Alexander Volkanovski vs Islam Makhachev: The Titans Of UFC 284

Alexander Volkanovski vs Islam Makhachev: The Titans Of UFC 284

Image: Getty

Despite coming up empty both times, Alexander Volkanovski‘s battles with Islam Makhachev proved that the former Aussie champion fears no fighter in the UFC.

After beating Max Holloway for the third time at UFC 276 on 2 July 2022, there was no more challenge left for Alex Volkanovski in the featherweight division. After all, Holloway was his biggest challenge in the weight class and he had also beaten Brian Ortega and The Korean Zombie in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Image: Getty / ZUFFA

With really nothing left to prove at 145 pounds, the logical thing to do was chase the next big fight at the next weight class. For Volkanovski, that was Islam Makhachev who took over the reins of the lightweight division from his mentor, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Like Khabib, Islam was a dominant fighter. Makhachev rose to the top of the 155-pound weight class with an 11-fight winning streak after he was knocked out by Adriano Martins at UFC 192. The 11th win was against Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title at UFC 280.

After beating Oliveira, Makhachev called out ‘short guy’ Volkanovski and asked him to enter the Octagon. Volkanovski accepted the challenge and the two shook hands after agreeing to put Islam’s lightweight belt and Volk’s Pound-for-Pound title on the line.

Who won Islam Makhachev vs Alexander Volkanovski?

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A month after Makhachev became champion, the UFC announced that he would defend his belt against Volkanovski at UFC 284 on 12 February 2023 at Perth’s RAC Arena. In a gruelling battle, Makhachev outlasted Volkanovski and defeated the Aussie by unanimous decision to retain his title. Islam won the fight via scores of 49-46, 48-47, and 48-47 but Volk gave him all he could handle.

Alex out-landed Islam 164-95 in total strikes landed, including 70-57 in significant strikes. However, Makhachev completed four out of nine takedown attempts and held Volk on the ground for 7 minutes and 37 seconds. After the loss, Volkanovski called for a rematch and given his performance, the UFC granted him one.

Before the runback, however, Volk returned to the featherweight division to defend his belt against interim champion Yair Rodriguez. He scored a TKO win over Rodriguez to retain his belt for the 5th consecutive time.

UFC 294: Islam Makhachev vs. Alexander Volkanovski 2

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Volkanovski and Makhachev fought in a rematch at UFC 294 on 21 October 2023 at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. This time around, Makhachev dominated from start to finish and knocked out Volkanovski inside one round. After the loss, the Aussie admitted he was drinking every day in the weeks leading to the bout.

“I’m known for being disciplined; professional all year round, 24/7. And I just wasn’t that time. So I was really disappointed and I was more upset with who I was than previous months leading into that. And to be honest, it made it a little bit easier because it snapped me out of it. You know what I mean? It snapped me out like I was drinking every day of, for three, four weeks. Honestly, I don’t even know if I’ve got that. That’s unheard of for me every day. I’ve never ever done that.”

Alex Volkanovski

The losses to Makhachev were tough as Volkanovski had not lost a fight since 2013. He won 22 straight fights and then suddenly lost two of his three fights in 2023. Despite the disappointment, Volkanovski will always be remembered for taking the challenge of pushing his greatness to its limits.