Islam Makhachev outlasts Alexander Volkanovski to retain title

The path to the UFC light-weight title has gone by way of Dagestan for a while. And now so does the highway to the No. 1 pound-for-pound rating, as soon as once more.

In a basic back-and-forth battle, Islam Makhachev pulled out a unanimous resolution (48-47, 48-47, 49-46) over Alexander Volkanovski to retain the light-weight title in the principle occasion of UFC 284 on Saturday in Perth, Australia.

Makhachev will now be thought of the highest pound-for-pound fighter on the earth, similar to his longtime teammate and buddy Khabib Nurmagomedov, the retired former UFC light-weight champion, as soon as was.

UFC featherweight champion Volkanovski, preventing in his house nation, got here in ranked No. 1 pound-for-pound on the earth by ESPN. He was transferring as much as combat Makhachev, who got here in ranked No. 2. It was one of many uncommon instances in MMA historical past that the 2 finest fighters on the earth no matter weight class fought one another.

“You like or you don’t like, I am [the] best fighter in the world right now,” Makhachev mentioned to boos from the Australia crowd. “Thank you.”

Volkanovski was a strong underdog however carried out extraordinarily effectively, protecting the combat shut and largely nullifying Makhachev’s vaunted wrestling. However, Makhachev had quite a lot of success within the hanging, the place Volkanovski was presupposed to have the benefit.

“He didn’t respect my wrestling, grappling,” Volkanovski mentioned. “Maybe I didn’t respect his striking enough, either. He landed some shots. Fair play to both of us.”

Makhachev harm Volkanovski a number of instances on the toes with left fingers, together with within the first and second rounds. Volkanovski, in the meantime, was assured sufficient within the third spherical to go for a number of takedowns on the larger Makhachev.

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In the fourth, Makhachev halted Volkanovski’s momentum by taking him down and protecting management for an extended stretch as a annoyed Volkanovski tried to egg on the group.

“This guy [is] so strong,” Makhachev advised ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “He always try to push you. His style is a little bit different, how he moves fast and how he’s strong. He improved a lot in the ground, his defense. But it was good fight, and for sure it’s big experience for me.”

Volkanovski dropped Makhachev with a proper hand within the fifth spherical and landed ground-and-pound because the seconds ticked off the clock and finally the combat was over.

“I prepared for a hard fight,” Makhachev mentioned. “Last round, he landed good shot, good punch. All other rounds, in my opinion, I won.”

Volkanovski landed 70 important strikes towards Makhachev, which was greater than Makhachev’s six earlier opponents mixed (62).

“I felt like maybe I could have done that earlier,” Volkanovski mentioned of the ultimate minutes of the bout. “It’s pretty clear I could have won that fight. That’s why I’m hard on myself.”

Judges Ben Cartlidge and Dave Lethaby had Makhachev profitable the primary, second and fourth rounds. Judge Derek Cleary had Makhachev profitable the primary, second, third and fourth rounds.

“I definitely want that fight back,” Volkanovski mentioned. “I f—ing want that lightweight belt.”

Makhachev mentioned he would not flip down a rematch if the UFC supplied it to him.

“Why not?” Makhachev mentioned. “If UFC wants, let’s go. Let’s do this again.”

Makhachev (24-1) beat Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 in September by way of second-round submission to win the light-weight title. This was his first title protection. The Dagestan, Russia, native has gained 12 straight fights, the longest lively streak within the UFC. Makhachev, 31, has not misplaced since his second UFC combat in 2015.

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“I show why I’m No. 1,” Makhachev mentioned. “They have to improve more.”

Volkanovski (25-2) was 12-0 within the UFC coming in and had gained 22 straight total. The Australian-born fighter beat Max Holloway to win the UFC featherweight belt at UFC 245 in December 2019.

Volkanovski, 34, has 4 profitable title defenses, most not too long ago a unanimous resolution over Holloway final July at UFC 276, his third victory towards the 145-pound nice. He stays the UFC featherweight champ and can seemingly combat new interim champion Yair Rodriguez subsequent.

“Featherweights, you better f—ing watch out,” Volkanovski mentioned.