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Charles Oliveira suddenly withdraws from UFC 294, Alex Volkanovski vs. Islam Makhachev 2 targeted as replacement main event

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UFC 289: Oliveira v Dariush Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

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Ever since he coughed up his title to Islam Makhachev last year, Charles Oliveira has been single-minded in his pursuit of a rematch and reclaiming that top spot. Unfortunately, the Brazilian will have to wait, as recent reports reveal that Oliveira has been forced to withdraw just 11 days prior to his UFC 294 main event match up versus Makhachev, which was scheduled to take place next weekend (Sat. Oct. 21, 2023) in Abu Dhabi (h/t Overdogs Podcast).

Oliveira suffered a cut over his eye during sparring (read full statement here).

This leaves the promotion in need of an opponent for one of its most dominant champions on very short notice. That’s not an easy sell — remember what happened to Bobby Green when he stopped up on to face Makhachev without a training camp? — but UFC believes it’s found a solution in Featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski. Volkanovski is not yet signed, but he’s expected to replace Oliveira and step up to do battle with Makhachev once more.

While a last-second main event cancelation is less than ideal, this is about as good an outcome as one could hope for. The first battle between Makhachev and Volkanovski took place in February of this year, and it was both highly controversial and highly exciting. It was one of the most high-level and competitive fights of the year, so there’s definitely demand for a rematch. Makhachev has yet to fight again, whereas Volkanovski demolished Yair Rodriguez over summer for year another 145-pound title defense.

While the intrigue is definitely high, it remains a huge ask of Volkanovski. The Featherweight king isn’t likely going to get another shot at Lightweight gold if he comes up short, and he’s sacrificing a training camp and opportunity to bulk up to save the card against an absolutely world-class opponent. That’s extremely ballsy, and Volkanovski more than deserves whatever bonus pay comes with taking that gamble.

Anyone favor the Aussie to pull it off this time, even with little time to prepare?


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