UFC: Previewing UFC 294 Saturday afternoon in United Arab Emirates

darren cooper
Darren Cooper
UFC News


  • The top of the card for UFC 294 changed in the last two weeks, but most say it’s for the better, featuring a rematch between Makhachev and Volkanovski.
  • Makhachev and Volkanovski fought in February for the Lightweight title with Makhachev winning a tight five-round decision.
  • The prelims start at 10 a.m. on ESPN+ with the main card to follow at 2 p.m.

Things move quick in the Octagon.

UFC 294 had a different look just two weeks but injuries altered the top two fights on the card set for Saturday and now fight fans will get a rematch they were waiting for when Islam Makhachev defends the Lightweight title against current Featherweight strap holder Alexander Volkanovski.

With so many changes, top Michigan sportsbooks have had to hustle to install prime markets for each of the 13 fights on the card. BetMGM and BetRivers each have a full slate of bets open on each fight, but let’s start with the big one.

You Again? You Again

Makhachev and Volkanovski battled for five tough rounds at UFC 284 back in February with Makhachev walking out with the belt after a unanimous, but close, decision. He won on the three scorecards 48-47, 48-47 and 49-46, and more than one person felt like Volkanovski was the rightful winner.

Makhachev, now 24-1 in his MMA career, had moved on, and was slated to fight former champ Charles Oliveira Saturday, but Oliveira was injured in training and had to back out two weeks ago.

Volkanovski said he would accept the fight even without a lot of time to train. It’s a simple storyline. He wants revenge. The 35-year-old Australian had won 21 straight bouts before losing to Makhachev. He will be dropping a lot of weight in a short time, but a fighter’s gotta do what a fighter’s gotta do.

What Do the Oddsmakers Say?

BetMGM Sportsbook has the elite Russian (Makhachev) as the favorite at -250 with Volkanovski +200 to win the belt. After going five rounds the first time, its no surprise that this fight is expected to go the distance. It -120 to go to a decision, but if you believe it’s going to end quick, you can also place a bet on either fighter to win the bout in 60 seconds or less.

If Volkanovski triumphs, he will be just the fourth man to be champ in two different weight classes simultaneously. Makhachev hasn’t lost a fight since 2015. Five of Volkanovski’s last seven fights have gone the distance.

More Changes, More Fights

The co-main event at UFC 294 also was switched around at the last minute when Paulo Costa had to pull out of the middleweight fight with an infected elbow.

In to face UAE’s own Khamat Chimaev steps Kamaru Usman, the former 170-pound champ. The storyline for this one is easy, a veteran fighter against a rising star. Chimaev, 29, is 6-0 in his UFC career and has a freestyle wrestling background that he’s used to great success. 
It’s a big move for Usma, moving up to middleweight, but he’s lost his last two fights and is looking to restore his name.

BetRivers has Chimaev as the big favorite at -335 to win, with Usman coming in at +250.
Note the early start time, since UFC 294 is taking place halfway around the globe. ESPN+ starts the broadcast at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.