After having his two-division ambitions temporarily stalled by reigning UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev this past February at UFC 284, Alexander Volkanovski is returning to the landscape he rules over.
Volkanovski, who has reigned supreme at featherweight since late 2019, is set to welcome a new challenger to the fray having defeated Max Holloway for the third time in his most recent defense at 145 pounds.
The Australian will headline his second pay-per-view of the year on July 8, topping the UFC 290 bill in a unification showdown with interim titleholder Yair Rodríguez.
Unsurprisingly, given his lengthy and ongoing stint atop the featherweight mountain, Volkanovski is heading towards International Fight Week as a heavy favorite, with his number on BetOnline.ag currently reading -425.
Despite that, however, featherweight fighter Blake Bilder likes the underdog’s chances.
Bilder Foresees Major Upset In UFC 290 Headliner
During a recent interview with Parry Punch, Bilder looked ahead to the next championship fight in his division.
“El Animal” made his promotional debut at UFC 284 in Perth, outpointing Volkanovski’s teammate Shane Young. While Bilder was impressed with the featherweight kingpin’s performance against Islam Makhachev later that night, he believes Rodríguez may prove to be too “elusive” come fight night at T-Mobile Arena this summer.
“I like Yair for that one,” Bilder said. “It’s shocking to a lot of people, but I’ve grappled with Yair. His grappling’s good. His wrestling’s not too bad. His striking looks really good. It looked like he was programming his kicks very well (at UFC 284) and doing a very good job of making sure that he was keeping (Josh) Emmett far away.
“I think just the striking, just being elusive (will help Rodríguez win). But Volk does a great job of using his feints to see where they’re gonna go and then ripping shots from there,” Bilder continued. “He’s one of those guys that, when he commits, he really commits… He takes very calculated risks with his striking and backs guys up well agains the cage.”
Volkanovski will look to prove the likes of Bilder wrong in the UFC 290 main event by adding a fifth title defense to his illustrious mixed martial arts résumé. Should he accomplish that feat, perhaps his gaze will once again turn to the lightweight gold.
#UFC290 is absolutely S T A C K E D 🤯 pic.twitter.com/YxYNODvf5j
— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2023
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