The UFC returns down under for the first time since 2019 and is a card filled with top quality Australian talent. The main event is a mouthwatering bout between the pound-for-pound number two, Islam Makhachev, against the pound-for-pound number one, Alexander Volkanovski.
Islam Makhachev (23-1) vs Alexander Volkanovski (25-1)
In the main event, Featherweight champion Volkanovski heads to his native Australia for his well-earned ‘super fight’ against 155-pound champion Makhachev.
Makhachev, winner of 11 straight, snatched the belt from Charles Oliveira last October with a second-round stoppage. The newest sensation from Dagestan is a heavy favourite for Saturday night.
It would require a huge upset, but Volkanovski will become the fifth ever UFC fighter to hold two belts across two weight classes at the same time, joining the company of Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo with a win in RAC Arena in Perth.
Volkanovski is on a 22-fight winning streak, and is a perfect 12-0 in the UFC. His most recent win was a dominant decision victory over former Featherweight champion Max Holloway in July.
Stylistically, there is a fun contrast between the two champions. Makhachev is a much more defensive-minded fighter in comparison to the aggressive Volkanovski. The Australian’s surprisingly long reach for a featherweight allows him to land his jab from angles opponents aren’t used to. Makhachev’s more patient approach will look to neutralize this danger with the Russian’s size advantage at Lightweight.
Volkanovski is arguably the better all-round fighter, and certainly holds the better resume, but with such a stark physical disadvantage he could struggle to deal with Makhachev’s methodical approach.
It is a difficult fight to predict, and neither fighter should be any less esteemed in defeat.
Makhachev: George, Conor, Andrew
Yair Rodríguez (15-3) vs Josh Emmett (18-2)
The co-main event of the evening offers up an interim title fight between featherweights Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett.
Both fighters have made their feelings clear about what they think of interim title fights in their recent press conference, with Volkanovski moving up to lightweight to fight Makhachev, both men will need to wait until they get their real shot at gold.
Rodriguez’s development in the UFC has slightly stumbled since the number two ranked featherweight established his credentials.
His loss to Max Holloway at UFC Fight Night 139 via unanimous decision was a buzzkill to his right as number one contender. It was then followed by a premature conclusion against Brian Ortega at UFC Fight Night ABC, in which the American popped out his shoulder.
Rodriguez has shown he can conjure up an offence at will, with his finely tuned taekwondo offering up an onslaught of jabs and reverse punches. His defensive game has also improved, with his endurance and resilience to go full rounds keeping him from getting knocked out in the UFC.
Emmett will look to change that with his renowned KO power.
The 12-year pro carries a firm craft to his game, with his deceptive counter punches and ability to walk his opponents down with his heavy right hand his primary methods of choice.
The knockouts during his winning streak have dried up, with his last three fights all coming by decision, but Emmett offers more than just punching power and will provide Rodriguez with a stern test.
A full five rounds is a probable outcome, with both men’s resilience meaning a points-based battle may settle the bout.
It may be Emmett’s last chance to get a shot at the featherweight title and he may produce an inspired performance, but the favourite Rodriguez seems destined for victory and a date with Volkanovski in the future.
Rodriguez: George, Conor, Andrew
Jack Della Maddalena (13-2) vs Randy Brown (16-4)
Australia’s next rising star Jack Della Maddalena returns to his native country for the first time since signing for the UFC.
After a rocky start to his MMA career losing his first two bouts, Della Maddalena hasn’t looked back. He is currently on a 13-fight win streak having signed with the UFC through Dana White’s Contender series back in 2021.
From there, the Australian welterweight has lit up the organization winning all three of his fights by first-round knockout.
Jamaican-American Randy Brown is his opponent this weekend and poses an interesting test to the home fighter.
Brown stands at 6ft 3 and is entering his seventh year in the UFC. He is a well-rounded fighter with a mixture of knockouts, submissions and decision victories in his 16 wins.
He’s only lost to top-level fighters in the division and is in red hot form coming into this fight with a four-fight win streak.
Maddalena: George, Conor, Alex, Andrew
Justin Tafa (5-3) vs Parker Porter (13-7)
Justin Tafa has had an interesting sporting career. He started out playing rugby league for Melbourne Storm and is now mixing it with the best fighters in the world in the UFC.
The New-Zealand born heavyweight only knows one way to fight, securing all five of his career victories by knockout.
However, Tafa may suffer from ring rust in this bout, having last fought in December 2021.
Parker Porter has had a mixed start to his UFC career since joining the organisation in 2020. The Hartford, Connecticut-born heavyweight has three wins and two losses with all three of his victories coming via decision.
In a recent interview with bjpenn.com, Parker said he plans to ‘bite down’ on his mouthpiece and ‘start throwing leather’ with Tafa. Whether this is kidology from Parker remains to be seen but it seems unwise to trade heavy leather with a knockout artist like Tafa.
Tafa: George, Conor, Alex, Andrew
Jimmy Crute (12-3) v Alonzo Menifield (13-3)
Jimmy Crute needs a win. Despite his obvious skill, few in the UFC take 3 losses in a row and live to fight another day in the sport’s top promotion.
Having said that, Dana White has not gone easy on the Australian in recent history. These two losses came against #5 Anthony Smith and now Light-Heavyweight Champion Jamahal Hill.
Both killers, and both fighters who could probably beat any light-heavyweight in the world on their day, although it is one of the lighter divisions in the UFC at the moment. Luckily for ‘the brute’, he comes into his next fight as the heavy favourite.
Alonzo Menifield is a physical freak. His frame alone is enough to ward off would be opponents.
His hands can be devastating as well, Australian viewers of his last fight against Misha Cirkunov will be on the edge of their seats for this fight no doubt.
However, for me, Crute just seems a touch more polished.
He is more experienced too, learning from fights against real title contenders recently and that’s why, in the inevitably rocking RAC Arena, the self-proclaimed UFC’s biggest bogan will come out on top.
Crute: George, Conor, Alex, Andrew
Tyson Pedro (9-3) v Modestas Bukauskas (13-5)
Modestas Bukauskas makes his return to the UFC, after his destructive knockout victory over Chuck Campbell to regain the Cage Warriors Light-Heavyweight title.
After a punch sent from the gods in the O2 on New Year’s Eve, the Baltic Gladiator regained his UFC status, with tomorrow’s fight against Tyson Pedro marking his 3rd bout since November last year.
However, it was not just a one-punch performance, the British-Lithuanian dominated Campbell over the eventual four rounds and was remarkably light on his feet for a man fighting at 205 pounds.
Bukauskas’ incredibly clogged schedule will be crucial for his success as he is coming into the fight on short notice after Mingyang Zhang pulled out of the fight, and as a result, he has not had a full camp to prepare for the trip down under.
However, no matter how fresh Bukauskas is, it will be tough to come out of Perth with a victory.
The Australian Pedro will have home advantage and has been touted by many as one to watch with good wins on his record over fighters like Paul Craig and Khalil Rountree.
For reference, Rountree’s destructive leg kick injured Bukauskas’ knee so badly that he was sidelined for more than a year.
A BJJ Black Belt, Pedro already has two submission finishes in the UFC including a beautiful Kimura in Round 1 against Saparbeg Safarov. As a result, he will almost certainly be looking to take the fight to ground against a 4-time British kickboxing champion known for laying people out.
Overall, as with many MMA bouts, the fight will probably come down to where the fight takes place. If The Baltic gladiator can stay standing, he may be too slick for Pedro to deal with. However, if it goes to ground Pedro will likely show his experience and add bring the number in his win column into double digits.
Pedro: George, Conor
Bukauskas: Alex, Andrew