UFC 284 fight fallout: what’s next for Islam Makhachev, Alexander Volkanovski after super fight in Australia
UFC Lightweight Champion Islam Makhachev and UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovskiy have completed their superfight and are now parting ways on their championship journeys. After UFC 284 on Saturday night, some routes are clearer than others.
Makhachev successfully defended his lightweight title against Volkanovski in a fight that will be widely discussed. The champions fought tooth and nail for five rounds and the result was in doubt even after the scoresheets were read. Ultimately, Volkanovski’s bid to become a two-division champion remains unfinished, and Makhachev is likely to usurp Volkanovski’s position as #1 UFC fighter.
Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett fought for the Interim UFC Featherweight Championship in Volkanovski’s absence. Rodriguez leaves Perth, Australia with a new waist accessory. Volkanovski and Rodriguez are expected to unify the featherweight titles. Makhachev, on the other hand, lacks applicants who are available and viable. So what can be done for a lightweight champion?
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Let’s take a look at the most important fights after UFC 284.
UFC Lightweight Championship – Islam Makhachev (c) vs. Beneil Dariush: There are rumors that Charles Oliveira and Dariush will fight at UFC 288 in May, but the reality is that currently no one at lightweight deserves a title shot more than Dariush. It’s not even close. Oliveira (#1) loses a dominating loss to Makhachev, and a win over Dariush (#4) won’t add confidence in the rematch. Poirier (#2) is 1-1 in his last two and 3-1 in his last four, but two of those fights are against Conor McGregor, who is currently unranked. Justin Gaethje (#3) is reeling from defeat and is currently set to fight Rafael Fiziev. Then there is Michael Chandler (No. 5), who lost to Poirier in his last outing and is set to take on McGregor after their participation in The Ultimate Fighter. Dariush is on an eight-fight winning streak and has the skills of submission, wrestling and wild punches to have a fun fight with Makhachev. If the UFC is unsure how well the Makhachev vs. Dariush fight will sell, they may book it as a co-main event. Just do it please.
UFC Featherweight Champion – Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Yair Rodriguez (c)A: No need to think it over. Rodriguez qualified to challenge Volkanovski after defeating Emmett for the interim UFC Featherweight Championship in Saturday’s co-headlining event. Rodriguez played the matador role for bull Emmett, skillfully getting out of trouble and throwing painful counters. Rodriguez certainly took some punishment on Saturday, but his dynamic shooting and improved ground game show an overall improvement that should make for an exciting title unification bout. Volkanovski’s failed bid for the lightweight title brings clarity to the featherweight ranks. Volkanovski vowed to return to featherweight to face Rodriguez. The order remains.
Josh Emmett vs Ilya Topuria: It’s back to the drawing board for Emmett. To be frank, Emmett proved to be competitive and capable against Rodriguez, even though the new interim champion usually got the better of the trades. The second round choke was Emmett’s first career loss, but he can bounce back quickly. Topuria is poised to move up in the featherweight division and Emmett may be one of the few fighters who can match his strength. The fight will either restore Emmett as a major threat or challenge Topuria for the title. Other potential fights for Emmett include losing Max Holloway against Arnold Allen or “Korean Zombie” Jang Sung Jung, who is one spot behind Emmett if you have any faith in Jung’s chin at this stage.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Neil Magny: Maddalena summoned a rated opponent and it’s time to give him one. Della Maddalena was an absolute pleasure to watch as she took on increasingly difficult opponents in the first round. The only welterweight currently ranked between 10 and 15 without a fight is Magni. A fight between an up-and-coming star and a top welterweight litmus test sounds delicious. Magni, the best welterweight fighter in UFC history, is recovering from a loss to Gilbert Burns that crushed his latest title bid. Magni has often been used as an elite gatekeeper and can be counted on as Della Maddalena’s measure.