When one fighter steps down, another steps up. In this case, two have stepped up as short notice replacements, and oh boy are we in for a treat…
Less than 24 hours ago, Charles Oliveira pulled out of his lightweight championship fight with Islam Makhachev due to a cut suffered in training. He has been officially replaced by Alexander Volkanovski. Also just several hours ago, Paulo Costa pulled out of his fight with Khamzat Chimaev due to complications with a staph infection. He has been officially replaced by Kamaru Usman.
All respects to Oliveira and Costa, but UFC 294’s main and co-main event have massively upgraded.
Makhachev vs. Volkanovski 2
Just a year ago, in the exact same arena that UFC 294 will take place, Islam Makhachev defeated Charles Oliveira in convincing fashion. So convincing in fact, that not only did the UFC not book the immediate rematch, but the hype around what would’ve been Makhachev vs. Oliveira 2 paled in comparison to their long anticipated first meeting. With Volkanovski stepping in, everything has changed. His first meeting with Islam back in February has sparked constant debate over who the truly better fighter is.
Since then, it has been a war of words between Makhachev and Volkanovski fans online. A war that will seemingly be settled on October 21st in Etihad Stadium. The #2 pound-for-pound fighter taking on the #3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world is by all means a “Super Fight”.
Usman vs. Chimaev
Now as far as Paulo Costa vs. Khamzat Chimaev, I was a bit more excited about this one than the original main event. However, Usman vs. Chimaev is simply a more intriguing fight. While Costa is a scary contender in the middleweight division with dynamite in his shots, he is no Kamara Usman. We are talking about the difference between a top-5 fighter, and a man who rattled off 15 straight UFC wins including 5 title defenses.
It was no secret that Chimaev would look to wrestle Costa as his primary way to a victory. But with Kamara Usman, that will not be so simple. The Nigerian Nightmare has made a name for himself in MMA, in large part due to his suffocating wrestling, something Khamzat uses as a strength of his own.
Roller Coaster of Emotions
Sure we have had short notice replacements before, but I’d lying if I said I’ve ever seen something quite like this. To replace a fighter last minute and come up with a better replacement is rare. But to do it with two fights on the card is simply unheard of.
What a roller coaster wave of emotions for MMA fans in the past day, huh? The only possible downside to this is the fact that you now have less than 11 days to promote one of the best main and co-main event tandems I have seen in some time.
As a fan of the sport, a couple of questions do come to mind…
Why have Mateusz Gamrot weigh in as a backup fighter, if he is not going to be used as a backup fighter? Sounds strange even saying it. Also, what implications will Chimaev vs. Usman have on the middleweight division? The majority of Khamzat’s recent fights have been at welterweight, and we know that Usman has cut his teeth in that 170-pound weight class.
These questions will only add further buzz and anticipation to this Abu Dhabi card.
Dana White Delivers Again
Of course, we must give massive props to the UFC and its matchmakers for not only saving the card, but somehow making it better in the process. Dana White has many enemies who are not shy to point out his flaws, but as a promoter, there is simply no one better than White and it is not close.
With these two fights coming to fruition, and the UFC and USADA parting ways, it has been one of the craziest 24 hour periods in the sports recent memory.
Are you excited for the new matchups? Let us know in the comments below.