Islam Makhachev reigns supreme at UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi

UFC 294 rocks the Middle East as heavy favourites Islam Makhachev, Khamzat Chimaev, Ikram Aliskerov, and Muhammad Mokaev win in emphatic fashion.

UFC 294’s main and co-main events were significantly altered just 12 days before they were supposed to fight. Insert two of the promotion’s most respected fighters and we’ve got ourselves a banger. 

One fight silenced doubters and the other raised a lot of questions on whether or not the right man won.

Makhachev ends the rivalry and finishes Volkanovski in Round 1

Islam Makhachev didn’t want to leave any doubt this time as he ended the main event with a skull-crushing blow. He also ended the debate on whether or not he should be the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Makhachev (25-1) finished featherweight champion Alexander “the Great” Volkanovski (26-3) with a vaporizing left high kick three minutes and six seconds into the very first round. Silencing critics and successfully defending the lightweight belt for the third time in a row.

A short notice replacement for the injured Charles Oliveira, Volkanovksi seemed a little too timid when striking with the lightweight champion. To his defence, he had only 12 days to prepare for the biggest rematch of his life. Volkanovski started a little sluggish as he tried to get reads on whether or not Machachev would shoot. Even though the shot never came, the latter prevailed from the moment the fight began. He set up the high kick by attacking the calf on two separate occasions, poked away at the body and then finally slipped a left high kick over Volkanovski’s guard. The kick landed directly on his right eyebrow and wobbled him instantly. Makhachev didn’t let up and continued teeing off with a barrage of punches and hammerfists until the fight was stopped by referee Marc Goddard.

The 31-year-old Makhachev might just be the biggest name in the UFC after Jon Jones or Conor McGregor. His 13-fight win streak is tied for third in the promotion’s history. It doesn’t look like anyone can stop him—he’s already on his way to surpassing Khabib Nurmagomedov as the lightweight division’s GOAT.

Khamzat Chimaev remains undefeated and beats former welterweight champion in a back-and-forth affair

The seemingly unstoppable force Khamzat Chimaev (13-0) faced his toughest challenge yet, going head-to-head with former welterweight champion and late-notice replacement Kamaru Usman.

The hype around this fight was undeniable even though Paulo Costa was forced to pull-out due to a staph infection in his elbow 10 days prior. However, Chimaev wasn’t going to let his long-awaited return be spoiled. He hadn’t fought since September 2022 and “The Wolf” was hungry for anyone. Insert wily veteran Kamaru Usman and we got ourselves a barnburner.

Or so we thought.

Khamzat dominated Round 1, taking the former NCAA Division II National Champion down with ease as he controlled his back threatening submissions. Chimaev locked him up with a body triangle and worked his way around his neck and back, attempting to unload some heavy ground and pound. Even with the arena against him and an absolute beast on his back, Usman defended very well. Not too bad for someone who took a fight against one of the scariest men in the division on 10 days’ notice.

The second round is where things got very interesting.

Usman weathered the storm and used his patented jab along with some crushing calf kicks to keep Khamzat at bay. Even though this round wasn’t as eventful, it showed that both these men have massive respect for each other. Weary of each other’s power, Usman and Chimaev each attempted to steal the round by doing the most damage they could without getting countered. In the end, most people had Usman winning the second round  as he inflicted more damage and avoided multiple takedowns.

Moving onto Round 3, the duo matched in a much livelier battle on their feet. Usman definitely pushed the pace more between the two fighters, but all was nullified when Chimaev scored another takedown midway through the round. Usman was able to leverage a hip and get up, but it wasn’t enough to garner the victory.

The 36-year-old former champion now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak that started in August 2022.

Chimaev ultimately won by majority decision, potentially setting up a date with newly minted middleweight champion Sean Strickland.

Right for the challenge: Dagestan’s Ikram Aliskerov proves that he’s ready for a ranked opponent next

Ikram Aliskerov (15-1) makes light work of Warlley Alves (15-7) with a combination of stiff jabs, one-twos and a devastating knee that lead to the demise of the former winner of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil. Aliskerov’s only loss was to Khamzat Chimaev back in 2019, and now the 30-year-old has won seven fights in a row—six of them being finishes—amassing a 3-0 record in the UFC.

The Kasumkent native will definitely be fighting a ranked opponent as he continues to climb the ladder in the middleweight division.

Two time’s the charm?

A bizarre no-contest on the main card almost led to bedlam in the Magomed Ankalaev (18-1-1 1 NC) versus Johnny Walker (21-7-0 1 NC) fight as referee Daniel Movahedi was forced to call for the stoppage at the 3:13 mark of Round 1. Due to an illegal knee strike by Ankalaev, Movahedi was advised by the ringside physician that Walker could not continue.

According to Walker’s coach John Kavanagh, the doctor asked Johnny where he was and he responded by saying “I’m in the desert”.

We all know Johnny Walker’s a weird dude, but by no means should you take that answer as definitive evidence that he’s been concussed. English isn’t even his first language.

When the fight was called off, Walker began yelling and almost started a full-on brawl in attempts to start the fight up again. Cooler heads prevailed when UFC president Dana White stepped in to calm the 6’6 Brazilian down.

The same ringside physician was seen earlier in the day as he questioned if Victor Henry (23-6-0 1 NC) was actually in pain when he was clearly hit with an illegal groin strike. That fight also resulted in a no-contest, but not without sparking debates.

Another exciting PPV card in Abu Dhabi

Octobers, the UFC, and Abu Dhabi have become synonymous as another successful card leaves UFC fans wanting more. Does the newly crowned P4P king go up to challenge for the welterweight title or does he fight Oliviera again? I’d prefer that he defends his lightweight title a couple times before attempting to become the fifth double champ in UFC history. 

The UFC returns on November 4th in São Paulo when perennial heavyweight contender Derrick Lewis will take on rising superstar Jailton Almeida. 


The double life of Tommy Morrisson

Concordia student and undefeated flyweight Tommy “Rambo” Morrisson hopes to arrive in the UFC sooner rather than later, all while pursuing his education

Born and raised in Montreal, Tommy “Rambo” Morrisson is slowly becoming a household name within Quebec’s MMA world.

He started off his career as a 9-1 amateur fighter before graduating to Samourai MMA, a Quebec-based promotion, and now holds a 3-0 professional record after his decisive win over Edwin Daniel Martinez Correa on March 11. With another notch on his belt, he’s now looking at returning for Samourai MMA 6 at the end of May in Sherbrooke.

The most interesting aspect of the 23-year-old’s life isn’t only the fact that he’s a highly touted prospect, but he’s also a part-time student at Concordia University, pursuing a degree in computer engineering.

Balancing two completely different career paths can be difficult, but not for Morrisson.

“I think the key is to balance everything well and be disciplined,” he said. “You have [to] cut time in other areas. For example, I don’t really go out. I see my friends sometimes, but when I’m in camp I don’t see them all that much. I train two, three times a day, six to seven days a week so I only take three classes per semester which makes it all possible for me.”

Even with the ultimate goal of fighting in the UFC, Morrisson will continue his studies until he gets his degree.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Evgrafov

“I don’t want to stop doing both, even if a big opportunity comes up I still want to get my degree,” he said. “I want to finish my bachelor’s degree, but my goal is to be a professional fighter in the UFC or any of the big leagues.”

Juggling the hectic life of a student along with being a professional athlete is difficult, but Morrisson knew this was his path long before his first amateur fight in 2017.

“I started approximately 10 years ago by doing judo, then jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing and then I put it all together and started doing MMA at Tristar,” he said. “I really like working out of Tristar because the guys have a lot of experience, but I tend to train at other gyms as well to gain even more knowledge all around Montreal. I also train with kickboxing strawweight world champion Jonathan Di Bella.”

Morrisson’s dedication to his craft has led him to be one of the highest-ranked flyweights in all of Canada. His experience with every martial art has turned him into a very well-rounded fighter and “a specialist in everything,” as he put it.

“I always train multiple disciplines, I’m comfortable fighting in any style and I know I can get the fight wherever I want.”

Even though being an undergraduate student has its disadvantages, Morrisson hasn’t let them stop him from remaining undefeated with another dominant win versus Martinez Correa at Samourai MMA 5. Morrisson’s relentless pressure, technical kickboxing, and perfectly executed takedowns led him to his third straight professional victory, but it wasn’t without a bit of adversity.

“I was surprised by how tough he was,” said Morrisson. “He got out of two submissions. I thought he would try to wrestle me a little bit more.”

By getting his hand raised again, Morrisson proved that it’s all credited to his hard work, vigorous training, and commitment. He’s always looking to further the pursuit of his goals.

“I’d love to fight [UFC flyweight champion] Brandon Moreno one day,” Morrisson said boldly. “I look up to him and if he’s still there when I get to the UFC, I’d love to get a chance to fight him. I look up to Khabib Nurmagomedov as well for his hard work, discipline, and humbleness. I think in my everyday life I try my best to recreate everything he’s done.”

Those are definitely some big shoes to fill, but Morrisson only has one goal in mind:

“I want to be remembered as the best.”


The UFC has produced another classic, this time down under

UFC 284 had everything for the casual or hardcore MMA fan: highlight reel knockouts, crafty submissions, and a crowd primed for violence

Islam Makhachev prevails and takes over as the #1 P4P fighter in the world

To the dismay of the Australian fans in attendance, UFC 284 did not disappoint as defending lightweight champion Islam Makhachev (24-1) put an end to Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski’s 22-fight win streak in controversial fashion. Notching the win by unanimous decision, Mahkachev defended his lightweight belt in enemy territory.

Many thought Makhachev’s superior wrestling would wear Volkanovski (25-2) down, but that wasn’t the case, as the latter’s ability to scramble and avoid compromising positions made for a very compelling fight.

As early as the first round, Volkanovski’s takedown defence was tested, but he passed with flying colours. He was also able to impressively defend his neck with the much bigger Makhachev on his back. With time, the fight slowly became a high-level kickboxing match with both fighters scoring knockdowns. Makhachev was able to show off his underrated striking, whereas Volkanovski displayed his elite takedown defence. 

The fight ended with Volkanovski on top, wreaking havoc on Makhachev’s face after he dropped him for the second time. Despite this, the judges gave Makhachev the victory. The scorecards read 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46, leading to a debate on whether or not the right call was made.

I can see a world where Makhachev won, but a 49-46 card is ridiculous. Either way, both the first and second-ranked P4P fighters in the world put on an absolute masterclass, easily surpassing Glover Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill for fight of the year.

I don’t think Volkanovski’s stock dropped, and would even argue that he still deserves to be the number one P4P fighter in the world.

Hear me out. He went up the UFC’s hardest weight class, stood his ground, and put Makhachev in positions he’s never been in before. A lot of people doubted him, but I have a feeling that’s over. I’m not a huge fan of immediate rematches (especially with Yair Rodríguez looming in the wind), but I’d love to see them run it back this summer.

Yair Rodríguez becomes Mexico’s second UFC champion

As underrated as this fight was, the interim featherweight title fight didn’t disappoint. Rodríguez (16-3) and Josh Emmett (18-3) put on a show, resulting in Rodríguez submitting Emmett at 4:19 of the second round via triangle choke. Rodríguez became Mexico’s second-ever UFC champion and set up a highly anticipated fight against Volkanovski.

Rodríguez’s dynamic taekwondo and the sheer power Emmett brought to the octagon led to a modern-day gladiator fight. It was a kill-or-be-killed situation, leading to multi-knockdowns for both challengers. Rodríguez used his kicks like a boxer uses jabs, stabbing away at Emmett before finally submitting him in the second round.

Given that the featherweight division now has an interim champion, when do we get to see Rodríguez vs. Volkanovski for the title unification fight? If I had to guess, I’d say in June or July, at UFC 289 or 290. My way-too-early pick is Volkanovski via decision. I honestly can’t see anyone beating him at featherweight after his performance at UFC 284.

In the midst of a future champion?

Jack Della Maddalena improved to 14-2 with a flawless performance against veteran Randy Brown (16-5) in the welterweight fight. He knocked him down with ease, mounted him, and choked him out two minutes and 13 seconds into the first round, ending the debate on whether or not he’s ready for a step-up in competition.

Della Maddalena’s now riding a 14-fight win streak, making it hard to argue against him fighting a ranked opponent next. His excellent boxing, quick footwork, underrated grappling, and fantastic head movements make him a very tough opponent for anybody in the top 15.

Are we witnessing a future champion? I’m not sure just yet, but the 26-year-old definitely has a lot of potential.

Australia Shines

All in all, Perth was an excellent place to hold a UFC event. Australia-natives like Della Maddalena, Joshua Culibao, and Justin Tafa were greeted with open arms and had amazing showings. The crowd was ferocious and even though the beloved Volkanovski didn’t win, the fans were still graceful in defeat.


The age-old issue of pay discrepancies in MMA

When you fight the best you’d expect to be paid the best, right?

Pay discrepancies for fighters in different MMA organizations are now larger than ever. UFC fighters want better pay and insurance.

The UFC is valued at $9-10 billion, whereas Bellator (seen by many as being the second-best MMA organization) is valued at roughly $17 million.

Given those numbers, you’d expect UFC fighters to be paid much higher, but that’s not the case.

Bellator’s fighter pay percentage was estimated at 44.7 per cent of their total revenue between 2010-16, whereas the UFC pays their fighters an average of 16-20 per cent. 

UFC prelim fighters in the lowest contract tier can make anywhere between $10,000 to $30,000 per fight, whereas ranked contenders can make up to $100,000. Champions qualify for a pay upgrade and can earn between $500,000 and $3 million.

On the other hand, Bellator’s top fighters make between $100,000 and $300,000 but given the size of the promotion, it makes sense. They also get the chance to compete in a divisional “Grand Prix” which can net the winner an additional $1 million payout. When a fighter leaves the UFC to go to Bellator (or another promotion), they get a substantial raise as these smaller promotions need elite talent to draw viewers.

Therefore, many high-profile free agents are now choosing to sign with promotions like Bellator and PFL due to the higher compensation. UFC vet turned Bellator fighter Corey Anderson mentioned on Twitter that “In 2 fights 6 months with Bellator, I’ve made double of what I did in 15 fights (11 wins 2 bonuses) 7 years with UFC.”

Pay discrepancy is becoming more of an issue for the UFC as more fighters are beginning to hold out for better pay.

We originally saw it with former champions like Demetrious Johnson, Jon Jones, Henry Cejudo, and now more recently, heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou. The issue lies with the fact that UFC fighters are not unionized and are essentially independent contractors. This puts the fighters at a severe disadvantage when it comes to negotiating. Along with having little to no leverage, they’re just one wrong kick or punch away from a career-ending injury.

UFC president Dana White has always been very opinionated when it comes to fighter pay. He mentioned in an interview with GQ that it “will never change” while he’s in charge, effectively enraging a lot of people.

The UFC’s upper-echelon fighters do very well for themselves as they are compensated with pay-per-view points and lucrative brand deals, but it’s more difficult for prospects and veterans to have any financial stability.

“I think any professional would like to get paid more but it’s a running business,” said 13-year UFC veteran John Makdessi. “It’s very hard because of the unpredictability when you get hit. Fighting is not like any other sports that have security, like hockey players or football players. As a fighter, you don’t have any insurance or any pension.”

Although many fighters want to be paid more, they are still glad to be able to fight in MMA’s premier promotion.

“The UFC might not pay the most but they’re the most established and recognizable MMA company,” Makdessi said. “It’s a privilege for me to be associated with the UFC since 2010.”

Even with the traction gained through various MMA outlets like Bleacher Report, MMA Junkie, and Bloody Elbow, it seems unlikely that fighter pay will be on the rise in the UFC. Younger promotions such as the PFL, Bellator, ONE, and KSW are more likely to recruit fighters.

One thing is for sure though, you need to have an acute mind for business and seize opportunities whenever you can when it comes to MMA.

“We have to be responsible with our earnings and how we spend our money because you can’t fight forever,” said Makdessi. “Everyone knows that we live in a high-paced world, you need to have multiple sources of income.”

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