LAS VEGAS Michael Chandler believes UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski still carries the strength from his rugby days.
Volkanovski weighed more than 200 pounds when he played rugby but has excelled in his MMA career as a 145 pounder. He will move up in weight to challenge lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in the UFC 284 headliner on Feb. 11 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia.
No one has found an answer to Makhachev’s (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) grappling prowess, but Chandler thinks Volkanovski (25-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC) will be able to show some resistance despite the size discrepancy.
“I’m a huge Volkanovski fan,” Chandler told MMA Junkie. “He’s very, very good. Is he gonna be smaller than Islam? Yes, very much so. I do think Volkanovski is gonna do better than we all think he does. He used to weigh 210 pounds, 220 pounds, whatever he was when he was playing rugby. Your body remembers that.
“You carry that strength with you. You carry that power with you. You carry just the hip strength of Islam not being able to take him down. The one thing I see is that Volkanovski is a little bit shorter, so that leverage game of if Islam gets up underneath him, puts his head underneath his chin, he’s gonna be able to lift him off the ground pretty easy.”
If Volkanovski is able to avoid hitting the ground for too long, Chandler thinks the rest of the advantages will be in his favor.
“In the striking department, Volkanovski is better than him,” Chandler added. “I think in the speed and the power department, Volkanovski is better than him. So, anything outside of Islam going out there and taking him down in the first minute of each round and holding him down, I think Volkanovski might actually squeak out a decision. Most likely not a finish but a decision.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkies event hub for UFC 284.