UFC 284 Expert picks and best bets: Do insiders back Makhachev as a heavy favorite?


Islam Makhachev puts his lightweight title on the line against men's featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in the main event of UFC 284 (Sat. 10 p.m. on ESPN+ PPV). Not only is the 155-pound belt up for grabs, but the undisputed title of pound-for-pound king is on the line as well.

Makhachev (23-1), ranked No. 2 in ESPN's P4P rankings, beat Charles Oliveira to claim the lightweight title last October. Makhachev has finished his opponent in each of his past five fights. Volkanovski (25-1), ESPN's P4P No. 1, has held the featherweight title since 2019. He earned a unanimous decision win over Max Holloway in his last fight.

In the co-main event, Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett will fight for the interim men's featherweight title -- an opportunity created by Volkanovski choosing to fight Makhachev. Rodriguez (14-3, 1 NC), ranked No. 4 in ESPN's divisional rankings, beat Brian Ortega via first-round TKO in his last fight. Emmett (18-2), ranked No. 7, picked up a split-decision win over Calvin Kattar last June.

Marc Raimondi spoke to Fight Ready MMA coach Santino DeFranco to get his perspective on the main event and New England Cartel coach Tyson Chartier to get his perspective on the co-main event. ESPN's betting experts Ian Parker and Reed Kuhn also add their insights and analysis on fights they like on the card.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Lightweight title fight: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski