Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski 1 (UFC 284)
The first fight between Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski has aged wonderfully since their second bout. Without question, the best versions of Makhachev and Volkanovski were on full display. At the same time, one could argue that this fight made Makhachev work even harder to keep the UFC lightweight title.
Volkanovski is the best featherweight on the planet and there's no debating that right now. After running through the division, Volkanovski got his chance at double-champ status against Makhachev. What made this fight so incredible was there was no 'what about this guy?' feeling. The best featherweight and pound-for-pound active fighter was taking on the best lightweight, who was hungry to prove himself against the top UFC fighters.
This fight was close in the viewers' eyes and Volkanovski kept it tight. In rounds one and four, we saw vintage Makhachev land a single takedown and maintain position. In rounds two and three, Volkanovski worked hard to defend takedowns and was able to land more on the feet, but it was still close. Round five was easily Volkanovski's best and most dominant round, landing a shocking knockdown, along with his most significant strikes and control time for any round of the fight.
This fight showed just how important positioning and timing are at this level. With just 127 total significant strikes landed, Makhachev and Volkanovski were doing all they could to separate themselves in other areas. There is something to be said about the best in the world playing, what looks to be, a boring game of human chess. For the die-hard MMA fan, this made the fight so much more exciting.
Looking back, Volkanovski had exciting moments, even dominant, but Makhachev was always doing enough to stay in the fight. Regardless of opponent, Makhachev is naturally a step ahead with the grappling, which was a major reason for him winning at least 3 rounds in the judges' eyes. Volkanovski got credit from all three judges for his fifth round, and two judges for his efforts in the third, losing 48-47 on two scorecards and 49-46 on one.