UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev’s coach at Team Eagle and American Kickboxing Academy know his student faces a formidable opponent in his maiden championship defense. The main event of UFC 284, taking place on February 11 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia, pits Makhachev (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) against Alexander Volkanovski (25-1 MMA, 12-0 UFC), the champion at featherweight who is moving up a class in an attempt to become a two-division titleholder.
Though he acknowledges Volkanovski’s efforts at featherweight, Mendez thinks the Australian’s next challenge will be too great at 155 pounds. Mendez thinks he and Makhachev have a huge advantage in the fight because of their size difference and Makhachev’s ground game.
“Yeah, the weight is going to be a difference, and the wrestling too,” Mendez said.
“Volkanovski has never faced a man with the wrestling that Islam has in that cage. It’s the first time he faces someone with the level of wrestling that Islam Makhachev has. I don’t know if Alex will be able to withstand that, we’ll see.
“He’s strong, he’s a great champion, but we’ll see. I don’t think he’ll be able to do it because he’s just a bit too small, just a bit, but he is strong. I think that the style of jiu-jitsu and Sambo mix on the ground, I think that Alex doesn’t have the experience that Islam Makhachev has (on the canvas). Islam is one of the best on the ground. He’s a great.”
“And if we’re fighting him on the feet, I think Islam is going to beat him there too,” Mendez said.
“People think that Islam is just a wrestler, and he’s going to take things to the ground, no. No, he’s very complete. He has everything.
“If we want to beat him, you can’t just think, ‘I can only beat him on the ground.’ No, he has the style on the feet too. If you’re going to fight the fighters that train with me and Khabib in Dagestan, you need to know everything and need to know it well if you want to win. If you don’t have all the styles well-trained, you’re in trouble.”