UFC 294 has a world-class Russian flavor

Rick Olivares – Philstar.com

October 19, 2023 | 11:29am

MANILA, Philippines – If there is any mixed martial arts event that underscores Russia’s might in combat sports, then it is UFC 294 slated Sunday, October 22, at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (12 a.m., Manila time).

All five main carders are Russian and there are four others in the preliminary cards with Islam Makhachev and Khamzat Chimaev, both in the main events against Alexander Volkanovski and Kamaru Usman, respectively.

And to think that top heavyweight contender Sergei Pavlovich and bantamweight Petr Yan aren’t in the cards.

Makhachev (24-1-0) and Volkanovski (26-2-0) collide for the second time in their career.

During their first encounter in February 2023, Makhachev walked out of the Octagon with a unanimous decision win, where Volkanovski moved up a weight class to attempt to be only the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold to title belts simultaneously. 

This second match will be as epic, maybe more. After the first encounter, Makhachev was not named as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter. Whether incorrect or a slight or both, that has certainly fired up Makhachev, who is third on that list behind Jon Jones and Volkanovski.

One fighter not even on the Top 15 UFC list is Khamzat Chimaev (12-0, 6-0 in the UFC). His UFC 294 foe is former welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, who is seventh in the pound-for-pound list. 

Should Chimaev win, does he wait for the outcome of the Leon Edwards-Belal Muhammad fight? Or does he fight Colby Covington? A win will surely give him that title shot come 2024.

In the light heavyweight division, Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1) battles a resurgent Johnny Walker (21-7-0). 

Ankalaev is coming off a draw against former champion Jan Blachowicz, which ended his nine-match win streak. Walker has reeled off three consecutive wins after his hype train was derailed by Thiago Santos and Jamahal Hill. 

With that massive fight between current light heavyweight champion Hill and comebacking former champion Jiri Prochazka looming, a win by Chimaev will put him in direct contention with the winner of that bout. 

If not, Walker moves up the ladder, taking one more opponent that could lead him to that title shot.

Ikram Aliskerov will figure in only his second UFC fight when he takes on Brazilian middleweight Wardley Alves, who takes over from Frenchman Nassourdine Imavov, who could not make the fight due to visa issues.

Alves was impressive in his year in the UFC back in 2014-15 when he won his first three matches. Since then he has gone 4-6 and is on a two-match losing streak. 

Aliskerov delivered a five-punch, two-kick combination that knocked out Hawes. For Alves to survive in the UFC, he needs to win against a fighter flush with confidence.

The last of the main card fights pits Said Nurmagomedov (17-3-0) against Tajikistan’s Muin Gafurov (18-5-0).

The odds are stacked against the Tajik, who lost to John Castaneda in his UFC debut. Said, on the other hand, is 4-2 but lost a unanimous decision to Jonathan Martinez in his last outing.

Other Russians in the UFC 294 cards are Mohammad Mokaev (who battles Tim Elliot), Viktoriia Dudakova (who takes on Jinh Yu Frey in a strawweight bout) and Shara Magomedov (who faces off against Bruno Silva in a middleweight bout).

UFC 294 will be televised live in the Philippines on the Premier Sports channel on Skycable and Cignal as well as on the TapGo TV streaming application.


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