Alex Oliveira will be looking to lock down his first three-fight win streak in the UFC’s stacked welterweight division when he meets newcomer Shavkat Rakhmonov tomorrow afternoon (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 from “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
Oliveira, who is filling in for Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos on just three weeks notice, was lucky enough to get a first hand look at Rakhmonov before they lock horns on the UFC 254 “Prelims.” The two welterweights ran into one another during a hotel breakfast earlier this week and Oliveira believes he got the best of the altercation. “Cowboys” feels that the brief encounter filled Rakhmonov with doubt entering his debut.
“This guy Rakhmonov is coming off several victories and he was confident until he saw me (Tuesday) at the breakfast, when our paths crossed,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “He realized he’s got some trouble ahead of him now.”
“It was a bit tense,” claims Oliveira. “He was looking at me, looking at me, so I stood up and went there to shake his hand. We shook hands and he saw my hand is a mechanical shovel [laughs]. My hands are like mechanical shovels, way bigger than his. He’s taller than me, but my hands are way bigger than his. And I’ve seen in his eyes that he’s got cold feet.
“We can tell when the opponent feels the pressure or not. I noticed right away that he felt it, ‘Cowboy is here, he took the fight on three week’s notice and he’s lean, he’s on weight, he’s tough as hell, and still came here to shake my hand.’ I showed him it’s all business, just work, and friendship continues — but if he doesn’t wanna be friends, I’ll still kick his ass the same way.”
Oliveira, who isn’t one to talk trash entering a fight, is always looking for a chance to size his opponent up. While his quick encounter with Rakhmonov fortunately didn’t escalate to something more serious “Cowboy” was at least able to give the young fighter something else to think about.
“He didn’t expect that,” Oliveira said. “He thought he was fighting someone way shorter, but I’m almost his height, and I’m tough as hell for the division. He’ll realize the trouble he’s got himself into when we enter the octagon. He’ll get hurt when I land my hand on his little face, no doubt. He’s never fought someone as tough as me.”
Rakhmonov, who has been trying to make his UFC debut for quite some time, is currently undefeated at 12-0 with all wins coming by way of knockout, TKO, or submission. The 26-year-old prospect is a serious addition to an already stacked welterweight division, but he’ll have to prove his worth this weekend against an established veteran like “Cowboy.”
“He has a lot of holes in his game and I’ll explore it,” Oliveira said. “We can go to the ground if he wants to, or we can keep it on the feet. We’re both strikers and we’ll trade in there. I’ll knock him out in the first round, and then I want a top-15. That’s it.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN2 at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.