This was top pound-for-pound number 1 vs number 2, and it really ended up looking that way. Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski went back and forth in a highly competitive and very technical affair.
Volkanovski looked sharper, faster, and had more layers to his striking game early, with Makhachev clearly having a power advantage after wobbling him with short shots. That wasn’t really the complete story of the fight though, as Volkanovski managed to hurt him multiple times on the feet as well, and by the latter rounds, Makhachev also showed beautiful reads with counter strikes and reactive takedowns in a truly high level affair.
Whether or not Makhachev did it to make a statement, the lightweight champion willingly veered away from “Father’s Plan” and decided to play Volkanovski’s game on the feet for long stretches. It may not have been the best idea, but he did well enough and it made for a close and entertaining contest.
Volkanovski showed the tremendous Fight IQ he’s been known for, and even came up big to win the fifth round, but in the end it wasn’t enough. He was able to scramble and impressively avoid damage on the ground, but he did lose key rounds to those grappling exchanges.
The fight had such big ramifications, and while it didn’t seem to get marketed enough to a wide casual audience, the fight truly delivered.
Makhachev was pushed and he showcased real layers of his game that we didn’t see before. He answered a lot of people’s questions on just how good his overall game is, and in my opinion, Makhachev passed a real test with flying colors.
On the other hand, Volkanovski once again displayed why he deserves his top spot in the pound-for-pound list. He came up short, but Volkanovski didn’t look out of place at 155 lbs, and I would have a hard time picking against him against most lightweights.
Next up for him though, will probably be Yair Rodriguez.
- In the co-main event, Rodriguez won the interim featherweight belt, with his first UFC submission win over Josh Emmett. He survived one big punch from the hard hitter, and just won everywhere the fight went. Rodriguez’s body kicks were so sharp and folded and hurt Emmett repeatedly, but it was also impressive how he did so well on the guard. Emmett couldn’t land any offense, and Rodriguez kept landing hard elbows from bottom en route to a triangle finish.
- It’s not exactly a real belt, but it was a fun fight and a great performance for Rodriguez, who will at least get a champion’s contract and better pay on his next bout, which should be a title unification.
- Jack Della Maddalena looked fantastic in his hometown win. Randy Brown was trying to stay long and control distance early, but Della Maddalena remained patient and immediately pounced the moment he pressured and got him to the fence. A short shot face-planted Brown, and eventually finished with a rear naked choke. The hype seems justified, and that marks four first round finishes in a row, clearly deserving a top contender next.
- Justin Tafa got his second straight KO win, winning in his home country in just one minute. It was a pretty step back counter shot as Parker Porter was reaching, and he put him out cold immediately.
- Jimmy Crute’s heart was on full display after surviving being dropped repeatedly, but it was just terrible Fight IQ and decision making from Alonzo Menifield, who kept clinching and making him recover. Perhaps he was gassed, but Crute was in far worse shape and he should’ve kept it standing to end it. Add that to the fence grab that cost him a point, and it really was just bad decision over bad decision that went from a sure win to a draw.
- We all know Loma Lookboonmee has a killer clinch and Muay Thai game. Tonight, she showcased overall MMA improvements and the work she’s been doing with the Hickman brothers, taking a quality submission. It was her first ever submission win in the UFC, making her one of the biggest standouts during the prelims.
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