Despite the odds favoring UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in his upcoming title defense against interim champ Yair Rodriguez, Jon Anik believes that Rodriguez has a better chance than what the bookmakers suggest.
The highly anticipated unification bout between Volkanovski and Rodriguez will headline UFC 290 in Las Vegas this Saturday. As fight week begins, DraftKings Sportsbook places Volkanovski as a -410 favorite, while the comeback on the formidable Rodriguez sits at +330. Recognizing Rodriguez’s unique skills and fighting style, Anik, the lead play-by-play commentator for the pay-per-view event, firmly believes that the significant underdog will present one of Volkanovski’s toughest challenges to date.
“Yair Rodriguez is an exceptional fighter,” Anik expressed to MMA Hook. “Dominick Cruz aptly called him ‘one of one,’ and I don’t think there could be more accurate words to describe an athlete. I have no frame of reference when it comes to Yair Rodriguez. I absolutely believe he will be competitive against Alexander Volkanovski.”
Volkanovski, after a closely contested battle with current lightweight champion Islam Makhachev in his pursuit of becoming a two-division champion at UFC 284 in February, is returning to the featherweight division. The defeat against Makhachev, which resulted in his first loss in the Octagon, has fueled his determination for a successful title defense.
Should “The Great” emerge victorious, he has a couple of options moving forward. He could call for a rematch with Makhachev at the October pay-per-view event in Abu Dhabi, or Volkanovski could choose to stay in the featherweight division and face another rising contender, Ilia Topuria.
Although a rematch between Makhachev and Volkanovski would be intriguing to many, Anik believes that a second encounter between them can be saved for a later time.
“I think we can let the Makhachev-Volkanovski rematch simmer for a while,” Anik shared. “I don’t think it’s out of the question that this fight could materialize even three or four years down the line. Right now, with the abundance of talent at 145 and 155, it’s not a ‘strike while the iron is hot’ scenario. It’s ambitious to assume that Volkanovski will smoothly sail through Yair and immediately bounce back in October.”
Anik added, “The only thing I can say is that when we spoke to Alex at the beginning of the year, he mentioned his desire to fight four times in 2023. I genuinely believe, borrowing from Michael Chandler’s words, that Volkanovski is here for a good time, not a long time. He wants to string together training camps, enjoy the paydays, and avoid fighting into his forties. So, let’s appreciate Volkanovski while we can, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he seeks a quick turnaround, even if it means a challenging fight in July.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about UFC featherweight championship
Q: Who is the favorite in the UFC 290 featherweight championship fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Yair Rodriguez?
A: According to the betting lines, Alexander Volkanovski is the favorite with odds of -410, while Yair Rodriguez is the underdog at +330.
Q: What does Jon Anik think about Yair Rodriguez’s chances in the fight?
A: Jon Anik believes that Yair Rodriguez has a strong chance to be competitive against Alexander Volkanovski, despite being considered the underdog by the oddsmakers.
Q: Has Alexander Volkanovski previously fought at a different weight division?
A: Yes, Alexander Volkanovski previously competed in the lightweight division when he faced Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 but is now returning to the featherweight division for his title defense.
Q: What are the potential future options for Alexander Volkanovski if he wins the fight?
A: If Alexander Volkanovski emerges victorious, he could pursue a rematch with Islam Makhachev or face another rising contender in the featherweight division, such as Ilia Topuria.
Q: Does Jon Anik think a rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev is likely?
A: Jon Anik feels that the rematch between Volkanovski and Makhachev could still happen down the road, as there is no immediate rush given the depth of talent in the featherweight and lightweight divisions.
Q: How many fights does Alexander Volkanovski plan to have in 2023?
A: Alexander Volkanovski expressed his intention to compete in four fights during the year 2023, aiming for active participation and not prolonging his career into his forties.
Q: Will Alexander Volkanovski pursue a quick turnaround after his fight with Yair Rodriguez?
A: There is a possibility that Alexander Volkanovski may seek a quick turnaround after the fight, even if it means facing a challenging opponent, as he aims to maximize his training camps and paydays.