UFC 284 takes place tomorrow night in Perth, Australia and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski
Volkanovski, the long-reigning featherweight champion and current No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, is now moving to lightweight to confront Makhachev, the 11-fight unbeaten champion who also happens to be No. 2 on the pound-for-pound list.
Volkanovski is on the smaller side even at 145lbs, so as well as he’s done there it’s unclear if facing a naturally bigger fighter like Makhachev will be where that starts to become a problem.
The good news for him however is that despite Makhachev having a 4″ height advantage, he actually has a slight 1/2″ reach edge. He’ll also come in with confidence thanks to already having beaten a who’s who of the 145lb ranks including the likes of Max Holloway (x3), Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, “The Korean Zombie,” and Chad Mende.
Volkanovski will look to focus on what brought him to the dance by keeping the action standing and displaying the same kind of speed, timing, pace, consistency, and cardio in his striking approach that have proven so hard to beat. He is a solid wrestler as well, but he will probably rely more on his takedown defence and scrambling ability to try to keep this one upright.
That’s because Makhachev is a beast in the wrestling department with relentless takedowns and he also has very good submission ability too.
For Volkanovski it’s clear that this is a fight where he’ll be eager to keep the action standing and show the same kind of pace, timing, consistency and cardio in his striking approach that’s proven to be so hard to beat, with the great and and the good of the featherweight division like Max Holloway (x3), Jose Aldo, Brian Ortega, ‘The Korean Zombie’ and Chad Mendes all coming up short. He is also a sturdy wrestler, though it’s likely his solid takedown defense and ability to scramble back to his feet that he’ll lean on more here.
That’s because Makhachev is known for his relentlessly dominant wrestling ability combined with high-level grappling that’s provided numerous submission finishes over the course of his career.
However, Makhachev has also made a concerted effort to broaden his skill set over time, and that showed in his title-winning performance against Charles Oliveira where he demonstrated the kind of calm assurance and effectiveness on the feet that make him an even more fearsome opponent.
I’d still expect Volkanovski to be the better striker here, but Makhachev will have a level of comfort going into this one that he can be somewhat competitive there when necessary. However, there’s no doubt that it’s the ground game that offers his biggest opportunity to make his mark and with his high-level ability to chain together takedown attempts along with a major size advantage I think that puts him in pole position here. I’d expect Volkanovski not to make it easy for him, but I’ll say he eventually finds a submission in the fourth round.
Pick: Islam Makhachev wins by submission in Rd4.
Yair Rodriguez vs. Josh Emmett
The interim featherweight title will be on the line in the co-main event between No. 2 contender Rodriguez and Emmett, who is riding a five-fight winning streak.
Rodriguez is a high-level striker with a dynamic and creative style who blends his kicks, punches, elbows, and knees in an entertaining, but also effective fashion, that’s enhanced by his speed and footwork. That being said, his ground game isn’t nearly as strong, though he is relatively agile when it comes to finding his way back to his feet.
Emmett is also a good striker, though his methods are much different to his opponent. Emmett prefers to concentrate on his boxing ability, maintaining an active output while working behind the jab and hunting opportunities to unleash his thunderous overhand. So there’s less variety of attacks and not as much fluidity to his offense as ‘El Pantera’, but Emmett has extremely heavy hands, and even when he can’t finish an opponent, he has a knack for at least dazing them at some stage in his fights, while he is also very durable.
Meanwhile, Emmett also has a good wrestling base, but while that would seem like a good path to go down in this particular match-up, the way he normally tends to fight would suggest that he’ll still favor letting his fists fly on the feet instead.
It also has to be noted that Emmett is now 37 and has had some significant injuries in recent years that have kept him out of action for periods of time. Given that Rodriguez is still in his prime at 30 and is naturally the quicker, more creative and versatile striker I do believe that he has the weapons to come out on top here, though he’ll have to fight through moments of adversity throughout the full 25-minutes to emerge with the interim title around his waist.
Pick: Yair Rodriguez wins by decision.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Randy Brown
Maddalena couldn’t have asked for a better start to his UFC run, having won three fights in a row via strikes in the first round, and now he faces Brown, who is also in-form thanks to a four-fight winning streak.
They key to Maddalena’s success has been his boxing, unleashing frequent, fiery combinations of punches to the body and head with accuracy and power that have so far overwhelmed his opponent’s sooner rather than later.
Brown is a fighter who won’t be planning to go away so easily though and he does have a handy 4″ height and 5″ reach advantage to attempt to keep Maddalena at bay with his punches and kicks on the outside. Meanwhile, at closer range Brown can switch things up with takedown attempts and is a crafty submission grappler.
That being said, Brown doesn’t tend to respond too well when his opponents are able to get inside his range and pressure him with strikes, which is Maddaelana’s stock-in-trade, so with the home crowd roaring him on I think he’ll battle his way to a second round TKO finish here.
Pick: Jack Della Maddalena wins by TKO in Rd2.
Justin Tafa vs. Parker Porter
Lower tier heavyweights on display here, with Tafa coming off a head kick victory but still only 2-3 overall in his UFC run, while Porter is 3-2 but was submitted in the first round last time out.
The 29-year-old Tafa is eight years Porter’s junior and he’s a capable striker with the significantly heavier hands of the two. He’s a very limited fighter beyond just pure striking though and becomes less of a threat the longer the fight goes on.
Porter is more of a workmanlike volume-striker on the feet, but he can at least also offer up a few different looks by working from the clinch and using his wrestling.
Both men are rather hittable and that will favor Tafa if they just slug it out, but if Porter can weather the early storm by making this an MMA fight rather than just a striking affair then I feel he will be able to grind his way to a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Parker Porter wins by decision.
Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield
After a promising 4-1 run to start his time in the UFC, Crute has since suffered back-to-back losses in the first round and so now seeks a route back into the win column against Menifield, who has finished his last two fights in the first round via strikes.
The 35-year-old Menifield is a big physical presence and has ably demonstrated the fight-ending power in his hands, while there’s been signs he’s improved his takedown defense too recently. A note of caution however is that his last two wins came against somewhat questionable opposition, with Askar Mozharov being booted out the UFC shortly afterwards when it emerged his MMA record was fabricated (eventually being amended from 25-7 to 18-13), while Misha Cirkunov was already very much in decline and retired after they fought.
Meanwhile, Crute is the younger man here by nine years and he’s the more well-rounded of the two. He’s a solid striker, but he does tend to have an aggressive approach at times that can leave him exposed defensively and could be capitalized on by someone as heavy-handaed as Menifield.
That being said, Crute does a nice job of mixing in his wrestling with his striking and on the mat he has effective ground-and-pound and is a submission threat too.
Given that Crute did suffer a 48 second KO loss to the man who would go on to be crowned champ, Jamahal Hill, it’s likely he’ll be a bit more cautious this time around, and with his broader skill-set I think he can eek out a decision win.
Pick: Jimmy Crute wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Elves Brenner
Joshua Culibao vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
Shannon Ross vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
Jamie Mullarkey vs. Francisco Prado
Jack Jenkins vs. Don Shainis
Loma Lookboonmee vs. Elise Reed
Shane Young vs. Blake Bilder
Tyson Pedro vs. Modestas Bukauskas