Makhachev outlasts Volkanovski to retain title
The path to the UFC lightweight title for some time ran through Dagestan. And now again the way to the first place in the ranking in the weight category.
In a classic round-trip bout, Islam Makhachev defeated Alexander Volkanovski via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) to retain the lightweight title in the main event of UFC 284 on Saturday in Perth. Australia.
Now Makhachev will be considered the best fighter in the world, regardless of weight class, as his longtime teammate and friend Khabib Nurmagomedov, a retired UFC lightweight champion, once was.
UFC featherweight champion Volkanovski, who fought in his home country, was ranked #1 in the world by weight class by Sportzshala. He moved up to take on Makhachev, who finished second in the rankings. It was one of the rare occasions in MMA history when two of the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class, fought each other.
“Do you like it or don’t like me? [the] the best fighter in the world right now,” Makhachev told the booing Australian crowd. – Thank you.
Volkanovski was a serious underdog but performed very well, keeping the fight close and basically negating Makhachev’s vaunted fight. However, Makhachev had great success on the drums, where Volkanovskiy should have had the advantage.
“He didn’t respect my struggle and struggle,” Volkanovski said. “Maybe I didn’t respect his punches enough either. He landed several blows. Fair play for both of us.”
Makhachev hit Volkanovski in the legs with his left hand several times, including in the first and second rounds. Volkanovski, meanwhile, was confident enough in the third round to land several takedowns against the bigger Makhachev.
In the fourth, Makhachev stopped Volkanovski’s momentum by knocking him down and holding control for a long time as a frustrated Volkanovski tried to goad the crowd.
“This guy [is] so strong,” Makhachev told Sportzshala’s Brett Okamoto. He’s always trying to push you. His style is a bit different, how fast he moves and how strong he is. He improved a lot on the ground, in defense. But it was a good fight and definitely a great experience for me.”
Volkanovski dropped Makhachev with a right hand in the fifth round and landed as the seconds ticked down and the fight was ultimately over.
“I was preparing for a tough fight,” Makhachev said. “Last round he hit a good shot, a good shot. All other rounds, in my opinion, I won.
Volkanovski landed 70 significant punches on Makhachev, more than Makhachev’s six previous opponents combined (62).
“I felt like I could have done it sooner,” Volkanovski said of the final minutes of the fight. “It is clear that I could have won this fight. That’s why I’m hard on myself.”
Judges Ben Cartlidge and Dave Lethaby declared Makhachev the winner in the first, second and fourth rounds. According to judge Derek Cleary, Makhachev won the first, second, third and fourth rounds.
“I definitely want to get a fight back,” Volkanovski said. “I fucking want that lightweight belt.”
Makhachev said he would not refuse a rematch if the UFC offered him one.
“Why not?” Makhachev said. “If the UFC wants to, go ahead. Let’s do it again.”
Makhachev (24-1) defeated Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in September via second round submission to capture the lightweight title. It was his first title defense. A native of Dagestan, Russia, has won 12 straight fights, the longest active streak in the UFC. Makhachev, 31, has not lost since his second UFC fight in 2015.
“I show why I am No. 1,” Makhachev said. “They need to improve more.”
Volkanovski (25-2) was 12-0 in the UFC with 22 straight wins. The Australian-born fighter defeated Max Holloway to capture the UFC featherweight belt at UFC 245 in December 2019.
The 34-year-old Volkanovski has four successful title defenses, the latest being a unanimous decision victory over Holloway last July at UFC 276, his third victory over the 145-pound great fighter. He remains UFC Featherweight Champion and is likely to face new interim champion Yair Rodriguez next.
“Lightweights, beware,” Volkanovski said.