.

He called himself Sportzshala Sports a “brick wall” as he returned to lightweight.

UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, posing in front of his mural in Sydney, is ignoring rival Islam Makhachev's taunts about his height.  (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Zuffa LLC)
UFC featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski, posing in front of his mural in Sydney, is ignoring rival Islam Makhachev’s taunts about his height. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Zuffa LLC)

Volkanovski’s first five fights were at welterweight. Saturday’s fight will be the sixth of his lightweight career and his second in the UFC. When he made his UFC debut against Yusuke Kusui in 2016 in Melbourne, it was a lightweight.

Volkanovski, who ranks first in the UFC regardless of weight category, one spot above Makhachev, is not too embarrassed by his opponent’s verbal taunts. And he thinks that it has advantages for him.

“It’s a fact that it’s a lot harder to beat someone who doesn’t have enough money,” he told Sportzshala Sports. “Climbing is much more difficult. Controlling this lower center of gravity will be much more difficult. I don’t think he has a strategic reason for saying that, other than maybe he thinks it got into my head. he thinks i think i’m tall and he tries to make me realize i’m short. Maybe it’s something like that.”

Statistics show that Makhachev has a clear advantage in the fight. He hits 65% of his takedown attempts and deflects 88% of his attempts against him. Volkanovski’s stats are 36% in takedowns and 73% in takedown defense.

Makhachev is from Dagestan, where wrestling is more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle. 17 Olympic gold medalists from Dagestan and dozens of amateur world champions.

But for some reason, Makhachov talked about the strike with Volkanovskiy.

“Honestly, I want to knock him out because everyone says [that] Islam [is] grappler or wrestler, but I want to show people my punch,” Makhachev said in an interview with Carlos Contreras of ESPN Deportes. “He’s a short guy and I really believe I can knock him out.”

Volkanovskiy chuckled at the thought that Makhachev, a high-bred wrestler, would rather stay in his pocket and fight him.

“He was talking, I think, trying to hype the fight, but we all know he wants to shoot and try to pin me,” Volkanovski said. “He doesn’t want to try and hit me and he’ll find out pretty quickly.”

Volkanovski still hasn’t decided how much weight he wants to make after weighing in when he needs to hit the 155-pound championship level. He said he could make it to the cage weighing as much as Makhachev, but he would try not to weigh more than 170 pounds.

He’ll need some mass to defend against Makhachev’s takedowns and grappling, but in the end, the more weight he adds, the less recoil.

“If I gain weight just for the sake of it, I don’t think it will make me stronger,” Volkanovski said. “It might make me a little heavier if I’m on top and all, but I need him to be leg-stuck so he’s not comfortable on his feet, because remember: we start with the feet. It’s important to remember this. We start with the feet and I want it to continue. I’ll be shrewd by getting him busy going in and out and puzzle his brain and make him get desperate and try to grab hold of me and try to get me down, he’ll be uncomfortable on his feet and I’ll need [quickness] for movement and the like.

Volkanovski said he thought he would have an edge due to his fighting IQ. He didn’t start fighting in MMA until he was 22, and over the next 12 years he became one of the toughest fighters in the game. He is a big underdog despite being the best in the world. At BetMGM, Makhachev has -375, and Volkanovskiy has +290..

Volkanovski said it’s because people forget how good he thinks about the game.

“I am a very, very fast learner and adapt very well,” he said. “Obviously I have this attitude of never giving up, thinking of never dying, just keep going and all that. That’s who I am.

“I’m a problem solver and I have a fighting IQ, all of which really, I think, sets me apart from my past opponents. This is what people forget. I can solve problems. I’m good at these things and that’s what made me who I am.”

DALLAS, TX - JUL 30: UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski of Australia greets teammate Kai Kara-France of New Zealand from the crowd in his fight for the UFC Flyweight Championship during the UFC 277 event at the American Airlines Center on July 30 2022 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Alex Volkanovski is a +290 underdog against lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, who is a -375 favorite. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


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