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Volkanovski plans to make Makhachev 'desperate for takedowns' at UFC 284

Brett Hemmings / UFC / Getty

Alexander Volkanovski knows he's in for a tough out against Islam Makhachev at UFC 284, but it would be an understatement to say the featherweight champion is confident he'll walk out of the Octagon with two belts on his shoulders.

In a historic No. 1-versus-No. 2 pound-for-pound matchup, Volkanovski is moving up in weight - a la Conor McGregor in 2016 - to challenge Makhachev for the lightweight title on Feb. 11 in his native Australia.

Makhachev is one of the best grapplers in mixed martial arts, and he'll boast a significant size advantage over Volkanovski. But Volkanovski - a heavy underdog - is counting on his striking to put the Russian into worrisome positions.

"Once I get straight back up (from being taken down), pop you in the face, that's when (he and his team are) going to start getting uncomfortable," Volkanovski told Fox Sports Australia.

He added: "I feel like them being so uncomfortable on the feet, and getting desperate for takedowns, and then not being as successful as they originally planned, I feel like that's where he's going to start losing his head - him and his corner."

Given Makhachev's history of large amounts of control time in fights, Volkanovski plans to make every moment they spend standing up miserable for the defending champ.

"I need to capitalize when I'm on the feet," Volkanovski said. "If he gets me down (and) I get back up, I need to put hands on him. I need to capitalize. I need to win the rounds or put him to sleep. And I'm going to be putting hands on him and trying to find that chin and find it hard."

Running out of challenges at 145 pounds, Volkanovski had been eyeing the opportunity to become a two-division champion since a dominant TKO win over Chan Sung Jung last April. The Australian won the featherweight title in 2019 and has defended it four times, including in a rout of former champ Max Holloway and in a "Fight of the Year" candidate against Brian Ortega. His efforts pushed him to the No. 1 spot on the men's pound-for-pound rankings.

But apparently, there's still room for improvement. Volkanovski said he believes preparing for such a difficult opponent in Makhachev has made him an even better fighter.

"Even if he gets me in a bad position, you'll probably see a smile on my face," Volkanovski said. "You'll probably see me talking and going, 'Is this all you got? Watch me get up.' Get up, and then we go like, 'Hey, you're not as strong as you thought, alright? I'm not as small as you thought, alright?'"

He added: "You won't see me break at all. I'll keep going."

With a win over Makhachev, Volkanovski would become only the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously and the second to hold gold at 145 and 155 pounds after McGregor achieved that feat by knocking out Eddie Alvarez.

Ultimately, Volkanovski is gunning for all-time great status.

"I'm very proud of who I am, who I've become, what I've achieved," Volkanovski said. "But it's not enough. I think my legacy is still great, but I want it to be one of the greatest. And it starts off, obviously, with Feb. 12, with the big fight we have."

"It's going to be a hard challenge," he added. "But I guarantee you I can do it."

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