On October 21, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to deliver an explosive rematch between two of the organization’s most dominant champions. Islam Makhachev, the current lightweight champion riding a remarkable 12-fight win streak, was originally slated for a rematch against Brazilian superstar Charles Oliveira. However, fate intervened when Dana White revealed that Oliveira was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a gruesome cut sustained during training.

Stepping in on incredibly short notice is Alexander Volkanovski, the current featherweight champion and the No. 2 ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Volkanovski, also known as “Alexander The Great,” has an impressive track record, having successfully defended his featherweight title five times, inching closer to Jose Aldo’s record of seven title defenses.

While this fight might have come together in a hurry, it’s essential to note that these two fighters have a history. Their first encounter took place in February, leaving Volkanovski eager for a rematch. Although he might not have been in a formal training camp at the time, it’s reasonable to assume that Volkanovski has been preparing for this eventual rematch with Makhachev.

The clash of these two champions opens the door for Makhachev’s elite wrestling skills to take center stage. While he has earned respect for his striking ability, Makhachev is equally adept at takedowns. He boasts an impressive takedown success rate of 62.5%, securing 30 of 48 takedowns at lightweight, the third highest in the division’s history.

On the other hand, Volkanovski, while not matching Makhachev’s wrestling prowess, has shown exceptional takedown defense, as evidenced in their first encounter. He managed to thwart five of Makhachev’s nine takedown attempts. Moreover, in the fifth round of their previous bout, after knocking down Makhachev, Volkanovski engaged in grappling, landing strikes and amassing over a minute and a half of control time.

For Volkanovski to emerge victorious in the rematch, he must aim to replicate his success on the feet and minimize the number of takedowns he concedes compared to their first fight. One key factor that hindered his performance in February was the time he spent on his back, despite being taken down only four times. Adjusting his strategy to avoid takedowns or reducing the amount of time Makhachev controls him on the ground could potentially turn the tide in his favor.

As for Makhachev, his game plan remains relatively straightforward: stick to what he did in their first encounter. He should aim to remain competitive in striking, mix in takedowns when opportunities arise, and keep Volkanovski grounded for as long as possible. If Makhachev can execute this plan effectively, he stands a good chance of retaining his title.

In Abu Dhabi, fight fans can look forward to a thrilling contest between two champions eager to prove their dominance once again. Whether Makhachev can maintain his winning streak or Volkanovski can secure a surprise victory remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: this rematch promises fireworks inside the Octagon.