Alexander Volkanovski fell painfully short in his bid to become a dual-weight champion at UFC 284, suffering a narrow decision loss to Islam Makhachev on Saturday.
Australian Volkanovski entered and exited the RAC Arena in Perth as a featherweight champion, but the lightweight title eluded him when 155lbs champion Makhachev took a unanimous decision in enemy territory.
Volkanovski had promised to refute doubters who claimed he was too small to compete with Makhachev, and the 34-year-old did just that, almost every time he was knocked down – as he had said he would – he went into reverse position along the fence, and the Russian staggering with thrusts.
One of those attacks came in early in round 1, sparking a raucous reaction from the Perth faithful as Volkanovski yelled, “Let’s go!” with the defending champion. However, Makhachev – without coach and childhood friend Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner – reacted to the right cross by dropping Volkanovski with a hook on the knee. Makhachev then relied on his greatest strength, his wrestling, to knock the Australian down and control him for the rest of the round.
A closely fought second round ensued, in which Volkanovski dropped Makhachev with a hook, forcing the 31-year-old to fight for a one-leg takedown. Although the Russian secured it, Volkanovski stood against the fence. But just like in the first round, Makhachev fired back by wobbling his opponent – this time with a left hand.
Volkanovski was able to regain some momentum in the third round, before Makhachev produced a perfectly timed, double-legged takedown after luring his challenger into a slow attack. With Makhachev holding Volkanovski for the rest of the round, both fighters saw numerous punches hit the mat in the final minute, with the Australian barking at the Russian – much to the delight of the Perth crowd.
Remarkably, in the fifth frame, Volkanovski nearly knocked out the grappling specialist before grounding Makhachev one last time with a hard punch that set up a captivating final minute. Volkanovski entered Makhachev’s guard and punched the lightweight champion to wrap up the fight.
Many in the arena felt that Volkanovski had done enough to dethrone Makhachev, but the scorecards read 48-47, 48-47, 49-46 in favor of the Russian. In fact, Makhachev will likely have dethroned Volkanovski when the UFC’s pound-for-pound No. 1 fighter comes Monday morning, having entered UFC 284 at No. 2.
In addition, the result ended Makhachev Volkanovski’s 12-fight UFC win streak – the longest by an active fighter – while tying it himself. The Russian is now undefeated since 2015, handing Volkanovski his first defeat in 10 years and 22 fights in total.
In the co-main event, Yair Rodriguez claimed the interim featherweight title with a second-round submission from Josh Emmett, establishing himself as Volkanovski’s next challenger at 145 pounds.
Full UFC284 Results
Islam Makhachev (C) vs Alexander Volkanovski (featherweight champion) (lightweight title)
Defeats Yair Rodriguez. Josh Emmett via second-round submission (triangle choke, 4:19)
Defeating Jack Della Maddalena. Randy Brown via submission in the first round (rear naked choke, 2:13)
Justin beats Tafa. Parker Porter via first-round knockout (1:06)
Jimmy Crute vs Alonzo Menifield ends as majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Defeats Modestas Bukauskas. Tyson Pedro via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Josh Culibao defeats. Melsik Baghdasaryan via second round submission (naked rear choke, 2:02)
Kleydson Defeats Rodrigues. Shannon Ross via TKO in the first round (0:59)
Defeats Jamie Mullarkey. Francisco Prado via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Early preliminary rounds
Jack Jenkins defeats. Don Shainis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Loma Lookboonmee def. Elise Reed via second-round submission (naked rear choke, 0:44)
Blake Bilder defeats. Shane Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Elves Brenner def. Zubaira Tukhugov via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)