UFC 294 is finally here, and wow is it a stacked card! With Charles Oliveira and Paulo Costa forced to withdraw due to injury, we will now see a rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev for the Lightweight gold in the Main Event. Khamzat Chimaev will now face former UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman at Middleweight in the Co-Main Event.
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Check out all our UFC tips for UFC 294 including predictions for the Main Event, as well as two other fights on the card:
Best Bet - Volkanovski v Makhachev - Volkanovski to Win - $3.10
The Main Event is an absolute cracker. The rematch that we’ve all been waiting for has come quicker than expected. If Volk wasn’t already a certified badass, he definitely is now. When Charles Oliveira pulled out due to an eyebrow cut during sparring, Volk got the call-up and accepted the fight on just 11 days' notice. Not only that, but he’s moving up a weight class again and flying all the way to Abu Dhabi to take on a beast of a Lightweight. If he wins this one, he’s got GOAT status written all over him.
Earlier this year, Islam travelled to Perth, where he defended his Lightweight belt for the first time against Featherweight Champion Alex Volkanovski in the Main Event of UFC 284. The bout was razor close, with lots of controversy around the unanimous decision. Many, including myself, thought Volk did enough to secure the victory.
Regardless, it’s the only blemish on his sensational UFC record. Volk went straight back to work in his division after the loss, defending the belt a 5th time with a 3rd round TKO over a very dangerous Yair Rodriguez. Volk required surgery on his hand after that fight, otherwise, he would’ve also made an appearance at UFC 293 in Sydney. Interestingly, Islam hasn’t fought since his win over Alex, which was in February.
This is a fascinating one to analyse, although Volk hasn’t had a full camp and took the fight on short notice, it takes a little pressure off him. The fact is, he not only survived for 25 minutes with Islam, but he showed amazing takedown defence, managed to close the distance and inflicted noticeably more damage in their last fight.
He looked comfortable even when being taken down and was the much fresher fighter as it went into the later rounds. That would inspire a lot of confidence and I think that’s the difference. Islam’s wrestling is as good as they come. High-pressure, suffocating and relentless. He also had some success on the feet last time but relied on the takedown – as expected.
Volk has wanted this rematch since February, I think he’ll make a few adjustments. This is by no means an easy fight for either of them, but I feel like Volk may shock the world and pull off the upset that he thought he did last time. Islam had been preparing for Charles, a very different matchup. I think Volk will get it done.
Next Best - Usman v Chimaev - Chimaev by Decision - $3.90
The Co-Main Event is also very intriguing. We’ll see Kamaru Usman moving up to Middleweight to take on Khamzat Chimaev on short notice – with Paulo Costa pulling out due to surgery. It’s hard not to respect the former Welterweight Champion for taking this fight on short notice.
Especially against somebody with so much hype and remains undefeated in the MMA. Chimaev has won 5 out of his 6 UFC fights via finish, with only one going to the judges (against Gilbert Burns in April 2022). His fight with Burns was certainly his biggest test, with controversy around the decision, but it showed he was in fact, human.
The majority of his other bouts in the UFC have barely lasted two rounds, with insane pressure, amazing grappling and slick boxing. Although, he hasn’t fought of calibre of fighters that Usman has, you can’t argue with his finish rate. With a local crowd and a full fight camp, he’ll be a tough man to beat.
It’s always hard to bet against Usman. I have no doubt that he’s been studying that Burns fight to find holes in Chimaev’s game. He’s one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and his Welterweight reign was one of the greatest we’ve seen. People forget he was unbeaten in the UFC prior to his two losses to Leon Edwards.
That’s a 15-fight win streak since 2015, with wins over Covington, Masvidal, Burns, Woodley, Strickland and others, his resume is as good as they come. If he had a full camp and it was 5 rounds, I’d be going with Usman all day, his cardio is legendary, and he has the wrestling to match Chimaev’s. The short notice doesn’t help either, Chimaev will get busy quickly and try to end it fast.
Unfortunately, Usman doesn’t have the extra rounds to utilise his cardio and wear on Chimaev. But Usman is not an easy man to finish, we’ve only seen it once in the UFC, so I think Chimaev will push the first 2 rounds and cop a decision win. It’s hard, because a large part of me believes Usman can really win this one, but as a betting man, I ’ll take Chimaev. For value Usman at $3.40 to win is ridiculous.
Value Bet - Walker v Ankalaev - Walker to Win by KO - $7.00
Another very interesting matchup at Light-Heavyweight. Johnny Walker takes on number 2 ranked Magomed Ankalaev. This one is going to be an absolute banger too. Ankalaev has been on a hot streak prior to his draw with Jan Blachowicz in December 2022. With wins over Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos and Ion Cutelaba, the only true blemish on his record was his debut against Paul Craig back in 2018.
He’s a tough matchup for anybody, but Jan managed to pick away at the legs and saw some real success. Johnny is an interesting one. He’s extremely unorthodox in this striking and has been on a pretty handy run since getting KO’d by Hill in early 2022. With 3 straight wins, Johnny has come back into the title contention and a win over Ankalaev will remove any doubt.
You see, I think Johnny has found himself. I think he’s entered his prime and matured in a way. We’ve seen that he can finish the fight in unorthodox ways (like his win over Paul Craig). He usually likes to start fast and is certainly less reckless. I think he’ll look to come out quick and put the pressure on.
He has real knockout power, and he usually only needs one round to get it done. It’s a big call, but he’s a hard person to train for. He’s long and snappy, I think he has a chance to catch Ankalaev with something that gets him thinking. I don’t think he wins via decision, but in 3 rounds, I think he’ll look for something spectacular early out of the gates.
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