In the UFC featherweight division, Alexander Volkanovski stands tall as one of the most formidable fighters today. His journey, spanning 29 fights, reflects a near-perfect record, with only three losses marring his impressive resume—two of them to lightweight champion Islam Makhachev within the UFC octagon. Notably, within the featherweight division at 145 pounds, which he has called home throughout most of his combat career, Volkanovski remains undefeated.
As he gears up for UFC 298’s main event next month, where he defends his featherweight title against the surging contender Ilia Topuria, some voices within the MMA community speculate that this could be the bout where Volkanovski faces his first defeat in the division. Among those intrigued by this prospect is UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley, who openly expresses a desire to face the featherweight champion if Topuria claims victory in their upcoming clash.
Alexander Volkanovski Applauds O’Malley’s Savvy Move
O’Malley, currently set for a rematch against Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC 299, has articulated his reluctance to challenge Volkanovski directly, citing a personal fondness for the reigning champion. In response, Volkanovski acknowledges O’Malley’s strategic approach, attributing it to a shrewd understanding of the fight game.
During a conversation with Michael Bisping, Volkanovski shared his perspective: “He’s a clever dude. I don’t mind Sean O’Malley, actually. He’s made it clear, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’d want to fight Volkanovski,’ you know what I mean? He knows there’s a bit of history with Topuria because then they talk, and he’s just being smart.”
Volkanovski sees O’Malley’s cautious stance as a calculated move, with the bantamweight champion preferring a potential clash with Topuria due to existing dynamics and a perceived comfort level. Volkanovski, recognizing O’Malley’s astuteness, acknowledges the game plan, saying, “He’s gonna have a safe net. ‘Look, this is a good option for me to go double champ.’ There’s history there, [he] can move up and fight someone that he probably looks at as like, ‘Ah, I’m pretty comfortable I can do that fight.’”
For Volkanovski, each fight presents an opportunity to add another chip to his shoulder, and his upcoming bout against Topuria is no exception. Following a recent loss to Makhachev via a first-round head kick in a higher weight class at UFC 294, Volkanovski aims to rebound swiftly. Oddsmakers consider Topuria’s style and the speed of Volkanovski’s return as factors potentially favoring the surging contender.
The Test of Quality Opposition
At 35, Volkanovski remains uncertain about the extent of Topuria’s skill development. While acknowledging Topuria’s undefeated record, he notes, “He’s undefeated, but he hasn’t fully tested himself with guys like myself or Max Holloway, Yair Rodriguez, so, I’ve questioned that.” This is not a dismissal of Topuria’s abilities but a recognition that the untested waters of higher-level competition await.
As the date of the showdown approaches, Volkanovski maintains confidence in his abilities but acknowledges the danger posed by Topuria. He labels Topuria as one of the most powerful punchers he has faced, emphasizing the potential threat. The unanswered question of Topuria’s level in the face of elite competition will find resolution on Feb. 17, adding another chapter to Volkanovski’s storied career.
Do you think Alexander Volkanovski is right? Will we see a future fight between O’Malley and Topuria ?