Islam Makhachev walked into one of the most intense atmospheres in UFC history Saturday as champion. When he left, the belt came with him.
In front of a rowdy RAC Arena full of passionate fans who cheered on his opponent Alexander Volkanovski (25-2 MMA, 12-1 UFC), the promotion’s lightweight champion Makhachev (24-1 MMA, 13-1 UFC) retained his title via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46). The bout served as the UFC 284 main event in Perth, Australia.
Saturday’s fight matched the UFC-ranked No. 1 and No. 2 pound-for-pound fighters in the world against each other – a rare occurrence. Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, elevated to 155 pounds and served as UFC lightweight champion Makhachev’s first title defense.
Few crowds have paralleled the loudness of the environment when first Volkanovski, then Makhachev second, walked into RAC Arena. The two fighters met opposite receptions as the fans sang along to “Down Under” by Men At Work during Volkanovski’s walk, and booed during Makhachev’s walk.
The thunderous energy continued through the introductions and well into the first round, and was reenergized when Volkanovski landed the first big punch of the fight. Makhachev stumbled backwards but did not go down. Moments later, both men landed hard shots.
Makhachev’s strike dropped Volkanovski down briefly. Volkanovski popped up but was taken down. Makhachev shimmied to the back but was unable to sneak in a choke before the round ended.
In Round 2, Volkanovski was the first to land a significant blow. A punch dropped Makhachev, who popped up and took Volkanovski down again. Volkanovski rose back to his feet and they separated. Just as Volkanovski found his stride with successful strikes, Makhachev stunned him again. Volkanovski went on the retreat and recovered before some wall-and-stall and the end-of-round horn.
The pace slowed in Round 3, as both men were more calculated and patient with their attacks. Midway through the round, Makhachev took Volkanovski down. But like all the other instances with one exception, Volkanovski quickly worked his way back up to the feet. As the round progressed, the crowd loudened. Volkanovski’s technical striking found more success in the final minutes of the round, and was acknowledged by the Perth faithful upon the horn.
In Round 4, Makhachev returns to his roots when he completes a pristinely-timed takedown. Makhachev shifted to Volkanovski’s back and locked in a body triangle. Makhachev controlled Volkanovski but was unable to muster up much offense over the course of three minutes until the round ended. In the final 30 seconds, however, a fired-up Volkanovski threw blind punches over his head, which connected on Makhachev’s face.
With the bout potentially anyone’s at the beginning of Round 5, the crowd gave a standing ovation before the final frame. Makhachev popped Volkanovski with a good punch. The blow, which Volkanovski acknowledged, resulted in a cut.
Makhachev shot for a takedown, but once again Volkanovski escaped. With each positive action by Volkanovski, the Perth crowd frenzied. Another takedown attempt by Makhachev was stuffed and Volkanovski clinched.
As the clock ticked around the four-minute mark of the final round, Volkanovski landed a punch that visibly rocked Makhachev and sent him to the ground. The crowd exploded as Volkanovski rained down ground-and-pounds until the final bell.
With experts and fans alike the elements of exactly which way the judges would lean, Makhachev’s name was announced – and down came the boos.
Makhachev extended his winning streak to 12, a stretch that also included victories over Charles Oliveira, Dan Hooker, and Arman Tsarukyan.
The defeat marks Volkanovski’s first in the UFC – and his first overall since May 2013. The loss snaps a 22-fight winning streak.
Up-to-the-minute UFC 284 results include:
Islam Makhachev def. Alexander Volkanovski via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 49-46)
Yair Rodriguez def. Josh Emmett via submission (triangle choke) – Round 2, 4:19
Jack Della Maddalena def. Randy Brown via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:13
Justin Tafa def. Parker Porter via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 1:06
Jimmy Crutes vs. Alonzo Menifield declared majority draw (29-27, 28-28, 28-28)
Modestas Bukauskas def. Tyson Pedro via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Josh Culibao def. Melsik Baghdasaryan via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:02
Kleydson Rodrigues def. Shannon Ross via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 0:59
Jamie Mullarkey def. Francisco Prado via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jack Jenkins def. Don Shainis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Loma Lookboonmee def. Elise Reed via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 0:44
Blake Bilder vs. 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)
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 284.
Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie