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UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski - Winners and Losers

The real winners and losers from UFC 284

Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images

In what might be remembered as the best champion vs. champion fight in UFC history, UFC lightweight titleholder Islam Makhachev defeated the promotion’s featherweight kingpin Alexander Volkanovski by decision. The contest served as the main event of Saturday’s UFC 284 pay-per-view card.

What was noteworthy about the fight was that both men proved more adept at the facets of the fight game that were perceived as their weaknesses heading into this matchup. Makhachev, hailed for his wrestling acumen and ability to control his opponents on the mat, used his power and counterstrikes to surprise Volkanovski on several occasions. As for the 145-pound champ, his defensive wrestling was better than expected and his cardio never faltered against his larger opponent. The bout was a technical affair that should leave both fighters in a better position in the eyes of the fans and the UFC brass than how they entered the evening.

In the co-main event, Yair Rodriguez, who has been with the UFC since 2014, fought what might have been the most complete and dominant fight of his career in submitting Josh Emmett to become the interim featherweight champion. Rodriguez’s victory and the way Volkanovski performed at lightweight should leave fans looking forward to the 145-pound title unification bout that will hopefully happen sooner rather than later.

Also on the pay-per-view portion of the card, the young and rising welterweight Jack Della Maddalena won his fourth consecutive fight under the UFC banner via first-round stoppage.

What follows are the winners and losers from UFC 284, which took place at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. The main card streamed on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on ESPN+.

Winners:

Islam Makhachev:

I’m unsure if Islam Makhachev decided to throw out his standard ground control game plan at UFC 284 or if his team told him to do so, but whoever made that call, it was the right one.

At some point not too long into the five-round affair, Makhachev — or his team — realized that his size and power were giving Volkanovski problems and with that, they employed an effective mix of counter strikes, takedowns and ground control. For this fight at least, that was the right call.

Makhachev’s win on Saturday should give him more confidence going forward for a few reasons. First, he earned the victory without Khabib Nurmagomedov in his corner. Second, he fought in a style that was not typical for him. Third, he showed the willingness to take what his opponent gave him and work with that instead of doing everything he could to overwhelm Volkanovski with a wrestling-heavy game plan.

Before UFC 284 we knew that Islam Makhachev was an excellent fighter, but coming out of the card there is a chance that he will be a more well-rounded fighter — something other than a competitor who can execute what his coaches have drilled into him over years of gym time. That will make him a more dangerous and dynamic fighter.

Alexander Volkanovski: Alexander Volkanovski came up short in his effort to become a two-division champion. However, that should not distract from the fact that he gave the lightweight champion a very tough fight, which was not a runaway victory for Islam Makhachev.

I expect Volkanovski and his team will use this loss as motivation in future featherweight title fights to get another crack at the lightweight title.

I also expect that team Volkanovski will do whatever it can to avoid taking any strengths of his future opponents too lightly and that spells trouble for the featherweight division.

Yair Rodríguez: Yair Rodríguez might be the most dynamic striker in the UFC’s featherweight division. He employed a dizzying array of striking techniques that left Josh Emmett with little hope of leaving the octagon in Perth as the interim champion. Not only did Rodriguez carry the day with his striking, he took calculated risks and even when he was on his back, he kept producing offense, picking up his first submission win as a member of the UFC roster.

Rodriguez’s performance on Saturday should set up a big title unification bout. If the UFC is wise, it will book a double title fight in Mexico with Brandon Moreno defending his flyweight title on the same card.

Jack Della Maddalena: Jack Della Maddalena took another step up the welterweight ladder on Saturday night with a fantastic first-round finish of Randy Brown. Della Maddalena gave up four inches in height and five inches in reach to Brown. Yet, despite those physical disadvantages, Della Maddalena stayed calm, kept moving forward and when he found his opening, he dropped Brown and then opened up with ground strikes, which provided the space for a rear-naked choke submission.

The 26-year-old Della Maddalena is unbeaten in four fights in the UFC with four first-round finishes. I’m not always a fan of rushing young fighters up the rankings before they are ready, but Della Maddalena looks prepared and able to test himself against a ranked opponent.

Justin Tafa: Given the opportunity, Justin Tafa will take advantage of it. That happened when Parker Porter exposed his chin and Tafa connected with a nasty left hook. The win gave Tafa his first two-fight winning streak with the UFC. Both those wins have come via first-round knockout.

Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield: I wouldn’t call this one a high-level scrap, but it was entertaining. In the early going, Jimmy Crute did a superb job of preventing Alonzo Menifield from scoring with his heavy strikes by forcing Menifield to fight in close. However, Crute’s cardio failed him for parts of the late first and second round, which allowed Menifield to come back and score with some big blows that seemed to have Crute on the edge of unconsciousness. Then, in the third round, Menifield’s cardio failed, allowing Crute to return to the pressuring style he employed in the first round.

Jens Pulver: Jens Pulver should have been in the UFC Hall of Fame far before 2023. It’s good to see the UFC fix this oversight.

Marc Goddard: Nice work from referee Marc Goddard for taking a point from Alonzo Menifield in the third round when Menifield grabbed the fence to prevent a takedown.

Joshua Culibao: Joshua Culibao showed some incredible situational awareness in getting the finish of Melsik Baghdasaryan. A striking exchange sent Baghdasaryan to the mat. Before Baghdasaryan could reset or regain his senses, Culibao grabbed his opponent’s neck and set his hooks, securing the rear-naked choke submission win.

The victory puts the 28-year-old on a four-fight UFC unbeaten streak. Culibao, who fights out of Australia, has only had one fight per year since 2021. His camp should keep him busy coming off this win and get him another matchup as soon as possible.

Kleydson Rodrigues: Kleydson Rodrigues overwhelmed Shannon Ross on the prelims of UFC 284. The former Jungle Fights champion showed superb finishing instincts once he hurt Ross and wrapped things up within the first minute.

Jamie Mullarkey: Jamie Mullarkey picked up a workmanlike win over Francisco Prado on the prelims. Mullarkey, who was coming off a win over Michael Johnson in July 2022, should have been given a bigger-name opponent on this card.

Jack Jenkins vs. Don Shainis: This was a fun scrap that showcased the toughness of Don Shainis and the talent of Jack Jenkins. Jenkins was the better striker of the two and used his higher-level skills to pick up the win. His striking skills and fast pace make him a fighter to watch. If there was one weakness Jenkins showed, it was his defensive ground work, but outside of that, UFC 284 was a good UFC debut for Jenkins.

Loma Lookboonmee: Loma Lookboonmee did an excellent job recovering from a rough spot in the first round of her strawweight fight against Elise Reed. After getting swept following a takedown, Lookboonmee did not allow her adversary to take the upper hand after she scored a takedown in the second stanza. Instead, Lookboonmee quickly took Reed’s back, established hooks and locked in the rear-naked choke that finished the fight.

Lookboonmee’s sense of urgency in the second round and her awareness on the mat after she was reversed in the first stanza was noteworthy.

Blake Bilder: The 32-year-old Blake Bilder made his UFC debut on Saturday. The former Cage Fury featherweight looked good in winning a decision over the more experienced Shane Young. Bilder showed good movement, a solid top game when the fight hit the mat, and he managed his energy well throughout the contest.

This fight should serve as a good launching point for Bilder’s UFC career and I expect to see a better performance from him in his next outing since, in his post-fight interview, he said he did keep something in reserve to avoid running out of gas.

Elves Brenner: Judging from social media, Elves Brenner was gifted a win in his UFC debut against Zubaira Tukhugov. Brenner came to fight more than his foe did in this matchup. That’s not part of the scoring criteria, nor is it a defense of the judging, but he got the win.

Losers:

Josh Emmett: Josh Emmett’s best bet to defeat Yair Rodriguez was to catch Rodriguez with an unexpected power shot. He failed to find that opening on Saturday. With that, he was on the wrong end of the fight, tapping to a triangle choke in the second stanza. At 37, this was likely Emmett’s first, best and last chance at UFC gold.

Francisco Prado: At 20, Francisco Prado did not look UFC-ready, at least not against a more experienced opponent in Jamie Mullarkey. His offense was one-dimensional and his ground game was nothing to write home about.

Shane Young: Shane Young returned to action for the first time in nearly two years at UFC 284 and on the first two-fight losing skid of his MMA career. Young struggled early with landing his strikes, but once he got the range and timing of his opponent, Blake Bilder, he had some success.

Young was on the wrong end of a decision in this featherweight matchup. The UFC should give Young at least one more shot, but that fight needs to come as soon as possible because the time off since his last outing did not help Young on Saturday.

Zubaira Tukhugov I: Zubaira Tukhugov was very calm in the early stages of the fight. He seemed confident in his striking offense and defense and, I don’t want to say dismissive of his opponent, Elves Brenner, but he didn’t seem to have any fear of the offense that was coming back at him. In short, this fight felt like a mismatch on paper. With that in mind, Tukhugov willingly fought down to his level of competition instead of fighting to his strengths. Unfortunately, with the way he fought on Saturday and the fact that he missed weight, this was not a memorable performance from Tukhugov and will do little to elevate him as a lightweight threat.

Zubaira Tukhugov II: It’s never a great sign when a fighter moves up a weight class and then comes in heavy on the scale. That’s what happened to Zubaira Tukhugov, who was set to make his UFC lightweight debut on UFC 284. Instead of fighting at 155 and earning a full payday, Tukhugov faced Elves Brenner at a catchweight of 157.5 and gave up 30 percent of his pay.

UFC I: The UFC didn’t have an interpreter on hand for Brazilian fighter Kleydson Rodrigues? C’mon now.

UFC II: The two title fights at the top of the UFC 284 card gave fans something to look forward to, but outside of that, the other fights on the main card lacked in big-fight feel. The UFC pay-per-view prices increased again this year, but the promotion has not improved the quality of fights it provides for that added cost. Outside of the top two fights, the UFC 284 fight card felt very much like an ESPN card designed for the Australian market and that’s not what a pay-per-view event should be about.

Neither:

Tyson Pedro vs. Modestas Bukauskas: The UFC was probably hoping for another first-round finish from Tyson Pedro in this one. What it got was a win from late replacement Modestas Bukauskas in a fight that lacked a high work rate. This was not a bad fight, but it was not an ideal contest to close the prelims before a pay-per-view card.

On a positive note, the win was a big one for Bukauskas, who had a 1-3 run in the UFC before the promotion released him in 2021.