UFC 294 underwent massive changes less than two weeks before the event, and the new card is generating more buzz and excitement than the original one. The main event will now be a rematch between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski for the UFC lightweight title. Volkanovski was an unexpected late replacement for Charles Oliveira, who had to withdraw from his scheduled title fight against Makhachev due to a cut above his eye that he sustained in sparring.
The co-main event also had a massive shakeup, as Paulo Costa was forced to withdraw from his fight against Khamzat Chimaev. Former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is stepping in to replace Costa on late notice against Chimaev in another highly-anticipated showdown. Chimaev-Usman will take place at middleweight.
Due to taking place in Abu Dhabi, UFC 294 has an early start time of 10 a.m. ET for the prelims and 2 p.m. ET for the main card.
At last week’s UFC event, a DraftKings Sportsbook bettor had a huge win, turning $30 into over $10,000 with a UFC Parlay Bet. The bettor placed a $30 Parlay Bet on DraftKings Sportsbook featuring the following UFC Moneyline picks at +33596 odds:
- Christian Rodriguez
- Viviane Araújo
- Jonathan Martinez
- Edson Barboza
- Emily DuCoro
- Darren Elkins
- Melissa Dixon
- Tainara Lisboa
- Chris Gutierrez
- Michel Pereira
- Terrance McKinney
As a result of all of these outcomes hitting in the Parlay Bet, the bettor took home $10,108.97.
"Maybe we'll settle pound for pound number one again."— UFC (@ufc) October 18, 2023
It appears that Volk is getting his wish after all.@MAKHACHEVMMA vs @AlexVolkanovski 2 is happening this Saturday at #UFC294 #InAbuDhabi!
[ @InAbuDhabi | @VisitAbuDhabi ] pic.twitter.com/dBz9nsxnfr
UFC 294 Picks
Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski 2
Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, is returning to lightweight to face Makhachev in a rematch. In their first fight, Makhachev won a close decision, but some believe that Volkanovski should have been declared the winner. Volkanovski had Makhachev hurt in the final round, and it was Volkanovski who emerged from the fight with less damage. Volkanovski officially landed more significant strikes in the fight, out-landing Makhachev 70 to 57.
Makhachev won a decision due to his grappling. Makhachev recorded four takedowns and generated about eight minutes of control time, and a lot of this time was spent on Volkanovski’s back, which is a dominant position.
It was in the fifth and final round that Volkanovski started to take over. Volkanovski knocked down Makhachev in Round 5 and out-landed Makhachev 20 to 8 in significant strikes in the final round, 14 of which were to the head. Makhachev looked visibly hurt as the fight wound down, and had the fight been longer, it looked like Volkanovski was primed to take over. However, Makhachev banked enough offensive grappling in the first four rounds to get the decision win on the judges’ scorecards.
Volkanovski’s grappling has dramatically improved in recent years training with jiu jitsu superstar Craig Jones. Jones jokes that “jiu jitsu doesn’t work if you just stand up”, but there is truth in this: if you don’t let an opponent flatten you out and pin you to your back, it’s easier to escape bad positions, especially in MMA fights, where gravity aids punching from top position. Volkanovski’s defense to Makhachev’s wrestling in the first fight consisted of not letting Makhachev pin him flat to the ground. This opened up back exposure for Makhachev to control Volkanovski’s back, but Volkanovski was able to defend against rear chokes and survive on the ground long enough to buy him more time to return to his feet.
The issue for Volkanovski in this rematch is that he has taken the fight on very short notice, having only about 11 days to prepare. Volkanovski said that he weighed about 181 pounds when he got the call from the UFC, so he will have to cut 26 pounds in less than two weeks, which is a lot of weight to cut. Volkanovski also said that he had to send out a bat signal to get his team to come train him, which indicates he was not in his normal fight mode leading up to a fight.
These are potential issues that could give Makhachev the edge in the rematch. Without a full training camp, it’s uncertain if Volkanovski’s gas tank will be the same. Volkanovski has outstanding cardio, and his cardio helped him take over late in his first fight against Makhachev. Makhachev has a bigger frame than Volkanovski, and Volkanovski will need the edge in cardio and speed to have a good chance to win this fight.
Volkanovski had no issues surviving on the ground in the first fight against Makhachev, fending off Makhachev’s back control and not letting Makhachev get close to any submissions. Volkanovski also kept himself safe from getting smashed when he did get taken down. However, if Volkanovski gets tired late in the fight, it could present an opportunity for Makhachev to secure a dominant pinning position on the ground and possibly even finish the fight.
Taking Makhachev to win on the Moneyline and pairing it with over 2.5 rounds via a Same Game Parlay (SGP) is a way to get Makhachev’s odds down from about -285 to even money. Volkanovski is extremely tough and durable, so it will be difficult for Makhachev to win this fight in the early rounds. Makhachev’s best path for a win is either by decision or via a finish late in the fight if Volkanovski runs out of gas on short notice.
Pick: Same Game Parlay (SGP):
Islam Makhachev Moneyline (3 Way)
Over 2.5 Total Rounds
The Crown Is Yours: Sign up for DraftKings and experience the ultimate host for games and betting experiences!
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests. The contents contained in this article do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups.