New Zealand UFC fighter Brad Riddell believes featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski can “100 per cent” defeat Islam Makhachev and become the lightweight champion.
Volkanovski and Makhachev are edging closer to confirming a lightweight title fight at UFC 284 in Perth in February.
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Makhachev and his coach, UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, called out Volkanovski following the Russian’s win over Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 and the pair shook hands in the octagon, verbally agreeing to fight each other for the lightweight belt.
A fight between Makhachev and Volkanovski is a mouth-watering prospect and victory would ensure the Australian not only attains rare double champ status, but goes down as one of the best fighters the UFC has ever seen.
Riddell, who is fighting Renato Moicano on the undercard at UFC 281 in New York this weekend, believes Volkanovski has what it takes to beat Makhachev.
“I think it’s really good for Volk to do that,” Riddell told news.com.au.
“I think it’s good for him to cement his name as one of the best. Obviously he’s the best featherweight and one of the best featherweights there’ll ever be, and if he can become the ‘champ champ’, only (Conor) McGregor did that from that division.
“He’s going to do something, which is everybody’s goal in this sport, to be unique and do things other people can’t do or struggle to do.”
Riddell, who trains with Volkanovski at Auckland’s City Kick Boxing gym, was coy when asked what tactics Volkanovski might employ against Makhachev.
“Yeah 100 per cent. I definitely think he can win,” he said.
“I know how he can win the fight so I’m probably not going to say that.
“He’s an extremely talented guy and he’s great everywhere. If you watch the evolution of Alex, he was primarily a grappler at the start of his UFC career, he was always shooting.
“He went from that to sometimes shooting, sometimes striking more to shooting less, to fights against the best strikers and out-striking them easily. That guy is a never-ending evolution of MMA, it’s really good.”
A renowned grappler, Makhachev is 10cm taller than Volkanovski and would arguably be the toughest opponent of the Aussie’s UFC career to date.
But Riddell believes the height difference won’t be a factor and Volkanovski’s versatility will hold him in good stead when he makes the jump in weight up to lightweight.
“He’s fought tall guys before,” the Kiwi said.
“Max (Holloway) is not short. I’m pretty sure Max is like 5 foot 10 or 11, which is really tall for a featherweight. I think Volk had the same or even more reach than him. Islam is a little taller than that or the same height so I don’t think it’s anything he hasn’t come across before.
“Some people might say it’s harder to carry that extra weight but Volk actually came down from an extremely heavy person. So I don’t think carrying an extra few kilos is going to be difficult. If anything, he gets to eat more and train harder during camp.”
Coverage of the UFC 281 pay-per-view gets underway on Sunday at 2pm (AEDT).
UFC 281 Main Card
Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereira (middleweight)
Carla Esparza vs Weili Zhang (strawweight
Dustin Poirier vs Michael Chandler (lightweight)
Brad Riddell vs Renato Moicano (lightweight)
Dominick Reyes vs Ryan Spann (light heavyweight)
Erin Blancfield vs Molly McCann (flyweight)