The UFC 294 event unfolded in spectacular fashion, leaving fans and experts with much to ponder. It was a night of swift finishes, as Islam Makhachev displayed his prowess with a stunning head kick to Alexander Volkanovski, while Khamzat Chimaev secured a career-defining victory against Kamaru Usman. In addition to these marquee bouts, several up-and-coming prospects showcased their skills. In this in-depth analysis, we delve into the key takeaways from the electrifying event in Abu Dhabi.

Islam Makhachev: The Pound-for-Pound King

The Phenomenal UFC 294 Takeaways: Makhachev's Dominance, Matchup Speculations, and Breakout Moments*

The resounding consensus now affirms that Islam Makhachev has emerged as the world’s premier pound-for-pound fighter. At UFC 294, Makhachev didn’t merely triumph over Alexander Volkanovski; he did so with extraordinary authority. A left kick to the head sent Volkanovski crashing to the canvas, marking the first time he had been finished in a decade. It’s worth noting that Volkanovski stepped in as a late replacement with just 11 days’ notice. Nevertheless, Makhachev’s performance was nothing short of stellar. He had been preparing for Charles Oliveira, a tall, lanky Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist, while Volkanovski possessed a different style as a short, stocky all-arounder.

Notably, Makhachev had previously defeated Volkanovski in February at UFC 284, and this was his second victory in their series, further strengthening his claim to the pound-for-pound throne. Jon Jones remains an exceptional fighter, especially as the current heavyweight champion. However, the remarkable performances of Makhachev are challenging the narrative that Jones is the absolute best. Makhachev’s dominance cannot be ignored. If Jones impresses in his upcoming bout against Stipe Miocic at UFC 295, it might reignite the debate.

Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira: The Next Challenge

As we contemplate Makhachev’s next move, the question arises: who should be his next opponent? Justin Gaethje certainly deserves the opportunity, having taken on formidable opponents, including a stunning knockout of Dustin Poirier. Yet, Charles Oliveira has also fulfilled his obligations, defeating Beneil Dariush in July. Oliveira’s inability to compete in Abu Dhabi due to an injury shouldn’t overshadow his achievements. Moreover, Oliveira holds a previous win over Gaethje, making a case for him to reclaim the title shot. While the decision is challenging, opting for a Makhachev-Oliveira showdown seems to make the most sense, considering their previous matchup.

Alexander Volkanovski’s Next Challenge: Ilia Topuria

The Phenomenal UFC 294 Takeaways: Makhachev's Dominance, Matchup Speculations, and Breakout Moments*

Despite the swift loss to Makhachev on short notice, Alexander Volkanovski remains committed to staying active. If he’s ready to return in January, a matchup against Ilia Topuria for the first pay-per-view of the year is a compelling option. Topuria’s undeniable credentials and the absence of other prominent challengers in the featherweight division solidify his position as the next logical opponent. The absence of a “wild card” in this scenario underscores the clear path for Volkanovski.

Khamzat Chimaev: A Future Middleweight Champion

Khamzat Chimaev’s performance against Kamaru Usman was a defining moment in his career. His readiness for a UFC championship fight was evident, despite occasional growing pains. Chimaev’s imposing presence and the possibility of triumph against any opponent solidify his status as a future champion. His next target appears to be the middleweight title, and Sean Strickland is the likely contender. Strickland, along with most middleweights, would find themselves as underdogs against Chimaev. Should Chimaev return to welterweight, a showdown with Leon Edwards could also be on the horizon. While Paulo Costa could be an alternative, the championship fight remains the primary focus.

Kamaru Usman: A Waiting Game

Kamaru Usman’s courageous performance on short notice against Chimaev raises intriguing questions about his future. The outcome of the Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington matchup in December will play a pivotal role in shaping Usman’s path. If Covington emerges victorious, Usman’s previous wins against him, coupled with his recent showing against Chimaev, may fast-track his title shot. The scarcity of suitable matchups for Usman leaves waiting as the most prudent strategy for now.

Said Nurmagomedov: The Contender Hunt

Said Nurmagomedov’s victory over Tim Elliott symbolizes a breakthrough in his career. He’s now positioned as a legitimate contender in the flyweight division. Nurmagomedov’s well-rounded skills and wrestling dominance have propelled him into the spotlight. While he expressed interest in facing Kai Kara-France or even a title fight, a more realistic next step could involve a matchup against fighters like Amir Albazi or Matheus Nicolau. The flyweight division boasts formidable opponents, and Nurmagomedov must continue to prove himself.

Shara Magomedov’s Impressive Debut

Shara Magomedov’s UFC debut showcased a distinctive style that poses a challenge to middleweights. His unorthodox kicks and striking proficiency make him a unique and formidable fighter. Although takedown defense needs improvement, Magomedov’s aggressiveness and striking prowess are evident. His victory over Bruno Silva underscores his potential in the 185-pound division. As a fighter to watch, Magomedov could shake up the middleweight ranks with his distinctive approach.

In conclusion

UFC 294 delivered a night of remarkable performances and left us with intriguing questions about the future of the sport. Makhachev’s ascent to the pound-for-pound throne, potential matchups, and the emergence of new talents have added layers to the ever-evolving world of mixed martial arts. The wait for the next thrilling UFC event begins, as fans eagerly anticipate more memorable moments in the octagon.